Depression during pregnancy is not as uncommon as you might think. Pregnancy is expected to be one of the happiest periods of life for every woman but more often than not it turns out to be the cause of anxiety and depression for the expecting mother. There can be various reasons contributing to the result and it is no doubt important to identify the symptoms of depression and to treat it as quickly as possible. Depression during pregnancy can be seen amongst 15 to 24% of otherwise healthy women and are more common amongst the first time mothers. In this article first we will discuss the expected causes of depression during pregnancy, the triggers as well as the symptoms so that women are actually able to identify their problem, instead of neglecting it for “just a thought”.
[ Hindi version ]
The reasons of depression during pregnancy
During pregnancy the hormonal levels of the body of the mother changes drastically. We have to keep the fact in mind that our emotions and feelings are mostly driven by the hormones and an imbalance or change in the normal hormonal balance of the body can affect any person in different ways. In case of depression during pregnancy, it has been noted that the changed hormonal levels in the body of the mother interferes with natural feel good hormones produced by the human brain, which works as the major cause of depression during this time.
However, as already mentioned, the changes in the hormonal levels of the body can affect every human being in different ways and hence it is not every expecting mother who suffers from depression during the early or advanced stage of pregnancy, but at the same time, if you are suffering from it you are not surely alone in the battle.
Triggers of depression during pregnancy
There are also some triggers that can work as the immediate cause of the depression during this time. Often, the absence of these triggers can be enough to control the depression even when there are hormonal changes in the body during pregnancy. It is the responsibility of the expecting mother as well as the family to keep the expecting mother away from these triggers during this special period of life. For some women, a combined factor of all these triggers work as the reason of depression, while for others, only a single trigger can be enough to induce the depression which can continue really long unless treated. The most common triggers of depression during pregnancy include,
- Problems in relationships
- History of depression
- Loss of earlier pregnancy
- Stressful situations in family or professional life
- History of trauma
- Different infertility treatments
If you are positive to one or more of these triggers that does not mean you will necessarily have depression during pregnancy, but it certainly increases the risk. So, in case of presence of these triggers make sure to take extra care of yourself and your feelings during pregnancy.
Symptoms of depression during pregnancy
Here are some of the common symptoms of depression during pregnancy. Women suffering from it are expected to experience one or more symptoms from this list. If any of the below mentioned symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks, it can be categorized as depression and should be treated in time. The common symptoms of depression during pregnancy include,
- Persistent irritability
- Inability to focus
- Feeling sad all the time
- Inadequate or excess sleeping
- Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyed
- Repeated thoughts of suicide, hopelessness and death
- Feeling guilty or useless
- Anxiety and fear
If you are experiencing one or more of the above symptoms for over 2 weeks, you should consult your gynecologist without delay.
Treating depression during pregnancy
The good thing is that help is only a call away. If you are suffering from depression during pregnancy, you really need not to suffer alone. You can always get help and feel better with the right treatment. According to studies, depression during pregnancy can directly affect the baby and in order to ensure that both you and your child are healthy it is really important to get help immediately if you are suffering from depression during pregnancy. Here is how depression during pregnancy can be treated,
Medications can be used for treating depression during pregnancy effectively. However, every anti-depressant is not suitable for the pregnant women and can harm the baby in the worst ways. Hence, if you are suffering from depression during pregnancy, first consult your doctor and take the medicines only as prescribed by her.
At present gynecologists often prescribe the serotonin re-uptake inhibitors for treating depression in pregnant women as clinical studies have found that these medications do not harm the child or increase the risk of abortion. So, if you are suffering from depression during pregnancy, get in touch with your gynecologist immediately to get it treated. You can never imagine the right medication in the right dose can be how much helpful to free you from the depression.
Psychotherapy is the other holistic way that can be effective for treating depression during pregnancy without having to depend on the medicines. Psychotherapy deals with the psychology of the mother and makes her see the brighter sides of the pregnancy, helping her to get better quickly. However, before you opt for psychotherapy, do not miss to inform your gynecologist.
Acupuncture is another holistic healing process originated in China in the ancient times. It is believed that acupuncture can be effective in healing different physical as well as mental illnesses and diseases. Acupuncture is often considered effective to treat depression during pregnancy without side effects. However, always make sure that you are taking the therapy from an experienced therapist who has a detailed idea about your case history and also consult your doctor first.
Apart from the above, some changes in your lifestyle and food habits can also be highly effective to control the depression. Usually, doctors suggest these changes along with medications or other therapies to get the best results. You can also implement these changes in your daily routine and diet to get the benefits as soon as you are able to identify your depression. In fact, if you implement these changes in your lifestyle and diet from the very beginning of pregnancy, it will automatically lower the risk of depression during this period. However, if it seems that these changes alone are not able to control your depression, you should consult your doctor at the earliest.
Regular exercise can be one of the best treatments to treat depression during pregnancy. Exercising increases the secretion of serotonin the “feel good hormone” in the brain. Serotonin reduces the levels of cortisol and helps in fighting depression. During pregnancy you really need not to do any heavy exercise, going out on a run or walk or doing some free hand exercises for at least 20 minutes a day can be sufficient to get the results. However, if you are not someone who is into exercising normally or you are to pick up exercising for the first time then you should consult your doctor first.
Get the right diet
Your diet has a direct impact not only on your pregnancy but also on your mood. If you are suffering from mood swings or depression during pregnancy it is important to first take a look at your diet and to set it right. Studies have shown that sugar and processed carbohydrates can make you prone to depression as they give a certain spike and drop to your blood sugar levels. Also stay away from caffeine and alcohol that can have a direct negative impact on your mood once the “high time” is gone.
Studies have also shown that a diet low in protein can be a reason for depression. Hence opt for a diet that is filled with proteins but not the unhealthy fats. Lean meat, poultry, eggs, fishes can be good choice of protein in your diet to fight depression. Cereals, spinach, beans, peas, whole grain foods can be helpful to promote a better mood as they come with vitamins and minerals that can promote the production of serotonin in brain.
Check your eating habits
Changing sugar levels in the blood can propel mood swings and hence when you are suffering from depression during pregnancy, instead of opting for 3 big meals, start taking small meals at frequent intervals and skip everything that can give your blood sugar levels a certain spike. A leveled blood sugar is the key to a leveled mood.
Include more omega 3 fatty acids in your daily diet
Omega 3 fatty acids are known for a wide range of positive effects on the body. Recent studies have found that they can also be highly effective to treat depression in pregnant women. So, make it a point to include the omega 3 fatty acid rich foods like the fatty fishes, seeds and nuts in your daily diet. You can also start taking Omega 3 fatty acid supplements to get the best results, but consult your gynecologist before you start with it.
[ Hindi version ]
Yoga and meditation
Yoga and meditation can also be highly helpful to treat depression during pregnancy. Meditation helps in gaining control over your mind and emotions and it also relaxes your body and senses, which can be highly helpful to fight depression. So, if you are suffering from depression during pregnancy, yoga and meditation can be highly effective to cure the problem.
The effectiveness of this therapy is still debated, but according to some it can be actually helpful to treat any type of depression including depression during pregnancy. In this therapy, the patient is exposed to artificial sun light during different specific times of the day for specific hours.