1 in 5 women will experience depression during pregnancy.
Depression may affect not only how you feel, but also the course of your pregnancy and the health of your baby.
If untreated, depression may lead to adverse reproductive outcomes such as:
- pregnancy complications: nausea, vomiting, hypermeisis (intense nausea during pregnancy), and preeclampsia (high blood pressure)
- low birth-weight babies or babies that are small for their gestational age
- pre-term delivery (before thirty seven weeks gestation)
Depression in mothers during pregnancy is also linked to short and long-term outcomes for the baby, such as:
- behavioral signs of depression: less activity, less vocalization; few positive facial expressions, such as smiling; and increased irritability.
- physiological profiles that parallel those of their depressed mothers (e.g. elevated heart rate and stress hormones as well as low positive emotions and increased negative emotions).
- a disruption in the infant-mother bond and greater risk for insecure attachment.
- compromised attention and learning that effects cognitive development.
The consequences of not treating depression in pregnant women can be severe. Therefore, treating depression in pregnancy is very important. Most often, treatment for depression consists of a combination of counseling and antidepressant medication. Although antidepressant medication can be very helpful, there are some risks involved with its use.
Antidepressants can impact birth outcomes in the following ways:
- increased risk of miscarriage
- reduction in infant birth weight and babies that are small for their gestational age
- higher chance of premature birth
- effects on fetal formation and development (e.g. cardiac malformation or defects, respiratory complications)
- risk of newborns being irritable, having a weak or absent cry, variable temperature, and seizures (symptoms are often short-term and disappear within two weeks)
- developmental risks (such as emotional and cognitive delay)
The American Psychiatric Association and the American College of Obstetricians recommend psychotherapy as the safest and effective treatment during pregnancy for mild and moderate depression.
If you are mildly to moderately depressed and considering getting pregnant or are currently pregnant, research shows that the Safest and most effective treatment during pregnancy is psychotherapy. Fortunately, a wide range of psychological, often short-term, interventions have been developed to ameliorate depression and help women feel better.
The Benefits of Treating Depression with Psychotherapy During Pregnancy:
- Reassurance that you are using a proven treatment for depression.
- Not having to worry about side-effects to you or your baby.
- Potential prevention of future relapses of depressive episodes including postpartum depression.
- Also helps with anxiety and panic attacks that often accompany depression.
- Prevention of fetal malformation during the first trimester.
Antidepressants are the treatment of choice for severe depression. If you have had a recurrent major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder with psychosis, or suicidal attempts in the past, you should continue taking your medication as advised by your doctor.
However, if your depression has not been this severe, psychotherapy is your safest choice.
Be an educated consumer-learn about the influence of depression on your baby-to–be, as well as the side-effects of any medication. Understand the risks and benefits of each treatment option.
Remember you have a choice about treatment.
If you want to have a healthy baby and enjoy your pregnancy, you deserve the peace-of-mind that you are getting treatment for yourself and that you and your baby will be safe.
As a psychologist with expertise working with women who are depressed during pregnancy and postpartum, I can help you manage your depression and increase your chances of having healthy baby.
If you having difficulty coping with your depression in pregnancy and could use the help of a therapist, please call me at (281)267-1742 for a FREE ten-minute phone call, or email me at Irena@permalink.com.