While much attention is given to the dangers of postpartum depression, far less is known about the risk of depression during pregnancy. According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), this is a common problem that reportedly affects one tenth of all pregnant women. Left untreated, depression can negatively affect the health of the unborn child.
Experts at Kaiser Permanente recently conducted a study about depression in nearly 800 pregnant women. They reportedly found that more than 40% of the women exemplified depression symptoms. Of that number, half of the symptoms were severe. After tracking the women through labor and delivery, they found that the depressed mothers were twice as likely to deliver before the 37th week of gestation.
The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists places depression among pregnant women at about 20%. Unfortunately, the condition is often misdiagnosed as a normal side effect of the hormonal changes that are occurring in the women’s bodies. While hormones can contribute to the onset of depression, experts say that it is still an illness that requires adequate treatment. The APA explains that relationship problems, infertility treatments and health problems also increase the likelihood of depression among expectant mothers.
Signs of Depression during Pregnancy
According to the APA, there are numerous signs of depression during pregnancy. If an expectant mother exhibits the following symptoms for more than two weeks, medical advice is warranted:
Inability to concentrate Feelings of worthlessness Drastic changes in eating habits Excessive or inadequate amounts of sleep No enjoyment in favorite activities
In addition, immediate medical treatment is advisable in response to thoughts or feelings of death and suicide.
Risks of Depression
When left untreated, depression can lead to a number of additional complications during pregnancy. A depressed mother may resist the need to care for herself or her developing baby, so she may turn to drinking or smoking to deal with her emotions. She may also choose to over- indulge in unhealthy food choices. These behaviors are linked to various medical conditions for the mother, as well premature births and low birth weights among newborns. According to the APA, babies born to depressed mothers tend to exhibit less activity and more agitation.
Treating Depression during Pregnancy
Experts reportedly assert that depression is treatable during pregnancy. The prescription of medications during this delicate time is highly controversial, with researchers asserting links between psychiatric medications during pregnancy and numerous developmental problems in the newborn. However, there are other treatment options that may prove effective, including support groups and psychotherapy. If a woman feels signs of depression, she should speak with her ObGyn about her symptoms. It is the physician’s responsibility to take these reports seriously and offer effective, safe treatment options. If this does not occur, the doctor may be liable for injuries occurring as a result.