Prenatal Depression

Prenatal Depression


Although pregnancy and parenthood is often part of many couples plans and hopes, it is a time of enormous change. This changes includes physical, emotional, relationship and role changes. These changes and adjustments are often overwhelming combined with the uncertainty that inevitability accompanies the course of pregnancy and the birth. All to often these changes and worries can lead to increased stress, anxiety, confusion and for some depression.

Prenatal Depression

Depression is more than just feeling “down.” It is a serious illness caused by changes in brain chemistry. During pregnancy, hormone changes can affect the chemicals in the brain. Furthermore, increased stress and a history of mental health in the family can contribute to prenatal depression.

According to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), between 14-23% of women will struggle with some symptoms of depression during pregnancy.

Depression is a mood disorder that affect 1 in 4 women at some point during their lifetime, so it is no surprise that it can also be experienced during pregnancy. However, all too often, depression is not diagnosed properly during pregnancy because people think it is just another type of hormonal imbalance. However, this assumption can be dangerous for the mother and the unborn baby. Research by Pearson et al., 2013, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry suggest that there is an increased risk that the children of mother’s who experience depression during their pregnancy may develop depression in adulthood. The good news is that depression in pregnancy can be treated and managed successfully, supporting both mother and baby.

What are the signs of depression in pregnancy?

It can often be difficult to differentiate what are the symptoms of depression and what are the normal emotional, mental and physical changes that can occur during pregnancy. However, persistent symptoms to keep an eye out for include:

  • Persistent sadness
  • Withdrawing from friends
  • Decrease in energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Daily negative thoughts
  • Change in appetite – lack of or increased eating
  • Feeling restless
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Decrease in self care

What is the treatment for depression during pregnancy?

If you feel you may be struggling with depression, it is important to seek help. Book an appointment with your GP for an assessment and to discuss treatment options for you and your baby. Treatment not only targets depression but it also helps mother’s bond with their baby.

Treatment options include:

    • Psychology: Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Interpersonal Therapy or Behavioural Activation therapy can be highly effective at targeting symptoms of depression. These talking therapies teach mother’s skills to work through depression.
    • Support groups: Support groups can be very effective for mild to moderate depression. Many people benefit from sharing experiences as well as learning skills in a group format.
    • Medication: There is a lot of debate over the safety and long-term effects of antidepressant medications taken during pregnancy. Women need to know that all medications will cross the placenta and reach their babies. There is not enough information about which drugs are entirely safe and which ones pose risks. But when treating major depression, the risks and benefits need to be examined closely. The medication that can offer the most help, with the smallest risk to baby, should be considered carefully. Discuss medication with your GP who will give you their expert advice and information on medication.
    • Mindfulness Based Interventions: Mindfulness Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) programme, is a 9 week course for pregnant couples which The Consulting Clinic runs. The course aims to help participates practice being in the present moment so that they may develop greater confidence, resilience and a deeper sense of well-being during this normative life transition (Duncan, L. & Bardacke, N., 2009). This course is suitable for preventing depression.

Self care

Reduce stress where possible. Self-care plays a critical role in mental health. Below are recommendations for self care.

    • Exercise: Before you begin exercising, speak with your health care provider. Exercise and pregnancy usually work well together. Exercise increases serotonin levels and decreases cortisol levels. A balanced, healthy exercise routine is beneficial for both mind and body.
    • Sleep: Work on establishing a routine sleep schedule that has you going to sleep and getting up at the same time. Mindful breathing is beneficial as it not move’s you away from unhelpful thoughts and brings you back to the present moment but it also helps to connect with yourself and your baby.
    • Diet and Nutrition: A healthy diet is a big part of any successful self- care plan. Nutrition has been linked with emotional, physical, and cognitive health. The key is to eat a healthy and balanced diet.
    • Share your feelings: Let those around you know what you are feeling. Never try face depression alone.

If you are experiencing symptoms of prenatal depression and would like to book an appointment for therapy, you can contact the practice by telephone on 01 6859261 or book online by email or using the contact form on the website.

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© The Consulting Clinic 2015