We often hear talk of postpartum depression, or the baby blues, which occurs shortly after the birth of a baby, but we don’t hear as much about depression that occurs during pregnancy, called prenatal depression.
Today, if you are pregnant, you also might be worried about how to protect yourself and your baby during the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19). So far, evidence suggests that pregnant woman are not at any greater risk of serious illness if they get COVID-19. Only a small number of pregnant women have had COVID-19, but based on the current findings, it appears that pregnant women are at no greater risk than the rest of the general population.
However, any respiratory illness, such as influenza, can cause serious complications, so it is advised that pregnant women take extra precautions in practicing good hygiene and physical distancing to reduce the risk of getting COVID-19.
In general, women are more at risk of depression while they are pregnant, and during the weeks and months after having a baby. During pregnancy, hormone changes can affect brain chemicals and cause depression and anxiety. Sometimes, pregnant women don’t even realize they are depressed.
Pregnant women may think they have symptoms of pregnancy or the “baby blues,” which many women experience right after birth. Coping with feelings of isolation and depression during pregnancy are something to be aware of and there is help by contacting a certified therapist to help in cope with your feelings.
5 Causes of Depression During Pregnancy
Potential triggers of prenatal depression include:
- Hormones: Research has shown that hormones affect the areas of our brains that control mood and the difference in hormonal levels during pregnancy may trigger depression in some women. However, while hormones are often blamed for many of the mood swings and other emotional and psychological happenings in pregnancy, they are usually only one part of the whole picture when it comes to pregnancy and depression.
- Stress and Uncertainty: Sometimes the stress of pregnancy brings on depressive symptoms, even when the pregnancy was planned. These feelings might intensify if your pregnancy is complicated or unplanned. If life itself is stressful, for instance, you have financial difficulties or relationship issues, this can also lead to depression. Other known stress-causing factors are sometimes brought on simply because of the changes that pregnancy potentially brings, like moving to a new house or apartment to increase space or to have a more baby-friendly environment. Sometimes this might mean career changes for one or both parents too.
- Abuse or Trauma: Having a history of trauma or abuse may trigger prenatal depression.
- Previous depression:If you have ever been diagnosed with depression before you became pregnant, your risk for depression during pregnancy is higher than for women who have never had depression.
- Family history: If depression runs in your family, you may be at a higher risk.
Risks of Untreated Depression During Pregnancy
Some of the risks of untreated depression during pregnancy include:
- A negative impact on good prenatal care. This is especially true in the areas of nutrition, sleep habits, exercise, and following care instructions from your doctor. This can result in not gaining enough weight, missing doctor appointments, and difficulty sleeping, all of which are harmful to your baby.
- A higher risk of substance abuse.This includes alcohol, drugs, and cigarette smoking.
- Health problems for your baby. Low birth weight and/or premature birth are more of a risk for babies when depression is untreated. Babies who are born to mothers who are depressed also tend to be less active and more agitated.
- Postpartum depression.Your risk of staying depressed after your baby is born increases, which makes it difficult to parent.
Potential Signs of Isolation and Depression
Many of the signs of isolation and depression mimic pregnancy symptoms. It can be hard to determine what is normal fatigue in pregnancy and what is actually depression, which can lead to an under-reporting of the problem. There is also a tendency to ignore depression in pregnancy simply because this is supposed to be a happy time in life. Symptoms of depression include:
- Problems concentrating
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Changes in eating habits
- Feeling anxious
- Feeling blue
- Feeling guilty, overwhelmed, or worthless
- Isolating yourself from others
- Feeling detached from your baby
- Having recurrent headaches and stomachaches
- Crying more than usual
If you have these signs, especially if they have been going on for 2 weeks or more, call your licensed therapist right away. It’s important for both you and your baby’s health that you get treatment and have the ability to express your feelings throughout the pregnancy, and afterwards.
Treatment during pregnancy involves several avenues, including:
- Support network: Developing your support network is extremely valuable. Being surrounded by supportive individuals that you know can be beneficial, particularly if they have experienced the same feelings. This can include joining an online or community support group as well. Please talk to your therapists about a potential support group.
- Counseling: Talking to a professional counselor or therapist can also be very beneficial, particularly since there are major changes going on during pregnancy.
- Medication: Antidepressants can also be used during pregnancy under the care of a therapist who has experience with using antidepressants and other medications during the course of pregnancy and breastfeeding. Again, first speak with your therapist about the use of antidepressants.
Getting the Right Type of Help with a Certified Counselor
The key to preventing the problems that stem from feelings of isolation and depression in pregnancy is getting the support and help you need as soon as you realize that you are experiencing it. With many pregnant women having depressive symptoms, it’s important to recognize that you’re not alone, and that help is available.
Talking to a therapist is definitely the best gift you can give yourself and your growing baby.
We are always here to help the people residing in McKinney, Plano, Dallas, Denton, Allen, Garland, and the surrounding communities throughout Texas. If you believe that you are struggling with isolation and depression during your pregnancy, or you know someone who may be, we highly recommend that you reach out to our professional counselor team at Foundations Counseling.