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Pregnancy and Depression

Although many people consider pregnancy a time of happiness, about 10%-20% of moms-to-be struggle with symptoms of depression.

What Causes Depression During Pregnancy?

There are several causes of depression during pregnancy:

  • Having a history of depression or PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a severe type of PMS)
  • Age at time of pregnancy; the younger you are, the higher the risk.
  • Living alone or having limited familial support
  • Limited social support
  • Marital conflict or domestic violence
  • Uncertainty about the pregnancy

How Can Depression Affect My Pregnancy?

It can interfere with a woman's ability to care for herself during her pregnancy. You may be less able to follow medical recommendations, as well as sleep and eat properly.

The condition can also put you at risk for greater use of tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs that can harm you and your developing baby.

Depression may interfere with your ability to bond with your growing baby, too.

How Does Pregnancy Affect Depression?

Pregnancy stresses can contribute to depression or to the return or worsening of depression symptoms.

Depression during pregnancy can place you at greater risk for having an episode of depression after delivery (postpartum depression).

What Should I Do if I'm Depressed During My Pregnancy?

Preparing for a new baby is a lot of hard work, but your health should come first. So, resist the urge to get everything done -- cut down on your chores, and do those things that will help you to relax. Taking care of yourself is a key part of taking care of your unborn child.

Talk to your friends, your partner, or your family about the things that concern you If you ask for support, you'll find that you often get it. If you're still feeling down and anxious, consider seeking therapy with a mental health specialist.

Evidence suggests that many antidepressant medicines are safe for treating depression during pregnancy, and will not harm your growing baby -- at least in the short term. Long-term effects have not been properly studied. You should discuss the possible risks and benefits of antidepressants with your doctor. If necessary, he or she should also be able to refer you to a mental health specialist.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH on October 03, 2014

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