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Pregnancy and Depression

Although pregnancy has long been viewed as a time of emotional well being, approximately 10%-20% of women struggle with symptoms of depression during their pregnancy.


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 premenstrual syndrome or PMS).
  • Age at time of pregnancy; the younger you are, the higher the risk.
  • Living alone or having limited familial support
  • Limited social support
  • Children; the more you have, the more likely you are to be depressed during a subsequent pregnancy.
  • Marital conflict
  • Ambivalence about the pregnancy


How Can Depression Affect a Pregnancy?

  • Depression can interfere with a woman's ability to care for herself during pregnancy. You may be less able to follow medical recommendations as well as sleep and eat properly.
  • Depression can put you at risk for increased use of such substances as 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.



How Does Pregnancy Affect Depression?

  • Pregnancy stresses can cause depression,  a recurrence 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 an essential part of taking care of your unborn child.

Talking about the things that concern you is also very important. Talk to your friends, your partner, your family. 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 antidepressant medication with your health care provider. If necessary, he or she should also be able to refer you to a mental health specialist.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Mikio A. Nihira, MD on August 15, 2012

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