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Depression in Women


What is the impact of depression on pregnancy?

The potential impact of depression on a pregnancy includes the following:

  • Depression can interfere with a woman's ability to care for herself during pregnancy. She may be less able to follow medical recommendations and to sleep and eat properly.
  • Depression can cause a woman to use substances such as tobacco, alcohol, and/or illegal drugs, which could harm the baby.
  • Depression can make bonding with the baby difficult.

Pregnancy may have the following impact on depression in women:

  • The stresses of pregnancy can cause depression or a recurrence or worsening of depression symptoms.
  • Depression during pregnancy can increase the risk for having depression after delivery (called postpartum depression).


What are my options if I'm depressed during pregnancy?

Preparing for a new baby is lots of hard work. But your health should come first. Resist the urge to get everything done, cut down on your chores, and do things that will help you relax. In addition, talking about things that concern you is very important. Talk to your friends, your partner, and your family. If you ask for support, you will find you often get it.

If you're feeling down and anxious, consider seeking therapy. Ask your doctor or midwife for a referral to a mental health care professional.

How is depression in women treated during pregnancy?

Growing evidence suggests that many of the currently available antidepressant medicines are safe for treating depression during pregnancy, at least in terms of the potential short-term effects on the baby. Long-term effects continue to be studied. Risks can differ depending on medication. Untreated depression can put both mother and infant at risk. Also, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is often considered to be the safest and most effective treatment for severe depression during pregnancy.

You should discuss the possible risks and benefits of treatment with your doctor.

How is postpartum depression in women treated?

Postpartum depression, or depression following childbirth, can be treated like other forms of depression. That means using medicines and/or psychotherapy. If a woman is breastfeeding, the decision to take an antidepressant must be made with her doctor after a discussion of risks and benefits. According to the NIH, antidepressant use by a nursing mother does not affect her infant.

Does the prevalence of depression in women increase at midlife?

Perimenopause is the stage of a woman's reproductive life that begins eight to 0 years before menopause. In the last one to two years of perimenopause, the decrease in estrogen accelerates. At this stage, many women experience menopausal symptoms.

Menopause is the period of time when a woman stops having her monthly period and experiences symptoms related to the lack of estrogen production. By definition, a woman is in menopause after her periods have stopped for one year. Menopause typically occurs in a woman's late 40s to early 50s. However, women who have their ovaries surgically removed undergo "sudden" menopause.

The drop in estrogen levels during perimenopause and menopause triggers physical and emotional changes -- such as depression or anxiety. Like at any other point in a woman's life, there is a relationship between hormone levels and physical and emotional symptoms. Some physical changes include irregular or skipped periods, heavier or lighter periods, and hot flashes.

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