Depression During Pregnancy

Depression during pregnancy is relatively common in about 1 in 20 expectant mothers. From mild to acute, depressive episodes in pregnant women are just as likely as they are in women who experience them months after the birth of a child. There have been more scientific studies done on women who have experienced post natal depression than those who have episodes during the pre-birth months. This has led to the wide, unsubstantiated assumption that women are more at risk for the 'blues' after child birth than before.

Most doctors attribute depression during pregnancy and afterward to converging factors that have not been completely delineated by tests or studies. The huge shift in hormonal levels that occurs when a woman conceives and that continues to occur until well after a child's birth is considered one major determining factor. Psychological factors of lifestyle changes and responsibilities are pointed to as well in causation aspects. "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, or things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)

Many women suffer with mild or minor episodes of depressive symptoms once in a while throughout the course of a pregnancy. However, there are about 10% of all women who experience serious symptoms which include anxiety, loss of hope, inability to sleep and loss of appetite. In these cases, it is helpful to seek out the guidance of a professional health care expert who can guide the patient as well as family members through this difficult time. For depression during pregnancy, most doctors do not prefer to subscribe antidepressants to a woman unless she is seriously a danger to herself, her unborn child or has a history of depressive disorders. Although modern medicine has now out ruled most significant health effects to an unborn baby, antidepressants are not the treatment method of choice for most doctors.

Some doctors do not want to create a dependency on the medication unless absolutely necessary. There is not as much concern in using medication for post natal depression but during this period of a woman's life, most doctors prefer to assist the patient through counseling and family support if possible. There are support groups, personal counseling and therapy that are designed to meet the needs of a mother-to-be that includes information, emotional support and family education. Many expectant mothers do well when they are assured that their feelings are not abnormal and that some of their consternation is caused by hormonal upheavals. Also, the emotional support that is gained through common sense talking to other pregnant women who are going through the same things can be helpful.

One of the most important therapeutic issues is drawing expectant fathers into these issues and helping them know how to understand, comfort and support their wives. Many times issues that are related to pre-pregnancy and post natal depression is not understood by the spouses of expectant women which adds further anxiety and pressure to those suffering from depressive episodes. It is helpful for the spouses to also understand that these episodes are not something that can be 'helped' and that serious physical and emotional changes take place in many women. A loving support system and adequate medical help and get many women back on the road to enjoying their pregnancy, newborn and subsequent motherhood. Of course there are those that suffer with particularly debilitating symptoms of depression during pregnancy and afterward that may require crisis intervention in order to protect the mother and unborn child.

Symptoms that include extreme feelings of unhappiness, inability to cope with everyday life, loss of appetite, and poor interaction with reality require immediate attention. The loss of appetite alone can harm the development of an unborn child as well as the mother's health. Also, serious emotional problems can lead to traumatic actions by unstable mothers-to-be. It is extremely important that those who are in daily interaction with anyone who exhibits these symptoms, to provide caring, careful intervention before any inadvertent harm may occur to a woman or child.

Awareness on the part of a husband, friend or family member on behalf of a trouble mother is the single factor that can make a difference in a serious problem getting worse or becoming manageable. Women who suffer from post natal depression are not always aware of how serious their own symptoms can be or feel extremely guilty over how they may feel toward their own unborn or new born child. These symptoms can be common among many who experience depressive symptoms that are related to the hormonal, personal and social upheaval during the childbearing years and can be successful dealt with through caring medical and family intervention.

Post Natal Depression

Post natal depression is a common disorder that many women face after experiencing a long anticipated birth of a much loved child. As many as thirteen percent of all pregnant women have depression either during pregnancy or following birth and in most cases disappears with a week or two. Depression is more than just a feeling of being blue or down in the dumps. Clinical depression is an oppressive feeling on a person, manifested in gloom and sadness that pervades every part of life. It affects relationships, work, eating, sex and generally all those who come in contact with that person. In most cases, the people surrounding the depressed person have a feeling of helplessness and oft times despair, not knowing how to deal with their loved one's or friend's disorder.

In the case of women who have recently given birth, there are many symptoms that are the same as anyone else who has clinical despair. For instance, feeling low for no reason and being tearful for much of the day is one of the signs of post natal depression or PND. When a woman how has recently given birth has depression and cannot enjoy herself and the new baby in the way she "thinks" she ought to or expected to, the onset of severe depression can be self fulfilling in some manner. Sorry father, but often irritability is manifested towards the guy in the house and there isn't much one can do to avoid it. Often the new mom with post natal depression can't sleep, even after a long day of caring for the baby, and even if sleep does come eventually, the mom wakes up quite early in the morning and cannot fall back asleep.

PND is manifested in a number of other ways also. Often the mom is not hungry and the lack of appetite can actually weaken her physically, making it more difficult to care for the child and heaping more guilt on the mother. Anxiety attacks are sometimes part of the post natal depression disorder; fears that something bad is about to happen to the baby or to themselves. Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness are certainly part of the syndrome and help to feed the overall sense that things are out of control. There are times when in the middle of severe PND a woman may have fleeting thoughts of suicide or even of hurting the baby. WHEN THESE THOUGHTS OCCUR, SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY. Call a friend, husband, neighbor, pastor or someone who can quickly come and talk to you.

While talking or thinking about suicide or hurting one's own child increase the odds of someone actually doing any of those things, it is extremely important to talk those feelings out. This is why if the depression that is often common in so many new moms doesn't go away in a week or so, a counselor needs to be consulted. There is no way or any sign to know that simple baby blues have turned into a full blown case of post natal depression. It is more likely that the baby blues can turn into post natal depression if the mom has had depression episodes during other parts of her life. Additionally, if the baby was a surprise or unwanted, there is a higher likelihood of PND occurring. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." (Psalm 46: 1, 2)

Post natal depression, if the physician considers it to be a chronic or long term situation will treat the PND as he would any other patient suffering depressive symptoms. There are times when a drug therapy might be offered to the mother. This of course could interfere with breast feeding and so the practitioner may have to consider a drug therapy that would not be harmful to the baby. If the mother is not breast feeding, than another, perhaps a stronger drug protocol might be followed. But in either case, there may also be some counseling that might be suggested.

There are specialized counselors who have dealt with women who have post natal depression before and may be licensed social workers who are trained in psychotherapy. In this case, the therapist would help the mother to identify feelings and emotions that she may be having. In so many cases the mother may have falsely blamed other people or circumstances for her feelings, when it is actually the mother assigning meaning to those feelings. This is the basis on which psychotherapists work: helping their clients see that others are not responsible for what their clients are feeling. In many cases, this kind of counseling can help those suffering with depression to look at new ways of evaluating people and circumstances.

Remember the importance for the new mom to seek help if the PND last more than two weeks. Common baby blues usually have a shelf life of about a week or less. Some of this change in moods can certainly be blamed on the tremendous activity of hormones so natural in the birthing process. But a mom should never feel guilty about having odd feelings or being depressed about having the baby. It's as natural as the sun coming up each morning, but get help if the sadness lasts and share those feelings freely with the counselor or the doctor. And just this joyous thought in mind: just wait until your baby is a teenager!

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