When to seek Treatment
One problem faced by many people who develop depression is that it becomes hard to see that there is a problem. Depression can start to feel "normal", and it becomes difficult to remember a time when the depression wasn't there. It's important, therefore, to be able to understand and recognize the symptoms of depression, especially if close family members have been affected by this illness.
Signs and symptoms of prenatal depression can include the following:
- Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or hopelessness, particularly in relation to the pregnancy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in sleeping habits, including insomnia or sleeping more than usual
- Unexplained fatigue
- Changes in weight (apart from those normal to pregnancy)
- Feelings of disconnection from the pregnancy
Some women are reluctant to seek treatment due to fears about the effects that depression medication might have on their unborn children. These fears can be exacerbated by the depression itself, in particular because depression often causes feelings of guilt.
Often, however, medication isn’t required, and when it is, there are many antidepressant medications that are known to be safe to use during pregnancy. If your doctor suggests medication to treat depression during pregnancy, remember to think about your own health as well as that of your baby. Whether medication is included or not, treating pregnancy-related depression is particularly important. Some studies suggest that depression during pregnancy can affect the health of the baby both during and after birth, with indications that blood flow to the placenta is negatively impacted, and that depression can trigger abnormal hormone surges (University of Washington).
Whether or not treatment includes medication, psychotherapy can be very helpful, especially when it focuses on helping an expectant mother cope with pregnancy and the mental health issues that can arise during this time.