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What is Antepartum Depression?
Antepartum depression is a serious illness during pregnancy that can affect a mother’s functioning and well-being. While pregnant women experience many hormonal changes, some of these changes may affect the brain chemicals that are related to anxiety and depression. These can be exacerbated by difficult life situations, which can result in depression during pregnancy. Diagnosing antepartum depression in women may oftentimes be difficult because the symptoms are similar to those commonly associated with normal changes during pregnancy, such as moodiness, decreased energy levels, fluctuating appetite, and cognitive issues. In addition, some physicians tend to focus only on the physical health of the mother and may not inquire about her emotional state. Therefore, the most important step in treating antepartum depression may be the diagnosis itself.
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Symptoms of Antepartum Depression
Pregnancy symptoms can vary greatly with each woman and each pregnancy. Feeling nervous during pregnancy is normal. You may be worried about your health, the health of your baby and the future ahead of you. Depression during pregnancy can be caused by relationship problems, complications in pregnancy, infertility treatments, a previous pregnancy loss or any number of major stressful life events. Women with antepartum depression will generally experience symptoms for two weeks or more. Symptoms of antepartum depression include excessive anxiety, change in sleeping patterns, loss of interest in normal activities, persistent sadness, feelings of guilt, hopelessness or worthlessness, significant weight loss or gain, and thoughts of suicide or death. It is important to note that women who have a history of depression, feel alone, and/or do not have adequate spousal and family support, are more likely to become depressed and not seek help.
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Natural Treatments for Antepartum Depression
If you have any symptoms of depression or even if you are not sure if you are depressed, it is important to immediately seek treatment for the health and well-being of you and your baby. A mother who is depressed may not have the desire to properly take care of herself and left untreated, depression may lead to drinking, smoking, poor prenatal care, and suicidal behavior. The baby could be born prematurely and have developmental problems. In addition, treating antepartum depression is extremely important in the prevention of postpartum depression after the baby is born. Fortunately, the following natural treatments can be very effective in helping a mother stay happy and healthy all through her pregnancy.
- Well-Balanced Diet – Having the correct caloric intake during pregnancy is essential to your physical and mental health. Spacing out meals, eating healthy and keeping your blood sugar stable can help keep your mood on the upswing.
- Exercise – Establish a regular exercise routine while you are pregnant. Exercise increases serotonin levels and decreases the depression causing hormone cortisol. Even just 10 minutes a day is enough to provide some benefits, although 30 minutes, 3 times a week is ideal. Prenatal yoga is a form of exercise that has proven mood lifting capabilities.
- Socialize - Depressed mothers may withdraw from friends and family. It is important to stay in touch with people that are supportive, positive and helpful. It also helps you keep a positive perspective on your life. Joining a support group is a great way to surround yourself with people who care.
- Reduce Stress - Identify the sources of stress in your life and figure out ways to handle the situations. It may mean avoiding certain people or activities, but your mental well-being is the most important at this point in your life. It is important to learn how to effectively eliminate stress now before the baby arrives.
- Get Adequate Rest – Changing hormone levels and physical discomfort can interrupt your normal sleeping patterns. It is important to continue to go to bed and wake at the same time each day, even if you had a restless night. A relaxing evening ritual such as stretching, taking a bath, practicing aromatherapy, or reading can be an activity to look forward to and help you sleep better.
- Therapy – Speaking with a trained professional on a regular basis can help you relieve anger, frustration, negative feelings and resolve problems. Therapy can help you deal with the extreme changes that are currently taking place during pregnancy, and the big changes that are coming in your life. You may also learn how to communicate your feelings to others more effectively.
- Ask for Help – If you are constantly fatigued, overworked, and resentful, it is time to ask for help. Feeling this way for too long can lead to depression. Communicate your needs to your spouse, your friends, and your family. A little help with household chores, child care, and errands can be very important in lifting your mood and making you feel appreciated. This is not the time to say you can do it all yourself.
- Take a Break – One of the simplest yet most effective natural treatments for antepartum depression is making it a priority to continue to do the things you enjoy. Although many mothers feel their children must always come first, it important to remember your own needs as well. An afternoon with friends, a weekend out of town, or a day of pampering can go a long way in helping you remember that although you are bringing a new life into the world, it doesn't mean you have to give up your own.
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American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists - Depression During Pregnancy: Treatment Recommendations - http://www.acog.org/from_home/publications/press_releases/nr08-21-09-1.cfm
National Institute of Mental Health - Women’s Disorders – Evaluation, Treatment and Research - http://patientinfo.nimh.nih.gov/WomensDisorders.aspx
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Fickr.com - Prenatal depression - thundho - nadu - andhu - http://www.flickr.com/photos/andhu/3349144790/