This should be a happy time for me, so why am I so miserable?
Studies show that up to 20 percent of women will experience mood or anxiety disorders during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Depression is more than just feeling sad, it's a serious illness where the feelings don't go away and interfere with daily life and activities. The good news is that most people with depression get better with treatment.
What causes depression?
Depression results from a combination of factors, including:
- Family history.
- Changes in the brain chemistry.
- Stressful life events.
Hormones directly affect the brain chemistry that control emotions and mood, which means that women are at greater risk of depression at such times of hormonal shift like pregnancy and the postpartum period.
Why after childbirth?
During pregnancy, levels of female hormones estrogen and progesterone increase. In the first 24 hours after childbirth, they quickly return to normal. Researchers think the drop in hormone levels may lead to depression. In addition, there are other factors such as lack of sleep due to caring for your newborn, anxiety over parenting, relationship stress, and the unrealistic feeling that you need to be a perfect mother may add to feelings of depression.
How can you tell if it's normal postpartum feelings and postpartum depression?
In addition to having mood swings, crying spells and trouble sleeping, which are all signs of the "baby blues," women with postpartum depression may also have feelings of deep sadness, low self-worth, guilt, and anxiety.
Will postpartum depression resolve itself?
No. Women with postpartum depression need to be treated by a mental health professional.
Could these feelings just be related to the pregnancy and not a sign of mental illness?
Absolutely. Symptoms like exhaustion or lack of energy are common both in pregnancy and depression. Speaking to a professional can help you decide if you are experiencing more acute symptoms than other pregnant women.
What is the most common mental health problems in pregnancy?
Depression and anxiety are the most common. How your mental health is affected during pregnancy depends on the type of mental illness you experience, whether you receive treatment, any recent stressful events in your life, and how you feel about your pregnancy.
I've always worried but I seem to be worrying more than ever now. Is that normal?
Many women worry during pregnancy about everything from changes in your role in life and in your relationships to whether you will be a good mother. You may also fear childbirth itself, or fear having problems during the pregnancy. Check with a mental health professional if you're concerned.
My doctor doesn't want me taking medicine, so I can't take anything for my depression, right?
Not necessarily. We now have over 10 years of evidence that certain medications can be safely taken by pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
What else can I do for my depression?
Get adequate sleep, good nutrition, exercise, and seek social support as well as minimize stress and obligations.
I stopped taking my anti-anxiety medication so it wouldn't hurt my baby. Was that the right thing to do?
This is not always the safest option because being off of your medication may be more harmful to you and your baby in the long run. A pre-pregnancy evaluation is advised if you are currently taking medication.