Pregnancy Blues? Here's How To Cope
Pregnancy is supposed to be the happiest time of your life.
Every magazine picture shows pregnant women with smiling faces, sitting in green meadows, embracing their bumps with sheer joy and happiness.
But that is not the case for every woman.
About 1 in 5 women will experience some symptoms of depression during pregnancy. With something so common, I’ve always wondered why pregnancy books don’t devote more than just a few paragraphs to the subject. There’s a lot of stuff on post partum depression. Perhaps being depressed after birth is more socially acceptable and understood, but being depressed during pregnancy is a different story. Many women I’ve spoken to don’t talk about it because they fear they will be judged by others or, even worse, they harshly judge themselves thinking, “I should be so happy right now. What’s wrong with me?” Others may just chalk it up to a hormonal imbalance. You should not feel that way at all.
Let’s review the basics.
What is pregnancy depression?
Doctors call it antepartum depression and it is a mood disorder just like clinical depression. Mood disorders are biological illnesses that involve changes in your brain chemistry. During pregnancy, the many, many hormone changes, can affect brain chemicals that are directly related to depression and anxiety. This situation can be made worse by life stresses like job-related frustrations or relationship problems.
What’s the harm?
Depression can have several negative effects on your pregnancy and baby. Studies have shown that babies born to depressed mothers have lower birth weight, higher risk of premature birth and birth complications, delayed cognitive and language development and more behavioral problems. Scientists figure that there’s something about the unbalanced sea of hormones and reduced blood flow that these babies are exposed to in the womb that causes these effects.
What are the signs?
The difference between the “baby blues,” the normal hormonal mood swings of pregnancy and pregnancy depression is that the symptoms of pregnancy depression last for at least two weeks. The side effects of “baby blues” such as anxiety, sleeplessness or crying spells will often go away after a few days. Pregnancy depression can also include thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby. Other symptoms include:
· Persistent sadness
· Difficulty concentrating
· Sleeping too little or too much
· Loss of interest in activities that you usually enjoy
· Recurring thoughts of death, suicide, or hopelessness
· Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
· Change in eating habits
Call your doctor if:
- Your baby blues don’t go away after 2 weeks
- Symptoms of depression get more and more intense
- Symptoms of depression begin any time after delivery, even many months later
- It is hard for you to perform tasks at work or at home
- You cannot care for yourself or your baby
- You have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
What you can do
1. Recognize that pregnancy depression is very serious. Your baby needs you to be physically, emotionally and mentally healthy.
2. Talk to somebody. A friend, your doctor or clergymen. Consider a support group. Ask your doctor about groups in your area.
3. Can you lighten your load? Cut down on your chores, errands, obligations to others, and other stressful activities. Try to do things
that will help you relax and regroup.
4. If your symptoms are severe, your doctor may want to prescribe medication. There are medications that have been used during pregnancy without adverse side effects.
Other helpful tips include:
- Rest as much as you can.
- Don’t try to do too much or try to be perfect.
- Ask your partner, family, and friends for help.
- Make time to go out, visit friends, or spend time alone with your partner.
- Discuss your feelings with your partner, family, and friends.
- Talk with other mothers so you can learn from their experiences.
- Don’t make any major life changes during pregnancy or right after giving birth. Major changes can cause unneeded stress. Sometimes big changes can’t be avoided. When that happens, try to arrange support and help in your new situation ahead of time.
Everybody's pregnancy experience is different. It's just up to you to make sure you do the best to take care of yourself.