Depression during and afer pregnancy is common but often goes undetected since many of the symptoms of depression are similar to many general symptoms of pregnancy such as disturbances in sleep and appetite and low energy. However any woman that notices a link between pregnancy and depression should see their health care provider and discuss symptoms and treatment options.
Depression during pregnancy impacts both mother and child and requires immediate treatment since depression during pregnancy can result in a woman taking less care of herself, can result in a reduction in appetite and depressed women are more inclined to smoke cigarettes, abuse alcohol or take illegal drugs all of which can result in health problems for an unborn baby.
Treatment for depression during pregnancy includes antidepressant medication and short term psychiatric therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or interpersonal therapy (IPT). Antidepressant drugs are however generally prescribed with caution since they can have an adverse effect on an unborn baby.
The "baby blues" are common after pregnancy and result from changes in hormone levels following childbirth but usually pass within a few day, however many women experience a severe depressive episode after childbirth which goes way beyond the baby blues and often requires some form of treatment.
There are a number of causes for postnatal depression which include having suffered from depression during pregnancy, having a stressful pregnancy, complications during labour and problems with a new born baby's health.
Symptoms of postnatal depression can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and of being an inadequate mother, difficulties in caring and providing for a newborn baby and an overall lack of bonding with a baby which can have an adverse effect on the baby.
Advice for women with postnatal depression
- Seek treatment from a qualified health care professional. The sooner you receive adequate treatment the sooner you can enjoy the experience of motherhood
- Develop a support system of friends and family and allow them to occasionally look after the baby allowing you time to yourself.
- Eat a balanced diet, exercise and develop good sleeping patterns in a baby as soon as possible. Also get plenty of rest yourself and take naps whilst the baby is asleep or when family or friends are looking after the baby.
- Take things one step at a time and be gentle on yourself. Adjusting to parenthood takes time so acknowledge any small achievement and those things you do well.
- Finally if things get to tough call a postnatal depression support service or mental health crisis line for advice and support.