Pregnancy Depression Symptoms

Baby Blues

"If pregnancy is supposed to be the happiest time of my life, then why am I feeling so miserable?" That question is more common than you would think. Many women struggle with various levels of depression both during their pregnancies and postpartum. We're all aware of postpartum depression, commonly called "baby blues", but depression can occur during a pregnancy as well. Pregnancy depression is more than just feeling down or unhappy for a day or two - it involves the brain and can end up being quite serious if left untreated. Both mother and baby, during and after pregnancy, can be at risk of harm when depression is an issue. The good news is that depression is treatable and most women recover well with appropriate treatment.

Depression During Pregnancy

Depression is common during pregnancy and after birth. During pregnancy, while hormones are raging and sleep is at a premium, symptoms similar to those associated with depression can occur. Feeling overwhelmed, crying a lot, lacking energy or motivation, over eating or under eating, sleeping the day away, withdrawing from family and friends, headaches, stomach aches and pains that don't go away and the inability to focus are just some of the hints that depression may be a problem. The doctor can properly diagnose the symptoms and conditions to determine whether it is depression or something else.

Feeling Anxious?  Talk It Out

Childbirth anxiety can trigger all of the symptoms of depression. A fear that something will happen to the baby during birth - like the cord wrapped around the baby's neck - and panic about not being able to care for the baby are common feelings that can overwhelm a woman. The fear of pain associated with labor and delivery sends some women into a tailspin. The best approach for handling this type of situation is to talk about it. Talking about the fears, concerns, and feelings of being overwhelmed with a support group or with a practitioner who can offer an ear and sound counsel often makes a huge difference.

There is no single cause for depression, it seems to be the result of several factors working together. It tends to run in families so if a woman's family has a history of depression, she will likely struggle with it as well. Research shows that brain chemistry and changes in the brain structure have a role to play in depression. Life issues that are particularly stressful, like the death of a loved one or having to care for sick or aging family members, or living in poverty and abusive relationships can all trigger depression. Hormones play a significant role in depression, particularly those hormones that are unique to women. Women are more at risk for depression during puberty, pregnancy and postpartum, and during menopause.

What Causes Postpartum Depression?

When it comes to childbirth depression, or postpartum depression, the cause in most cases is the rapid change of hormones back to normal levels once the baby is born. This happens within a day of the birth and profoundly affects a woman. There may also be a drop in thyroid hormones which also leads to depression - a simple test of the thyroid can determine whether this is compounding the problem. When childbirth depression strikes, a woman may feel excessively tired, overwhelmed with a new baby, doubtful about her ability to care for her baby properly, fat and ugly, stressed over routine changes in work and at home, and under pressure to be the perfect mother. These types of feelings and thoughts affect as many as 80% of first time moms. Adequate rest, a good diet and exercise outside, weather permitting, help to keep depression at bay.

My Baby Can't Nurse!

If she's chosen to breastfeed her baby, a woman may experience breastfeeding depression that comes as a result of difficulties getting the process started. Perhaps her nipples cracked and bled, or the baby had difficulty latching and is unable to feed properly. Fears of inadequacy and a sense of failure can lead to breastfeeding depression, causing her to feel like giving up. In this case, a lactation counselor is the best way to help get the breastfeeding process underway. At the same time, counseling to help her understand that she's one of many who go through the same experience can help her cope and hang in there until her baby is nursing properly.

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