Understanding Pregnancy Depression
What is pregnancy depression?
Being pregnant and giving birth are special and life-affirming experiences for most women, and we expect them to be happy and serene during these wonderful times. But for many women (the estimate is 1 of every 5) depression is a fact of life, and for even more (3 of every 5 women) depression will hit after giving birth – this is well-known as postpartum depression. Because pregnancy depression is such a common occurrence, it is also well understood and easily treatable.
Why does pregnancy depression happen?
There are several possible reasons why a woman might experience pregnancy depression. The hormonal balance of a woman’s body while she is pregnant is significantly altered. The result is a shifting of moods and an uncertainty about what is going on, which can lead to depression. A commonly reported feeling is that of being out of control of the body and of resulting fear of what could happen. In addition, if the woman has any mental illness in her medical history or a tendency to be depressed before pregnancy, then pregnancy depression is more likely to happen. Another reason is that the changing balance of hormones means an emotional roller coaster effect may be felt. Some loss of short term memory while pregnant has also been documented, which can contribute to the sensation of losing control. When such drastic changes occur, a woman may feel like she isn’t herself anymore and panic attack and depression may be the result. After the child is born, a different kind of situation can result in depression. Again, hormonal balances shift and change as the body tries to readjust to a non-pregnant condition. Getting back to normal is another experience of changing moods, and depression can easily take over. The experience of having the child be absent from the womb can also lead to debilitating feelings of loss.
What Treatment for Pregnancy Depression Can Be Given?
At this important time a woman should seek out the support of her spouse, friends and relatives. A close relationship with her doctor is vitally important for the woman suffering from pregnancy depression. A knowledgeable and experienced obstetrician can make the difference between a happy, joyful pregnancy and a miserable, depressing one. In most communities (and certainly online) there are support groups for this very common condition, and there are specializing psychologists who can provide assistance as well during the pregnancy and after. Most experts recommend that the best remedy for depression after pregnancy is to form a close bond with the baby. Spending as much time with the child and being as close as possible physically with the baby can assist in this process. Another healthy habit is to continue and even increase normal interaction with the husband and family members. Feelings of fear and loneliness can be assuaged by socialization, and the woman will feel a return to normalcy is happening.
Don’t fear pregnancy depression
So many women have the experience of being depressed both during and after pregnancy that it is a well-known phenomenon. Medical experts have studied the syndrome, and there are highly effective ways to deal with it. To be afraid of the possibility of pregnancy depression is probably a direct route to having it, so it is a good idea to talk about these feelings with a spouse, a family member, or a doctor. If the pregnant woman can be prepared for the changes she may experience, then she can likely avoid the worst of pregnancy depression and avoid creating unnecessary family stress.
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