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Not A Bundle Of Joy? Understanding And Treating Depression During Your Pregnancy

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For most people, pregnancy is a wonderful and joyous miracle to celebrate. However, pregnancy can also cause an overwhelming amount of physical and emotional distress for many women. While surprising to hear, an estimated 13 percent of pregnant woman and new mothers suffer with depression. This condition not only affects you and your health, but it also affects the health and wellness of your unborn child. If you think you may be suffering with depression during your pregnancy, use this guide and the help of your obstetrician to properly understand and treat this disorder.

The 411 on Depression While Pregnant

It is important to note that occasional mood swings, irritability, and sadness are completely normal while pregnant. If these feelings become more frequent and severe, you may have a clinical form of depression.

Here are a few symptoms of clinical depression:

  • Persistent Sadness
  • Excessive Crying
  • Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Loss of Interests
  • Inability to Sleep/Sleeping Excessively
  • Loss of Appetite/Overeating
  • Concentration/Memory Issues
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Withdrawal from Friends/Family
  • Feelings of Worthlessness
  • Thoughts of Death/Suicide
  • Unexplained Aches/Pains

Depression will decrease your ability to function and live a healthy lifestyle, but the condition can also affect your unborn baby. Unfortunately, recent studies showed that children born to pregnant women with depression are 1.5 times more likely to develop depression as teenagers.

Dealing with the physical symptoms of depression can increase your body's stress hormone, cortisol. An excessive amount of cortisol slows down the development of your unborn baby. In addition, the stress can lead to preterm labor and a premature birth of your baby.

Treating Depression With Medication

Taking anti-depressant medications is the most common way to treat depression. However, you may worry how these medications affect your health and the health of your unborn child. Fortunately, there is very little risk associated with taking these medications during your pregnancy. In most cases, your obstetrician will suggest one of the following anti-depressants to use while pregnant:

  • SSRIs – Certain selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are safe to use during your pregnancy. Generic names of these medications include citalopram, fluoxetine, and sertraline.
  • SNRIs – SNRIs, or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, are also options to consider while pregnant. Duloxetine and venlafaxine are common SNRIs that can reduce the symptoms of your depression.
  • Bupropion – If the above medications do not improve your depression, your obstetrician may prescribe the bupropion.
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants - Amitriptyline and nortriptyline are two generic forms of tricyclic antidepressants. While not used as a first line of treatment, tricyclic antidepressants are effective options for decreasing the symptoms of clinical depression.

Your doctor will determine which medication is most suitable for your specific needs.

Treating Depression Holistically

If you worry over the potential side effects of taking anti-depressant medications, holistic treatment may be an option to consider.

After consulting your obstetrician, consider increasing the amount of exercise you get each day.

Exercise is proven to increase your body's production of serotonin, which improves your mood. Also, exercise can decrease the cortisol levels that may be responsible for inducing stress during your pregnancy. To add more exercise to your daily routine, take walks, swim, or enroll in a yoga class designed for pregnant women.

Light therapy is an option to treat your depression in a holistic manner. After 10 minutes of waking in the morning, you can sit in front of a specialized lightbox for 60 minutes to receive a dose of white light. Light therapy not only increases the production of serotonin and endorphins that are responsible for improving your mood, but the light also decreases pregnancy hormones that can cause stress and anxiety.

Depression is a serious condition that requires professional care, but you may not fully understand how the disorder affects you and your unborn baby's health. With this guide and the help of your obstetrician and pregnancy counseling, you can understand and treat depression in a safe, effective manner while pregnant.