Pregnancy is supposed to be a happy, even thrilling, time. In a world where one in four women experience depression at some point during their lives, though, it should come as no surprise that some women experience the pain of depression during pregnancy. Depression and stress can increase the risk of complications during pregnancy, and no woman wants unnecessary stress as she prepares to be a mother. The good news is, there are strategies that can help ease the rocky waters of depression! A psychologist can lead you in the right direction and get to the other side in one piece.
Is Prenatal Depression Different from Other Forms of Depression?
In the popular imagination, all forms of prenatal depression are due to pregnancy-related hormonal shifts. In reality, of course, the picture is much more complex. Myriad factors can lead to prenatal depression. In some cases, a person who already has depression simply continues to have it during their pregnancy. In others, specific life factors, changes in health or hormones, or the concerns endemic to being pregnant can trigger depression. Thus prenatal depression, just like other forms of depression, can be caused by a complex interaction between genes, biology, environment, personality, and lifestyle.
What Causes Prenatal Depression?
Prenatal depression is not a monolith, and the factors that contribute to its development can vary wildly from one person to the next. It may be impossible to determine why you have depression, or the reason might be quite apparent. Most people with prenatal depression have at least one risk factor, but it’s possible to develop prenatal depression without having any risk factors at all. Some factors that put you at risk include:
- A family history of depression; both genetic and early learning factors can make you
- A prior history of depression; the physiological changes of pregnancy may trigger depression
- even in people whose depression is well-controlled.
- The challenges of pregnancy itself. Women whose pregnancies are unwanted or unplanned,
- who are worried about finances, who suffer from pregnancy-related health complications, or
- who have unsupportive partners are more vulnerable to depression.
- Lifestyle factors; Women with unhealthy lifestyles are more vulnerable to depression.
- Drugs; Many women quit smoking, drinking, or using drugs during pregnancy. If you’re already
- vulnerable to depression, this sudden change can trigger a depressive episode.
- Inadequate medical care. If you feel uncared for by your doctor or do not receive supportive
- behavioral health services during your pregnancy, it can cause or worsen depression.
Prenatal Depression and Medication
Medication for depression is a controversial topic, since some people don’t want to feel like their brains are being “controlled” by “drugs.” For pregnant women, the prospect can be even more troubling, since most antidepressants cross the placental barrier, with unknown effects for the developing fetus. The good news is that some antidepressants have been proven safe during pregnancy. Even more important is the fact that depression itself is bad for your baby. If you’re unable to manage your symptoms without medication, odds are good that medication will be less harmful to your baby than being exposed to the complex cocktail of hormones depression can yield.
If you’re concerned about medication, remember that newer, safer antidepressants are constantly being developed. We can help you talk to a doctor about the best medication for your needs, but if you’re opposed to medication during pregnancy, it’s far from your only option. Therapy can help you untangle the complex array of factors that led to your depression. Not only does counselling offer a supportive listener who can help you manage the trials and tribulations of pregnant life; it also affords you the chance to explore and practice new ways of coping with long-standing challenges.
Treatment can also help you and your partner prepare for having a baby. Many women report that inadequate assistance from their partners figure prominently in feelings of depression. Others simply need help feeling like they’re ready to be parents. And many women simply need reassurance that they have what it takes to be good parents.
Lifestyle factors can play a role, too. Whether it’s eating right, exercising safely, making friends, or finding ways to get the support you need, Three Seas can help you make decisions that make it easier to live with depression, and that even boost the odds of depression remission. You can do it, and we can help!