We have all heard about postpartum depression, the unfortunate condition that affects over 15% of new mothers. However, we very rarely hear about prenatal depression.
This condition is equally as miserable as its postpartum counterpart and affects just as many mamas, yet very few people even know it exists. This is due to the stigma surrounding depression, as well as the common and inaccurate belief that all pregnant women must be constantly filled with joy. Not only is this belief inaccurate, it is actually harmful to those mothers who do experience prenatal depression, as well as their precious babies.
What is Prenatal Depression?
Prenatal depression is just what you’d imagine it to be: depression that occurs during the prenatal period. It is likely caused by quickly changing hormones, which have the potential to negatively impact the brain chemicals that control our moods. However, prenatal depression can be triggered, exasperated, and influenced by things going on in the new mother’s world, such as family troubles, financial stress, and problems at work.
Symptoms of prenatal depression are sometimes hard to differentiate from normal pregnancy symptoms, making the condition difficult to diagnose. However, if you or a loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms below on a regular or constant basis, and especially if the symptoms seem out of control or out of the ordinary, it is important to seek help right away. Failing to find treatment will likely lead to increased symptoms and can endanger both mom and baby.
- Persistent sadness
- Poor concentration
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Inability to find enjoyment in anything
- Regular disturbing thoughts of death or suicide
- Eating much more or less than usual
Risks of not seeking treatment include:
- Low birth weight
- Cesarean section
- Pre-term birth
- Poor mother-child bond
How is Prenatal Depression Treated?
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to treat prenatal depression. If you feel you might be experiencing this common and debilitating condition, it is important to seek treatment right away in order to relieve yourself from some or all of your symptoms.
Keep in mind, prenatal depression is not your fault. It is not something you can control, and it has nothing to do with what you have or have not done. Therefore, trying to work your way through the storm and fix it yourself is not usually a good idea, and seeking help should never be considered embarrassing or a weakness.
When a woman does seek out treatment, she may expect to be handed a prescription for an antidepressant. However, because the effects of these medications on unborn babies are not well known, most caregivers do not turn immediately to the prescription drug. Instead, they may recommend a variety of therapeutic treatments that are both relatively safe for baby and effective for mother.
Some treatments we commonly see used to relieve prenatal depression include the following:
- Psychotherapy — This involves working with a therapist to find new ways of working through emotions and accomplishing day-to-day tasks without triggering emotional upset. It is one of the most-used treatment methods and is quite helpful to many women. Thrive Mama Collective in Oklahoma City has a therapist who can see clients suffering from Prenatal Depression. Balance Women’s Health in Moore is an option for women needing medication.
- Acupuncture — The benefits of acupuncture are just starting to be understood and appreciated in the western world. Acupuncture involves placing tiny needles in specific places in the skin in order to help relieve symptoms, and it is often used for those suffering from depression. According to this study, acupuncture is quite effective for treating prenatal depression, and is a great—and safe—tool for anyone experiencing symptoms of depression.
- Light therapy — Light therapy works by introducing the body to artificial sunlight during certain times of the day in order to release the hormone serotonin into the body. This is a mood-boosting hormone and can help significantly with symptoms of depression. Additionally, it can help to reset one’s internal clock in order to help them reestablish good sleep habits.
Here are some things to try at home as well:
- Exercise — Make sure to get some form of exercise every day. From running to yoga, simply moving around will get your blood pumping and release mood-boosting endorphins into your system to keep your feeling great all day.
- Eating well — Diet has a lot to do with our moods. You can help keep your depression under control by eating a well-balanced diet that is free of caffeine and excessive amounts of sugar, and also low in processed foods. Additionally, you may find it helpful to add some omega-3 fatty acid supplements and a vitamin B complex supplement into your daily diet.
- Going outside — Working in much the same way as the light therapy mentioned above, getting outside is a great mood booster. Making a point of going outside every day is a great way to ensure you keep yourself feeling as energetic as possible.
Diffusing oils — There are a number of essential oils that may help relieve symptoms of depression, combined with treatments above. By diffusing these oils throughout the day, you may be able boost your mood significantly and even relieve symptoms such as insomnia. However, it is important to note that not all oils are safe for use during pregnancy. See here for a list of oils that should not be used by expecting mothers. See here for a list of oils to help with mood.