What is depression?

The National Institute of Mental Health explains that depression (also called depressive disorder, major depression, and clinical depression) is a common mood disorder that affects how one feels, thinks, acts, and handles daily life activities, such as eating, working, and sleeping. Depression can cause one to feel intense sadness or disinterest in things that they like to do daily. 

Types of depression

  • Major depression 
  • Persistent depressive disorder (AKA dysthymia or dysthymic disorder) 
  • Perinatal depression (prenatal depression and postpartum depression)
  • Seasonal affective disorder
  • Depression with symptoms of psychosis

 In this blog, we will focus on 1 type of perinatal depression, called prenatal. 

What is perinatal depression?

Perinatal depression occurs during or after pregnancy. The National Institute of Mental Health notes that depression during pregnancy is prenatal depression, and depression that begins after the baby is born is postpartum depression

Prenatal Depression Risk factors

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Domestic violence
  • Lower educational level
  • History of depression
  • History of bipolar disorder
  • Unplanned pregnancy
  • Poor social support

Does pregnancy cause depression?

Pregnancy does not inherently cause depression, but the changes that occur during that time can cause many to struggle with emotional challenges. A pregnant person may develop depression due to the hormonal fluctuations, physical changes, and emotional stressors associated with pregnancy. There are also certain risk factors that may make some individuals more prone to depression, such as a history of depression, lack of a support system, and history of mental health problems. 

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Does depression affect pregnancy?

Yes, depression can have significant effects on pregnancy. Untreated depression during pregnancy has been linked with many side effects for mom and child, including preterm birth, low birth weight, and developmental disabilities in the baby. Prenatal depression may impact the behaviors of mom and inhibit postpartum bonding between mother and child.

If you struggle with prenatal depression, consult your doctor and seek support throughout your pregnancy to lessen any health risks and foster the well-being of both the expectant mother and the developing fetus.

Prenatal Depression Diagnosis

Prenatal depression diagnosis involves a thorough assessment by healthcare professionals that considers the physical and emotional aspects of the pregnant individual. Doctors may use screening tools that are more accurate in diagnosing depression. To get a clear picture of what the pregnant person is experiencing, doctors may inquire about mood shifts, changes in energy levels, sleep patterns, and appetite. Open communication between the expecting mother and doctor will be crucial for early and accurate diagnosis of prenatal depression. Early detection and intervention can improve birthing outcomes and postpartum relationship between mother and baby. 

Prenatal Depression Treatment Options

Treatment options for prenatal depression aim to address symptoms while considering the well-being of both the pregnant individual and the developing fetus. Non-pharmacological interventions such as psychotherapy, support groups, and lifestyle modifications may be recommended. In cases where symptoms are severe or significantly impact daily functioning, healthcare providers may consider the judicious use of antidepressant medications, weighing the potential risks and benefits. Collaborative decision-making between the pregnant individual and their healthcare team is essential to tailor the treatment plan to the specific needs and circumstances of the individual while prioritizing the safety of both the mother and the unborn child. Regular monitoring and follow-up care are integral components of managing prenatal depression throughout the course of pregnancy.

May 29, 2024

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.