Having a baby should be a joyous event, but for many women, the time surrounding a pregnancy can come with a variety of emotional and physical struggles. For those who are coping with postpartum depression, infertility, prenatal depression, or miscarriage, the issues related to getting pregnant (or even of becoming a mother) can be stressful and may lead to depression and other pregnancy and mental health concerns.
It isn’t unusual to experience sadness or fear about your pregnancy or becoming a parent. If you are trying to become pregnant, infertility concerns or the costs you may be facing for infertility treatments can be worrisome. Also, any woman may become anxious or depressed during their pregnancy or after they have a baby. If you do, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom, and you don’t have to suffer through it. The most important thing to do is talk to someone and get help if you feel anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed before, during, or after your pregnancy.
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, postpartum depression and its accompanying anxiety can affect nearly 15% of new mothers at some point during the first year after giving birth. Postpartum depression can be a very serious mood disorder and is different than having the “baby blues” that some women experience due a change in hormone levels after childbirth. In general, postpartum depression lasts longer than two weeks and is more severe than the post-birth blues.
Left untreated, postpartum depression can lead to postpartum psychosis in which you consider harming your baby, yourself, or contemplate suicide. If your symptoms do not improve after two weeks or if they get worse, call a medical professional without delay!
Infertility and Mental Health
Infertility affects between 10 and 15 percent of couples. If you have tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant for more than one year (or, for more than 6 months if you are 35 or over), you may have infertility concerns. Additionally, women who become pregnant but are unable to carry their fetus to term may also be infertile.
Stress, anxiety, and depression are common when you want a child but have not been able to conceive. You may also experience marital issues, low self-esteem, and sexual dysfunction.
Roughly 10 to 20 percent of mothers-to-be will struggle with prenatal depression (depression during their pregnancy). Stress can contribute to the development of depression. Marital problems, the age you are when you become pregnant, limited social support, uncertainty about the pregnancy, or having a prior history of depression can also contribute to new or worsening depression.
Prenatal depression can keep you from sleeping well, eating right, or taking good care of yourself. It can make you more likely to use alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs that could harm you or your baby. Additionally, some studies suggest that depression during pregnancy may increase the risk for pre-term delivery and low infant birth weight.
Your health and that of your baby should come first. Talking to your partner, your family, or your friends about your concerns can often make all the difference in helping lessen your prenatal depression. If you feel sad or anxious, consider talking with a mental health professional. They will work with you to manage your symptoms and develop a treatment plan to help you cope.
Coping with Miscarriage
Going through a loss of pregnancy is devastating, no matter the stage of pregnancy or the circumstances of the miscarriage. After losing a pregnancy, you’ll need to go through a grieving process. You may feel bitter, guilty, angry and helpless. Certain things may set you back, such as seeing a friend who is pregnant or passing a family with a new baby on the sidewalk.
Allow yourself time to mourn your pregnancy loss and to accept what’s happened. Talk to your partner, your family, and your friends or join a support group. Take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, taking things slow, eating right and exercising. It may help to keep a journal of your feelings.
If you have tried these things and are still having trouble dealing with your grief and loss, talk to your physician, a grief counselor, or a mental health professional for support.
Mood Disorders and Pregnancy
If you already have a mood disorder and become pregnant, it can be tempting to discontinue any psychotropic medications. However doing this can cause harm to you and your unborn baby, and can make you particularly vulnerable to relapse. One study showed the risk of recurrence was significantly higher in women who discontinued treatment with mood stabilizers. Before stopping any medication, you should discuss your pregnancy with your mental health professional so they can conduct a thorough risk/benefit analysis. This analysis should include the impact of untreated illness on both you and your baby, as well as weigh the risk of using medication during your pregnancy.
Treatment for Pregnancy and Mental Health Concerns
If you have anxiety, depression, or other pregnancy and mental health concerns, physical causes should be ruled out first. A medical exam will be able to exclude hypoglycemia, thyroid deficiency, or other health conditions that may be causing your depression or anxiety.
Next, speak to a mental health professional. Talking to a therapist, psychologist, or social worker will help you learn how to change the way your depression makes you think, feel, and act. They may recommend talk therapy, either one-on-one or in a group, to help lower your stress and your mood symptoms.
In some case, your mental health professional may prescribe medication to help you manage your symptoms. Talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of taking medicine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Have Questions About Pregnancy and Mental Health?
If you need help dealing with postpartum depression, infertility and mental health, prenatal depression, coping with miscarriage or other pregnancy and mental health concerns, we are here for you. For more information, contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at 561-496-1094.