Anxiety and Depression during Pregnancy

 

33% of women experience some level of anxiety and/or depression during pregnancy. And yet, research shows that under 20% actually seek treatment. It’s normal to feel a little anxious during pregnancy, but when those feelings begin to constantly disrupt your day, that’s when you should seek help. The myth that women must be happy during and post pregnancy still lives to this day, and so most women either ignore their symptoms of anxiety and/or depression or seek inadequate treatment, feeling ashamed to bring to light their true feelings. But hear this: it’s okay to feel anxiety or depression and it’s also okay to ask for help.

 

For some women, it’s hard to distinguish between normal spouts of anxiety and more serious ones. Whether you are a first-time parent or adding on to your family, pregnancy always has its ups and downs, which also affect your mood. Thoughts and questions can cloud your brain, such as: Why is the baby kicking so much…or so little? Am I eating too much…or too little? How bad will my labor pains be? Will I be a good mother? Am I cut out for this? These are all common questions soon-to-be mothers might ask themselves, and should be addressed at the next gyno appointment if worrying persist. Additional feelings of anxiety pregnant mothers experience are:

  • Feeling worried or stress like you’re on the edge most of the time

  • Having reoccurring thoughts that won’t go away

  • Experiencing panic attacks

  • Muscles constantly tensing up

  • Finding it difficult to stay calm

  • Having trouble sleeping

Some of these symptoms might develop gradually and not linger, while others might persist and require action with your gyno. If you are unsure if your feelings constitute medical attention, ask your gyno. When in doubt, ask for help. Additionally, some pregnant mothers experience symptoms of depression, such as:

  • Feeling constantly low, numb, and hopeless

  • Losing confidence in abilities

  • Being overly emotional

  • Constant loss of energy

  • Not being able to sleep or eat properly

  • Losing concentration

  • Not being interested in people or activities you were typically interested in

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and are worried, it’s okay to ask for help. In fact, it is encouraged to share any and everything with your gyno so that they can help you throughout the process. The “pregnancy glow” can only carry you so far and there are people and treatments that don’t involve medication that can assist you in your pregnancy. When in doubt, ask your gyno. Letting thoughts and feelings like the ones listed above persist can have detrimental effects on both you and your child. For the fetus, severe and untreated symptoms of depression cause:

  • Low birthweight

  • Premature birth (before 37 weeks)

  • Low APGAR score (which is used to rate a newborn’s health after delivery)

  • Poor adaption to outside of the womb, which includes respiratory distress

For the mother, these symptoms can lead to:

  • Suicide

  • Pregnancy termination

  • Postpartum depression or anxiety (the symptoms will likely persist after giving birth, possibly getting more severe)

  • Substance abuse (such as alcohol or drugs)

  • Preterm labor

  • Affected attachment to the baby

  • Preeclampsia (which can lead to potentially fatal complications to both the mother and fetus)

As explained above, some treatment options don’t involve medication (although there is medication that is safe to take during pregnancy) that can assist in alleviating symptoms, making the pregnancy go by more smoothly. These treatment options are:

  • Psychotherapy – Where a skilled therapist can teach you ways to manage persisting thoughts and emotions that are affecting your mental health.

  • Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids – These are found in foods such as oily fish and walnuts and act as a natural mood-booster.

  • Acupuncture – This Chinese practice can help with muscle aches and pains that pregnant women might experience, whether being a side effect of the pregnancy or symptom of anxiety. Acupuncture can be especially helpful for those who have tried traditional methods and found no relief with their symptoms.

Plenty of pregnant women experience anxiety and/or depression and it’s important to know the signs and seek treatment if necessary. As stated above, when in doubt, ask for help. If you are unsure about the thoughts and feeling you are having during your pregnancy, schedule an appointment with you gyno to discuss the severity and possibly treatment options. Pregnancy isn’t always puppies and sunshine, but there are ways to help manage the stress it puts on women that can bring the sun out a little bit on seemingly cloudy days.

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