Being pregnant can be such a joyful time. It can also be a roller coaster of emotions which include depression. A woman’s risk for depression while pregnant increases during peak childbearing years and around 12 to 14 percent of pregnant women will endure depression. Depression during pregnancy is also a main risk factor for postpartum depression.
Being depressed during pregnancy not only has the mom to be suffering but the unborn child as well. There is currently accumulating proof that being depressed while pregnant is bad for the fetus and can cause negative effects upon the unborn child.
Early birth and low birth weight
Pregnant women are at risk for delivering early and having low weight babies according to a new report published in October in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
Babies born early and low birth weight are the major leading causes nation wide of infant and childhood cessation of life, respiratory distress, neurological and developmental impairment, cerebral palsy, blindness, hearing loss and other disabilities.
Being depressed during pregnancy is actually normal for women, in all reality between nine and twenty-three percent of women become depressed during pregnancy.
Dr. Nancy Grote, University of Washington, research of social work states in the United States alone having premature birth runs a greater risk in pregnant women who are depressed.
University of Michigan conducted a study to find the reasoning for this occurrence.
Dr. Delia M. Vazquez, professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the university’s medical school states there are two possibilities, they are more sensitive to stress and respond actively or just cannot shut down their stress reactions.
The study observed the association between maternal depression and development of the infant’s neuroendocrine system. That particular system controls the body’s response, moods and emotions.
Researchers discovered that when the babies who were more to depressed mothers at age two weeks had lower muscle tone in comparison to babies born to mothers that had no depression. The babies did adjusted faster to stimulation such as a bell or a light, this is a sign of neurological maturity.
Dr. Sheila Marcus, clinical director of U-M’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Section and lead researcher states it is hard to say as to what range these differences are good or bad or what impact they could have over a longer time frame. They are just starting to observe these differences as a section of a entire collection that could be risk factors. This could determine which women require attention during pregnancy or mother and infants who could benefit from postpartum programs that support healthy infant development through mom and baby relationships.
In addition to tracking mothers with depression through gestation, umbilical cord blood sample was also taken right after birth. Researchers discovered heightened levels of andrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) in babies born to mothers with depression. The ACTH signals the adrenal gland to produce the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol levels, were alike in children with mothers of different levels of depression. This most likely shows high levels of stress associated to the birth itself.
Researchers main question is to what rate in which the hormonal environment of the uterus acts as a stimulant for process that change infant gene expression, neuroendocrine development and brain circuitry. This could set the level for increased risk for behavioral and psychological disorders later on in life.
Researchers suggest that mothers experiencing depression talk to their health care practitioner who can recommend interventions such as couples counseling and antidepressants.
A study done on antidepressants which appeared in October 2009, issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, that antidepressants during pregnancy may influence the outcome of pregnancy and newborn health.
Antidepressant medication in women who are pregnant is still not determined. Babies born to mothers who were on medications did suffer withdraw symptoms in several studies. These withdraw symptoms included jitters, seizures and jaundice.
Signs of depression
Constant down mood, irritability or agitation
Lack of interest in activities
Loss or gain of appetite/weight
Hard time sleeping or too much sleep
Talking or moving more slowly than normal
Constant low energy
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or hopelessness
Hard time concentrating or decision making
Thinking about death or suicide
Symptoms of depression in pregnant and even postpartum women are hard to spot. They become not noticed because they are just looked at as fatigue of the pregnancy or new baby. Main symptoms to look for are low mood, irritability and/or lack of enjoyment. Also, if you notice person cannot take care of themselves or their children. Then it is time to ask for help.
Besides medications or talking to a psychologist, alternative treatments are available. Many people today use alternative treatments especially women and these treatments are effective especially in chronic depression. The main reasons have been because alternative treatments view the person as a whole, ability to control their treatments, being treated as a individual, practitioner devotes more time to each patient and no side effects or serious medical problems from prescription medications.
Here are some alternative treatments that have been used by pregnant women with depression:
Research done in the early part of this year by Stanford University Medical School has noted acupuncture treatments to have very positive results.
In this study, 150 pregnant women who had a diagnosis of major depressive disorder and all between twelve and thirty weeks pregnant.
The positive outcomes rated in at 63% of the women who had depression specific acupuncture and 44.3% who had acupuncture used on normal points for depression.
The effectiveness of acupuncture treatments can differ from one practitioner to another practitioner.
Chiropractors will examine spine for misalignment(vertebral subluxations) which cause spinal stress. If they are present through spinal adjustment they will be corrected. Chiropractic care ensures that the reproductive and other essential systems stay functioning properly. The littlest interference could negatively affect the mother and baby.
Several case studies have shown chiropractic care can have an important part in the management of depression.
Depression usually aims at the weak areas of the spine which produce general muscle tension, headaches, migraines, neck and back pain.
Case studies have noted that after eleven weeks of chiropractic treatments depression symptoms have been significantly reduced.
Treatments are dependent on patient and chiropractor most of the times once a month after initial treatments will be needed or more often depending on pain and other factors.
Light Therapy is usually used for seasonal affective disorders(SAD) but now is being used for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and depression.
During the therapy you sit or work near a light therapy box. The box emits a bright light that imitates natural outdoor light. Light therapy is said to affect the chemicals of the brain associated to emotions.
A bright light trial was conducted on sixteen pregnant patients diagnosed with major depression for a length of three to five weeks. The Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, Seasonal Affective Disorders Version, was used to evaluate alterations in moods.
After three weeks of treatments mood had improved by 49%.
The conclusion had shown that morning light therapy does provide an antidepressant effect during pregnancy and no adverse events were seen.
Even though herbs are natural not all herbs are safe during pregnancy. One list can have an herb as safe and another unsafe. Therefore, contact a trained herbalist who is experienced in herbs during pregnancy and also your health care practitioner before using any herbs.
A few other noted suggestions
Support groups are a great way to discuss what you are going through and women with similar experiences can share their ideas and thoughts of what had helped them.
Ask spouse, significant other, friends for help even with things you may view as simple daily tasks like cooking, laundry and cleaning.
Yoga is great while pregnant. Not only does it help to alleviate mental stress but also maintains your fitness for labor and childbirth. It aides in common problems of pregnancy such as fatigue and mood swings. Make sure you find an instructor that is familiar with pregnancy.
Exercise does treat depression by releasing the body’s mood elevating compounds. This reduces cortisol, provides new perspective on life, enhanced self-esteem and increases serotonin. Just ten minutes a day does the trick. Walking is free and is a good exercise.
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