Why didn’t anyone tell me about prenatal depression?
Three cheers for Jessica Grose who is helping to take the stigma off of prenatal depression. Much of what she says could be said about depression but it is especially poignant for pregnant women who have no supportive doctor, family or community to help during this time of depression.
In this blog entry Ms. Grose documents the difficulties she encountered during her pregnancy. She shows that little information is out regarding prenatal depression although it affects approximately the same amount of women as does postnatal depression. She speaks frankly about her struggle to feel “right” and “happy” about the pregnancy. Nothing worked as she tried acupuncture and stress techniques to relieve her symptoms. She had even been in consultation with her psychologist and psychiatrist about going off her depression medication before the pregnancy and so felt she was safe.
However prenatal depression doesn’t follow any rules. When Ms Grose finally hit the breaking point and discovered that her feelings were not normal feelings of pregnancy, she sought help and began a simple regiment of Prozac which lifted her spirits and helped her deal with the pregnancy in what was really a normal way.
Until very recently, doctors didn’t think that pregnant women could get depressed—they believed that the elevated levels of estrogen during pregnancy protected women from psychological distress. Sadly that is not true. Prenatal depression manifests itself in restlessness or irritability, anxiety or agitation, sadness or weepiness and major withdrawal from loved ones. Loss of motivation and interest in normal activities becomes almost non-existent as sleeping too much takes over as well as lack of interest in the pregnancy. If left untreated, prenatal depression can result in serious long term consequences on maternal heath, the pregnancy, parenting and family relationships, not to mention infant and child health and development.
According to studies, pregnant women with depression are at risk for increased rates of hypertension, miscarriage and premature labor. They are likely to deliver preterm and more likely to deliver a baby with low birth weight. As far as family and parenting go, a depressed mother will give less nurturing, will tend to have more family conflicts, lower rates of breastfeeding and be less likely to keep her kids safe and healthy. The depression also keeps a woman away from being able to care for herself and relate to others. Children of depressed mothers are at risk for serious health, developmental, emotional, behavioral and cognitive problems that can persist for many years. All
Doesn’t it follow that we should be doing more about our outreach as a community to young mothers-to-be with depression? We need to include the families in treatment, to educate the community at large, and make sure that people know about the various ways in which depression manifests itself during this time. And we need to take away the stigma of depression in yet another area of life. It’s not a character flaw. It just happens.
Be sure and see the other postings on prenatal depression on Ms. Grose’s blog. The education about prenatal depression can begin with you.