Usually known as postpartum blues or baby blues, perinatal depression is a major depressive episode during pregnancy and in the four week post delivery. It is a common occurrence in new mothers, every one in seven women have been diagnosed with perinatal depression. Pregnant women younger than 19 years of age are at a higher risk of depression.
Depression brings along anxiety, fear, panic and even post traumatic stress disorder if the delivery process was complicated and harmful.
What are the Symptoms of Perinatal Depression?
Each mother may face different symptoms depending on her situation, here are some standard symptoms that indicate perinatal depression:
- Persistent sadness
- Frequent crying
- Increased fatigue
- Loss of interest
- Trouble sleeping
- Sense of hopelessness
- Inability to bond with the baby
- Suicidal thoughts
It can be difficult to identify perinatal depression as many of the symptoms are common during pregnancy. Although, if the above symptoms begin to impair the mother’s daily functioning or hamper the mother-child bond, it is advisable to consult a mental health professional.
The consulted physicians can make sure to keep a tab on the mother’s mental health and screen them for depression at the perinatal stage as well as during postpartum visits. These screenings must be done through a valid and standardized tool like the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS)
What can be the Causes of Perinatal Depression?
One of the main causes of depression during pregnancy is the hormones. The fluctuating levels of estrogen, progesterone and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Hormones play an important role in the onset of depression which is also the reason more females experience depression compared to males.
Other than the causes, there are several risk factors that contribute to depression. Those risk factors include:
- Personal or family history of depression
- History of other mood disorders
- Maternal Anxiety
- Complications during pregnancy
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Unwanted pregnancy
- Lack of support from spouse and family
- Other stressors
- Unsuitable combination of medication during or after pregnancy
How can Perinatal Depression be Treated?
The effects of perinatal depression may feel permanent on a mother, but it is treatable through the following methods.
Psychotherapy: Techniques like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) positively change the behaviour and mood.
Medication: Certain medications are prescribed even during pregnancy of cases of severe depression. These medications include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors(SNRIs). Medications are prescribed only after consultation with the physician.
Depression during pregnancy can be hectic. Here are some ways to cope with it apart from treatment.
- Stay physically active. Consult your physician about the exercises you can do during pregnancy and practice them regularly.Exercise has physical benefits and it releases endorphins in your body which alleviate your mood.
- Have a fixed sleep schedule. Sleep is very important during pregnancy. Lack of sleep can cause minor hassles to turn into stressors.
- Have a strong support group. It may include friends, family, other mothers going through the same thing. Find people who will back you up when you need it. This helps feel loved and relieves stress.
Perinatal depression not only affects the mother, it also affects the child in the womb. Infants and toddlers of mothers with perinatal depressed are likely to have difficult temperaments, emotional inconsistencies and even developmental delays.
Hence, the treatment of depressed mother is essential for a safe future for her children.
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