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Battling the Baby Blues: Depression Among Pregnant Women and After Giving Birth

by on Friday, July 24th, 2020

Battling the Baby Blues: Depression Among Pregnant Women and After Giving Birth

Depression is common among women of child-bearing age but especially among women who are expecting or who have recently had a baby. Across the world, postpartum depression — or depression that occurs after the birth of a child — is reported in up to 20 percent of all mothers. These feelings may even begin to occur during pregnancy and continue to develop and evolve.

Pregnancy-induced depression can have a severe impact on one’s personal life, family relationships, and even the child’s development. Keep reading to learn why it happens and how we can help women and their babies after birth.

Caring for Women During Pregnancy and After Delivery

Known as antenatal care, the goal of this type of care is to ensure the mother and child are healthy during pregnancy and after birth. Antenatal care includes:

  • Laboratory testing
  • Clinical exams
  • Assessment of the mother’s mental health before the child arrives
  • Giving the mother ample time and opportunity to rid herself of any fears or misconceptions associated with pregnancy or delivery

Unfortunately, depression during a woman’s pregnancy occurs frequently, as well as after delivery. Pregnancy is a period of profound changes for the mother on multiple levels, including:

  • Physical appearance
  • Physiologically (how the body functions)
  • Social changes
  • Mental shifts

During the time after delivery in which there is an extreme shift in hormones, women often experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Changes in mood
  • Irritability
  • Problems sleeping
  • Feeling sad
  • Loss of self-esteem

Although these issues are global, the efforts to battle antenatal and postnatal depression are different depending on their part of the world. For example, in less-developed countries, many deliveries are done at home and not much antenatal care is provided. Here in the United States and other developed countries, antenatal checkups and care are commonplace for those who have access.

Risk Factors for Antenatal and Postnatal Depression

The causes for depression among women who are pregnant and who have recently given birth vary widely. The risk factors that may contribute to their depression include:

  • Socio-demographic factors such as sex, age, income level, education level, marital status, religion, and occupation
  • Medical illnesses or diseases
  • Family dynamics
  • Former issues with depression

Men or partners may also experience depression during their significant other’s pregnancy for the following reasons:

  • Being unemployed
  • Lacking social support
  • Poor relationship with the mother of their child
  • First-time parent
  • Lack of education about postnatal depression in women

The most significant reason for depression, both postnatal and antenatal, is the lack of support from family members. Conversely, the presence of a supportive or healthy family environment — particularly from a husband or significant other — can counteract many of the risk factors for depression during and after pregnancy.

The Costs of Antenatal and Postnatal Depression

Depression among pregnant women and those who have recently given birth is becoming a widely-studied issue, mainly due to the detrimental impact it can have on their personal lives, family relationships, and the child’s development. For example, a child who experiences a parent’s depression may exhibit adverse effects and deficits in multiple areas, including:

  • Emotional development
  • Physical development
  • Cognition or perception
  • Behavioral issues

Antenatal depression can lead to premature birth and low birth weight. For mothers, depression can negatively affect them by:

  • Lessening the quality of relationships with significant others, friends, or family members
  • Changing how she cares for her child
  • Preventing her from resuming her career or work life, affecting her economic productivity and her family
  • Impacting her own quality of life

Depression during the antenatal and postnatal periods also affects the fathers or partners, who must step in if their significant other’s depression leads to a maternal absence.

What Can We Do?

Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution, the most accessible intervention would likely be improvements in the quality of health services offered to women during pregnancy and after the birth of her child. For example, a physician could screen expecting mothers and their significant others for stressors and then guide them in dealing with any stress related to the pregnancy.

Expectant mothers, in particular, should be assessed for depression during their primary care physician appointments, to ensure early detection and intervention measures. Possible referrals to therapeutic settings may also be necessary for physicians to help these at-risk individuals.

Additional steps to battle antenatal or postnatal depression may include:

  • Extending psychological support
  • Group therapy
  • Encouraging healthy eating and healthy behaviors such as exercise
  • Cognitive and behavioral training or assessments, as well as in-person support

Seeking Help for Depression

Depression is an omnipresent problem in our society and around the world, but there are particular groups of people who are more at risk than others for developing depression. Expecting mothers, new mothers, and their significant others are an at-risk group who require the resources and interventions to help them through the many changes that a baby brings to their lives.

If you or a loved one is struggling with depression or other mental health issues, Restorations Therapy is here to help. We provide mental health assessments with our physicians as well as individual and group therapy. Health and wholeness are available to anyone who is willing to commit to pursuing a better life. Our programs offer tested paths that can lead to a happier you. To learn more, call Restorations Therapy today at (720) 446-6585.

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