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The dangers of prenatal depression
Posted in Depression rehab, Mental Health, Parenting - 0 Comments

depression during pregnancy

“Life is tough enough without having someone kick you from the inside.” – Comedian Rita Rudner

Pregnancy is the beautiful miracle of creation, but this time for joy and celebration often has a dark undercurrent. Women experience depression during pregnancy about as often or more than they do postpartum: 14–23 percent compared to 5–25 percent, respectively.

Often embedded with the stigma of natural pregnancy woes, prenatal or perinatal depression can shadow and even morph the pregnancy and bonding experience for mother and baby, sometimes with fatal effects.

Dangers of depression during pregnancy

There are a number of predictors of prenatal depression including:

  • A history of depression or premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  • Sexual assault resulting in pregnancy
  • Marital conflict or domestic violence
  • Uncertainty about the pregnancy
  • Younger age at time of pregnancy
  • Limited social support
  • Living alone or having limited familial support

Both major and minor depressive episodes can have devastating effects on mothers, infants and the family unit as a whole. According to Christie Palladino, M.D., and her research colleagues, maternal suicide surpasses hemorrhage and hypertensive disorders as a cause of death for pregnant mothers.

In an ongoing debate, some studies even suggest depression during pregnancy may heighten the risk for preterm delivery and a baby’s low birth weight. Mayo Clinic explains depression may interfere with a mother’s ability to bond with the growing baby, too.

Stigma: Par for the course?

Says a mother of two: “I had no idea you could be depressed when you’re pregnant. … I figured you just have all these happy endorphins, and I was really shocked when I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.” As her younger son grew inside her, she discovered so too was an immobilizing depression.

According to research compiled by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “Perinatal depression often goes unrecognized because changes in sleep, appetite and libido may be attributed to normal pregnancy and postpartum changes. In addition to clinicians not recognizing such symptoms, women may be reluctant to report changes in their mood. In one small study, less than 20 percent of women in whom postpartum depression was diagnosed had reported their symptoms to a health care provider.”

Treating depression during pregnancy

Currently, it’s recommended that medical professionals screen patients during pregnancy for depression as well as anxiety symptoms, and couple it with clinical follow-up and treatment when discovered.

Short-term studies indicate several antidepressant medications are safe for treating depression while pregnant. However, long-term effects haven’t been fleshed out to validate any dangers.

The use of antidepressants during pregnancy doubled in five years, according to a 2007 American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology study.

Rachel Manber, Ph.D., is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences with Stanford University School of Medicine. In her study findings on acupuncture reducing depression during pregnancy she detailed 94 percent of the depressed women in her study said they were reluctant to take antidepressants.

Acupuncture was proven to be an effective treatment for pregnancy depression – up to a 50 percent reduction in Manber’s study. Expectant mothers facing depression may also assuredly benefit from evidence-based psychological and psychosocial interventions.

“I don’t think that one-size-fits-all treatments are appropriate for everyone, but acupuncture should be considered as an option,” said one of the study authors.

Sovereign Health of Chandler also believes lasting recovery has to be customized to the individual. We offer both cognitive and alternative therapies, in addition to well-researched treatment modalities, to birth holistic wellness. Call our 24/7 helpline for enrollment details.

About the author

Sovereign Health Group staff writer Kristin Currin-Sheehan is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing and editing; writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; radio production and on-camera reporting. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at

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