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Baby Blues? 8 Things You Should Know about Pregnancy and Depression

Depression with pregnancy is nothing to be ashamed about, but it is important for mothers to seek support. If you need support reach out to your OB/GYN provider or CHI Health Behavioral Care.

How Common are Baby Blues?

Although pregnancy is supposed to be a happy time for expectant mothers, many pregnant women suffer from depression during pregnancy. It is thought that about 7-10% of all pregnant women will experience depression during pregnancy.

After pregnancy, it is even more common with about 20% of women suffering from postpartum depression and up to 70% of new moms suffering from baby blues.

What's the Difference Between Baby Blues and Depression?

Along with the excitement and joy a new baby brings to a family also comes sleepless nights, decreased energy, changes in appetite and feelings of defeat or discouragement. Some of these changes could in fact be “normal” for a postpartum mother. However, they could also be signs of postpartum depression or blues.

Postpartum blues can be diagnosed if you have difficulty sleeping, fatigue, impaired concentration or lack of interest. You may feel like you cry all the time and that you are very emotional. These symptoms usually develop within two to three days after delivery and go away within two weeks.

Depression is diagnosed if you have five or more symptoms of the following for at least two weeks:

  • Depressed Mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure
  • Weight Changes
  • Insomnia
  • Being Slowed Down
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of Worthlessness
  • Inability to Concentrate
  • Suicidal Thoughts

What Causes Baby Blues?

It is unknown what exactly causes antenatal and postpartum depression, and several factors may play a role. Depression during and after pregnancy may have a genetic link. If a pregnant woman has a close family member who had depression surrounding pregnancy, this may put them at increased risk of developing it themselves.

Changes in levels of several hormones are also associated with depression surrounding pregnancy. Hormone levels fluctuate in all pregnant women; however, some women are more sensitive to these changes.

In addition, a drop in female hormones occurs with delivery of a baby and the placenta, and this contributes to the development of postpartum depression.

What's the Difference Between Antepartum and Postpartum Depression:

  • Antepartum depression means depression during the pregnancy. This could be preexisting depression OR depression that develops while someone is pregnant.
  • Postpartum depression develops after the baby is born. They manifest in similar ways, but treatment is generally about the same.

What Can Women Do For Blues?

Some healthy ways to deal with the blues include talking with someone that you trust about how you are feeling. Also, trying to eat a well-balanced diet and getting outside for some walks.

You should also never be afraid to ask for help, whether from your husband, partner, family members or friends. Don’t feel like you have to do everything alone.

Also, a woman should be comfortable going to her doctor for any advice regarding postpartum blues. It is super common, so you should not feel ashamed about the way you are feeling.

What Should Women Do For Depression?

I would really like people to know just how common blues and depression are surrounding pregnancy. You should never feel embarrassed in any way to ask for help. So the first step would be to bring it up to your doctor.

You and the doctor can discuss treatment options which can include meeting one-on-one with a therapist and/or starting medications. I find that a lot of women are scared to start medications because of the “stigma” that is attached to depression.

But really the medications just help the chemicals in the brain be more balanced to help a woman better deal with all the stress and change going on in her life.

I would say the second reason women don’t want to be on antidepressants during the pregnancy is due to the worry that they will be harmful to their baby.

In fact, the studies do not support this. There is no link to birth defects and antidepressants use during pregnancy. In fact, it can be harmful for the baby if you DON'T treat your depression.

Can Depression During Pregnancy Affect the Baby?

Antenatal depression is associated with an increased risk of poor obstetrical outcomes, including miscarriage, bleeding, operative deliveries and preterm birth. Some studies have shown an association between depression and behaviors in babies.

These include a potential association between depression and impaired sleep patterns in newborns, difficult temperament in babies and excessive crying, to name a few.

Is There a Connection Between Antepartum Depression and Postpartum Depression?

Having antepartum depression puts you at increased risk for postpartum depression. Therefore, it is extremely important for a woman with preexisting depression or some depression during pregnancy to be aware of the signs of depression postpartum.

Again, if you need support reach out to your OB/GYN provider or CHI Health Behavioral Care.

Lauren Anderson, MD
Lauren Anderson, MD

Lauren Anderson, MD is an OB-GYN provider with CHI Health.

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