Dear Dr. Beal:
I am a 35-year-old mother to be and I have been diagnosed with depression. I was on medication before I became pregnant, but I am afraid to take anything now. I am embarrassed about how I am feeling and don’t want to tell anyone. They may think I’m a bad mother. What are my options? I want to have a healthy baby. But I feel so down.
Signed, Sad Mother to Be
Dear Mother to Be:
Being a mother is supposed to be one of the happiest times in one’s life. The anticipation of bringing a new life into the world and the amazing growth that is taking place inside one’s body is supposed to bring about joy. However, you may not be experiencing that at this particular time. Please don’t feel ashamed if that’s how you are feeling right now. We often hear about postpartum depression but hardly ever hear someone express that they are sad during their pregnancy. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it states that “depression during pregnancy is quite common and 30% of pregnant women experience significant depressive symptoms.” So you are not alone.
You also mentioned that you suffered from depression prior to your pregnancy and were being treated. Therefore, just because you are in a different state does not necessarily mean that your chemical imbalance has changed because of your pregnancy. The primary goals are to deliver a healthy baby and to help you maintain an emotionally healthy state of mind during your pregnancy. Please make sure that you talk to your health care provider. Let him/her know your history and how you are feeling immediately.
Screening for depression during pregnancy: This is strongly recommended, because doctors are led to ask you questions about moods and anxiety, that will not only cause discussion among health care providers about depression during pregnancy but you will be better informed about the risks. . If conversations about depression during pregnancy are being held, then there will be more opportunities to find healthy solutions.
Treatment for depression during pregnancy is important.
There are many reasons why treatment for depression is so important. Experiencing major depression during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of premature birth, low birth weight, decreased fetal growth or other problems for the baby. Unstable depression during pregnancy also increases the risk of postpartum depression and difficulty bonding with your baby.
Are antidepressants an option during pregnancy?
Yes. A decision to use antidepressants during pregnancy, in addition to counseling, is based on the balance between risks and benefits. The biggest concern is typically the risk of birth defects from exposure to antidepressants. Overall, the risk of birth defects and other problems for babies of mothers who take antidepressants during pregnancy is very low. However, some antidepressants are associated with a higher risk of complications for your baby.
With the above knowledge what should you do?
It is extremely important that you talk to your health care provider about your symptoms and medication options that can help you make an informed decision.
If you use antidepressants during pregnancy, your health care provider will try to minimize your baby’s exposure to the medication. This can be done by prescribing a single medication (monotherapy) at the lowest effective dose, particularly during the first trimester.
Keep in mind that counseling (psychotherapy) is also an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression. Don’t let anyone make you feel that you are not a good parent to be. The fact that you reached out to ask a question makes you an incredible parent.
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“Good Mental Health equals Mental Wealth”