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August 29, 2019 | OB/GYN
Perinatal depression and anxiety (meaning during pregnancy and right after childbirth) are some of the most common problems that women experience during pregnancy. Friends, family members and even some healthcare providers may attribute these conditions to the fluctuating hormones that accompany pregnancy. However, without proper treatment, depression and anxiety can negatively affect both pregnant women and their unborn children.
Depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after childbirth are classified as perinatal mood disorders, or PMDs.
Different from the “baby blues,” which affect many new mothers in the days and weeks following birth, PMDs can strike at any time during pregnancy or immediately after the birth of a child.
Symptoms may include:
The list of PMD symptoms is extensive, and in many cases, the symptoms are similar to typical pregnancy symptoms. Nevertheless, the risks of perinatal anxiety and depression are significant enough to make talking to your doctor a good idea if you have doubts.
The emotional withdrawal and low spirits that accompany PMDs increase the risk that pregnant women will not take proper care of themselves and/or their unborn child. PMDs can lead to poor nutrition, substance abuse and similar behaviors that may contribute to low birth weight, premature birth and developmental issues, according to the American Pregnancy Association (APA). Research has also linked PMDs to increased agitation, decreased activity levels and attention deficits.
After giving birth, these conditions can cause women to disengage, and as a result, they may fail to bond with their newborn or provide proper care. This can affect every aspect of the child’s development, as well as impact other children in the home.
Healthcare professionals strongly advise pregnant women to talk to their OB/GYN about their concerns. Your doctor can conduct a screening to help determine the severity of your PMD. You may learn that what you’re feeling is normal under the circumstances. But if the screening indicates an issue, your doctor can address it immediately, before it places you or your baby at risk.
Doctors often prescribe antidepressants to treat PMDs, as several types of medication are safe for pregnant women and nursing mothers, according to HealthyChildren.org. In addition to medication, your OB/GYN may recommend getting counseling, joining a support group or employing other strategies to help you manage your PMD.
Never take chances with your health or the well-being of your unborn child. See your doctor as soon as possible if you suspect you may be suffering from depression or anxiety during pregnancy.
“Depression and Anxiety During Pregnancy and After Birth.” HealthyChildren.org.
“Depression in Pregnancy.” American Pregnancy Association (APA).
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.