Depression during pregnancy: tips to tackle it better

Pregnancy is a time of joy and jubilation for women, but many suffer from depression during this phase. There are some valid reasons for negative emotions to spurt out. Physical and hormonal changes, mood swings, stress, common pregnancy woes all can lead to antenatal depression in an expectant mum

What causes depression during pregnancy?

A cluster of problems coupled with the physiological and psychological wellbeing of the expectant mum gives rise to antenatal depression,’ says Dr Anjali Talwalkar, consultant gynecologist, Kohinoor hospital, Mumbai. Some of the common causes of antenatal depression are:

Previous history of stillbirths or miscarriage: A previous pregnancy loss can make an expectant mum feel anxious and worried about her baby’s safety and a smooth progression of pregnancy. This can at times give rise to elevated anxiety levels and also impact her wellbeing.

Complications of previous pregnancy: A troubled labour or even the memories of a painful recovery from a previous C-section can make one feel gloomy anticipating about the days ahead. Such feelings often put the mother’s mind off the pregnancy and generate more negative thoughts.

Hormonal changes: An imbalance of the hormones can make an otherwise bright and cheerful woman feel depressed during pregnancy.

Fatigue: During pregnancy the body goes on an overdrive trying to meet the demands of the baby within and that of the mother. This is the reason for extreme fatigue during pregnancy. Though fatigue can be managed well with some lifestyle changes, but if ignored it could turn out to be a prime reason for stress and depression during pregnancy.

Pregnancy problems: ‘The hormonal imbalance at times can become too much to handle by a pregnant women. Severe morning sickness, where one feels nauseated and keeps throwing up throughout the day can take away the joys of pregnancy. If the symptoms persist for too long, it could possibly lead to pregnancy-induced depression,’ says Dr Talwalkar.

Lack of social support: Everyone needs support and affection and an expectant mum needs it even more. With all the stress, mood swings and changes happening within, it is imperative during pregnancy to look for support. ‘Women staying in nuclear families often tend to feel lonely and depressed at some point during the pregnancy,’ says Dr Talwalkar.

Stress: You can’t blame stress enough for all your life’s woes. But during pregnancy its influence can be more severe. Stress can stem out from anywhere – finance, health, relationship, career, etc. No matter its origin the outcome is always the same – antenatal depression.

What are the symptoms of depression during pregnancy?

Some of the common symptoms of depression during pregnancy are:

  • Concentration deficit and impaired decision making capability
  • Anxiety about the future
  • Feeling like a void within
  • Extreme irritability
  • Sleep troubles
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Uncontrolled hunger pangs
  • Weight loss or weight gain not related to pregnancy
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Feeling like a failure, feelings of guilt
  • Feeling gloomy
  • Thoughts of ending one’s life

How to tackle depression during pregnancy?

Here is what you can do to keep depression at bay during pregnancy:

Talk to your baby-bump: This is the perfect way to get connected with your unborn baby and keep yourself focused on your pregnancy. Being in-touch with your baby through little bump-talk can help you put your negative thoughts about your pregnancy or difficult labour to rest. Also if you practice this with your partner it can help you resolve the issues that you might have while you bond as a family. Relationship strains are also a very common cause of antenatal depression.

Practise belly breathing: You can either do it by stealing 15 minutes out of your busy day or practice whenever you feel like. You can belly breathe while you are at work, cooking, watching your favorite daily soap or when you feel tensed about anything. Oxygen intake in good amounts relaxes your systems and eases stress while lowering your anxiety levels.

Exercise: This is definitely a mood lifter. If you haven’t been exercising during your pregnancy you are anyway risking the health of your baby along with yours. Go for regular walks to keep the negative emotions in check now. Also know about the dos and don’t while exercising during pregnancy.

Take medication on time: ‘Most women who suffer from antenatal depression overlook their own health and miss medications. Instead taking good care of self and doing it consciously can help them deal with the demands of pregnancy better,’ says Dr Talwalkar.

Go for counselling: If at any point of time you find it hard to deal with the symptoms of depression, talk to your loved ones and arrange for an appointment with your doctor or counsellor to deal with your emotions better for the sake of your baby’s wellbeing.

Have a proper diet: A balanced diet not only helps you to give your fetus the right nutrition but can also help you ward off some of the symptoms of depression too.

Connect with more people: If you think you are the only one who is suffering from severe morning sickness, fatigue, acne, edema while the world around seems so happy and cheerful, know that you are not alone. Pregnancy doesn’t spare anyone. Make new friends with expectant mums (whom you meet at the doctor’s clinic or at your antenatal class) who share the same woes. Talking to them will make you feel better about yourself and probably help to deal with those niggles too.

How can depression affect the baby?

‘Long lasting depression can lead to pre-term labour, spontaneous abortion and growth retardation in the baby while severely impairing the mother’s psychological wellbeing,’ says Dr Talwalkar.