By Lila Havens, Staff Writer, myOptumHealth
Pregnancy is supposed to be a happy, exciting time. But instead of joyful, some pregnant women feel sad, stressed and hopeless.
As many as one in five women have depression during pregnancy, but it is often overlooked. It can be hard to untangle which symptoms are caused by pregnancy and which are caused by low mood. Also, some women don't seek help because they are ashamed to admit how they feel.
Depression during pregnancy poses serious risks for both mother and baby. Luckily, effective treatments are available. If you think you have depression, it's vital to seek help right away. This is especially important if you have had depression in the past.
Recognizing depression during pregnancy
A woman with depression will have some of the following symptoms for two weeks or longer:
If you have any of these symptoms, tell your doctor right away. He or she may do tests to rule out other causes of symptoms. For example, anemia and low thyroid can cause some of these symptoms.
Your doctor may also ask questions to find out if you may be at risk for depression. You are at greater risk if you have ever had depression before (especially during or after a previous pregnancy) or if depression runs in your family. You may also be at greater risk for depression if you:
Treating depression during pregnancy
Your doctor can help develop a plan to treat your depression. If your depression is severe, you may be referred to a psychiatrist for treatment.
Treatment options may include:
Antidepressants: are they safe during pregnancy?
Women are naturally concerned about whether it is safe to take antidepressants during pregnancy. The short answer is, experts aren't sure. Researchers don't test medications on women who are known to be pregnant because of possible harm to the developing fetus.
From what experts know, it appears that some antidepressants may slightly raise the risk of problems for the baby. These include congenital heart defects and high blood pressure in the lung arteries (pulmonary hypertension).
On the other hand, failing to adequately treat depression during pregnancy can also have serious consequences. Women who are depressed may not take good care of themselves, and they are at increased risk of problems such as high blood pressure during pregnancy, premature birth and low birth weight.
Are antidepressants are right for you? That's something you and your doctor will need to decide. Your doctor will consider your history of depression, if any, and how severe your depression is.
If you are currently taking an antidepressant, do not stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor. Your depression is likely to return if you suddenly quit taking your medication. Your doctor can help you decide if you should taper off your medication or keep taking it.
NOTE: Anyone being treated with antidepressants, especially people being treated for depression, should be watched closely for worsening depression and for increased suicidal thinking or behavior. Close watching may be especially important early in treatment or when the dose is changed (either increased or decreased). Discuss any concerns with your doctor.
Other steps to a healthy pregnancy
In addition to following your treatment plan, there are other steps you can take to guard your and your baby's well-being:
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