Anxiety and Depression

Pregnancy is a condition in which women feel anxiety and depression on top of the normal physiological changes. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s (ADAA) 2009 online poll 52% of pregnant women reported increased symptoms of anxiety and depression. The American Psychiatric Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend:

  • women who plan to start a family and have mild depressive symptoms for more than 6 months should taper off their medication regimens
  • women who are psychiatrically stable and want to continue taking their medication should consult their OB-GYN
  • and women with severe symptoms should remain on medication.

This is a very stressful time for a lot of women because pregnancy is supposed to be a happy time and not one filled with tears, fear, confusion, sadness, or feeling of depression. Over a quarter of women in the world experience symptoms of depression in their life, and many of these are manageable if accurately treated.

Pregnancy and depression may happen at the same time, known as antepartum depression, and is characterized a mood disorder similar to clinical depression. This is a biological illness involving changes in brain chemistry affected by hormonal changes. Diagnosing depression:

  • 2 weeks or more of
    • Obstinate sadness
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Sleeping too much or too little
    • Losing interest in activities – anhedonia
    • Recurring thoughts of sadness, death, suicide
    • Anxiety
    • Guilt
    • Worthlessness.

The triggers of depression in pregnancy include:

  • Emotional stress
    • Relationship
    • Familial
    • Personal
    • Social
  • History of depression in family
  • Treatment of infertility
  • Prior pregnancy loss
  • Pregnancy obstacles
  • Past experience of abuse or trauma.

The dangers of depression in pregnancy include:

  • Poor nutrition → low birth weight
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Babies born to mothers with depression may be:
    • Less active
    • Slow attention
    • Irritable
    • Agitated.

Treatments for depression:

  • Support group
  • Private psychotherapy
  • Medication
  • Light therapy
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
  • Some medications:
    • Only those that will not be teratogenic or cross the placenta
  • Exercise – increases serotonin levels and decreases cortisol levels
  • Adequate rest – proper sleep
  • Proper diet
  • Proper nutrition
  • Acupuncture
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Herbal remedies
    • St John’s Wort
    • SAM-e
    • 5-HTP
    • Magnesium
    • Vitamin B6.

If you reside in Denver, visit the Denver Holistic Center for more information. With the additive stress of depression and anxiety pregnancy is a very emotional time period for women. Proper consultation with one’s physician is a key player in avoiding any potential complications. Anxiety is also a very common side effect to parenthood. Many new moms worry that they may make a mistake to harm themselves or their unborn baby. Lastly, women with any preexisting disease affecting their heart or acid reflux may exacerbate symptoms of anxiety. One such disease is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Because during pregnancy the hormone changes allow the esophageal muscles in the esophagus relax more. All in all, women should consult their physician at the first signs of feelings of anxiety or depression.