"For decades, pregnancy was thought to be a period of emotional well-being," says Dallas-based psychiatrist Geetha Shivakumar, M.D., who conducts clinical research in perinatal mood disorders. "However, recent studies have suggested that pregnancy poses a risk for recurrence of depression in women with prior histories of major depression."
Though 10 percent or more of women show symptoms of major depression during pregnancy, women often believe they result from normal hormonal changes and hence do not consult their doctors. But untreated, depression can be dangerous to both mother and baby, as it can lead to poor nutrition, drinking and smoking (which, in turn, are linked to premature birth, low birth weight and developmental problems). If you have any of the following symptoms for two weeks or more, discuss them with your doctor immediately:
• Intense sadness or anxiety
• Difficulty concentrating
• Sleeping too little or too much
• Change in eating habits
• Loss of interest in favorite activities
• Recurring thoughts of death, suicide or hopelessness
• Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
Treatment options include support groups, cognitive-behavioral therapy, light therapy or pregnancy-safe antidepressant medications.
7 Ways To Survive The Ups And Downs
Simple rules to get you through pregnancy and new motherhood with your sanity intact:
1. Remember that there's no perfect way to be pregnant. If you're temperamental and uncomfortable, it doesn't mean you won't be a wonderful mother.
2. Be flexible and patient and liberate yourself from unreasonable expectations.
3. When you cry over Jell-O ads, realize it's just business as usual during pregnancy.
4. Talk openly to your friends, partner and other family members about your moods and feelings. It will help them to be more understanding.
5. Excise the words "I'm supposed to feel [fill in the blank] when pregnant" from your vocabulary.
6. Be aware that the first six weeks after delivery are difficult for every new mom and that taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your baby.
7. Commit to memory and repeat this mantra often: "I do not have to be Supermom." and after you deliver will help you cope.