However, new mothers may be afraid to admit that they are depressed and seek treatment, says Ronald Rosenberg, M.D., a psychiatrist and OB-GYN on the faculty of Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit and co-author of Conquering Postpartum Depression (Da Capo, 2004). “There’s guilt, there’s shame, there’s a feeling that the baby will be taken away from them,” Rosenberg says.
Despite the self-imposed stigma, PPD can strike any woman, regardless of her age, economic status or cultural background. However, your risk might be elevated if you have a personal or family history of depression, anxiety or depression during pregnancy, a more difficult than usual labor, little or no social support, marital problems or a baby with a birth defect or disability.
Depression can hit before delivery
Depression after pregnancy is getting more attention lately as several celebrities, including Brooke Shields and Marie Osmond, are coming forward and telling their stories. But some women find they are getting depressed before they give birth.
It’s common to feel mildly blue sometimes during pregnancy. But when the blues turn into depression, it’s time to seek help (see “What to Do If You Feel Down,” below). Prenatal depression is more likely to strike when you have a history of depression, if your pregnancy is unplanned, mistimed or marked by complications or if you are experiencing marital problems, says Victoria Hendrick, M.D., associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, Neuropsychiatric Institute and Olive View-UCLA Medical Center. Some 10 percent of pregnant women suffer from it.
Depression during pregnancy can be alleviated with psychotherapy, group therapy, couples counseling, medication or a combination of these treatments. Pregnant women may naturally worry about taking anti-depressants. Although there are medications that appear to be safe for the fetus, research shows that some babies born to mothers who take full doses of anti-depressants during the third trimester are born with respiratory distress, jitteriness and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). These symptoms disappear within two to five days. However, a new study shows that baby mice given the anti-depressant Prozac early in life display more depression-like behaviors in adulthood, although it’s unknown whether human fetuses exposed to anti-depressants in the third trimester might suffer similar effects later on. For this reason, nonmedicinal approaches usually are tried first. But if anti-depressants are prescribed, complications can be avoided if your doctor starts tapering your dosage during the third trimester.