While society may paint pregnancy as an ideal and happy state, the reality for many women is very different. However, because of the expectation that she will be calm and happy, it is very difficult for many women to tell those around them how miserable they may feel at times.
Pregnancy brings with it increased oestrogen levels, which in most women make them generally calmer, more placid, and less vulnerable to depression. However, high oestrogen levels markedly interfere with the psychological health of a minority of women. Accordingly, some women taking oral contraceptives, taking oestrogen medication, or during pregnancy itself, are more anxious and more depressed than is normal.
Pregnancy also induces in every woman concerns about producing a healthy baby, and no-one can guarantee the health of your baby until it has been born, thus leaving you with the uncertainty and apprehension for many months. The pregnancy also causes changes in the practicalities of life, both now and for the period after the child is born, and changes in the relationship between the woman and her partner. Many women’s partners are unable to feel as emotionally involved with the baby in the womb as the mother herself, and this may cause relationship difficulties.
The symptoms of depression in pregnancy are the same as those of depressive illness at any other time in a woman’s life. Because of the high oestrogen levels of pregnancy, the Dexamethasone Suppression test for depression cannot be depended upon in this situation.
TREATMENT of depressive illness in pregnancy is complicated by the fact that we are all reluctant to expose babies in the womb to unnecessary medications.
In the first 13 weeks of pregnancy particularly (the first trimester), the baby’s organs are being formed, and this is the period in which everybody is most concerned to minimise the use of medication. However, if you have depressive illness of a severe enough degree that your doctor advises the use of antidepressants, you can be reassured that a number of older tricyclic antidepressants and perhaps also the newer antidepressants (although not yet fully confirmed), have been shown to not increase the rate of problems in babies. After the first 13 weeks, there is less concern about the use of antidepressants, as the baby is now fully formed, and is simply growing. Do keep in mind that tricyclic antidepressants have been available for fifty years, and there are no concerns about them causing damage to babies in the womb.
Increased risk of post-natal depression
If you have experienced depression during pregnancy itself, you are at increased risk of post-natal depression. It is necessary to be aware of this, so that post-natal depression can be diagnosed and treated at an early stage, if you do develop it. The issue of post-natal depression is covered in detail in this service.
Important Disclaimer: This site is medical information only, and is not to be taken as diagnosis, advice or treatment, which can only be decided by your own doctor.