While depression can affect anyone at any time, there are certain factors surrounding pregnancy that make some individuals particularly susceptible to depression, even if they aren’t otherwise predisposed to it. For individuals who already have depression, pregnancy can make it worse or interact with their existing symptoms in surprising ways.
If you or a loved one have ever suffered from depression during or surrounding pregnancy, you may know that there are two main types of depression that can occur: perinatal depression and postpartum depression. In this article, you will learn the difference between the two, why they happen, and available treatment options.
The Link Between Depression and Pregnancy
According to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), almost a quarter (14%-23%) of women struggle with symptoms of depression during their pregnancy. For some of these women, depression is a long-term aspect of their reality, but others experience acute symptoms in conjunction with their pregnancy.
This should come as no surprise. Just like getting married, making a career change, or moving to another country, pregnancy is a life-changing event that can reveal feelings of doubt, uncertainty, and discomfort. It can be incredibly stressful, which can lead mothers to feel emotions they normally wouldn’t.
Additionally, pregnancy also affects mothers on a biological level. Pregnancy-related hormone changes can have serious effects on your brain chemistry. This, in combination with the stress and adjustment of pregnancy, can cause depression, anxiety, and other issues with mood and emotion.
Depression During Pregnancy Is Often Dismissed
Unfortunately, many cases of depression that take place during or after pregnancy get dismissed, as they are seen as a temporary hormonal imbalance rather than a serious, lasting condition. It is important to talk with your doctor about feelings of depression and seek out alternate help from therapists and psychiatrists if your primary care provider doesn’t seem receptive to your issues.
With that in mind, here are the two most common types of depression that are associated with pregnancy and what can be done to help them.
Perinatal depression is a type of depression that can happen during or after pregnancy. It includes the subcategories of both postpartum (after the baby is born) and prenatal (during pregnancy) depression.
Symptoms of perinatal depression may include:
- Feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty.
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed.
- Extreme fatigue.
- Difficulty carrying out daily tasks like running errands or even basic hygiene.
- Extreme feelings of sadness and anxiety.
- Withdrawing from friends and family.
- Changes in eating habits, leading to weight gain or loss.
- Suicidal thoughts or tendencies.
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions.
- Aches or pains, cramps, or digestive problems that have no clear physical cause and don’t respond to typical treatment.
In general, perinatal depression doesn’t differ much from regular depression in terms of symptoms. You also do not need to have all of the above symptoms to have it — overwhelming feelings of sadness, anxiety, fatigue, or hopelessness are the main things to watch out for.
Why Does Perinatal Depression Happen?
There is no one answer to this question, as perinatal depression can be caused by multiple factors. Hormonal changes, lack of support, stress, anxiety about the future, and previous mental health issues are all possible causes.
Additionally, some research suggests that there may be a genetic component to perinatal depression. If your mother or another close relative struggled with perinatal depression, you may be more likely to experience it yourself. If you have family members that have struggled with depression, bipolar disorder, or other mental illnesses, you also may be more susceptible to developing it.
Treatments for Perinatal Depression
There are many different ways to treat perinatal depression, and what works for one person may not work for another. Some common treatments include:
Counseling or Therapy
This can be done individually, with your partner, or in a group setting. It can help you learn how to cope with stress, anxiety, and other emotions.
While it may not seem ideal to start new medications during pregnancies, many types of antidepressants are regularly given to pregnant women and new mothers with little risk of affecting the baby. SSRIs, for example, are not associated with any birth defect or cause for concern for the child.
While there is always the risk of side effects, many women find that the benefits of taking medication outweigh the risks.
As a subtype of perinatal depression, postpartum depression has a lot of similarities, with one chief distinguishing factor: it takes place after the baby is born, not during pregnancy.
Postpartum depression can either happen on its own or after a bout of prenatal depression. Either way, its symptoms are very similar to regular and perinatal depression. You may also experience:
- Difficulty bonding with your baby.
- Fear that you’re not a good mother.
- Feelings of regret, guilt, or uncertainty about becoming a mother.
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate, or make decisions.
And other symptoms that revolve around feeling overwhelmed, lost, confused, or unsatisfied with your birth experience and new role as a mother.
While many mothers feel the “baby blues” for a few weeks after giving birth, postpartum depression is often more severe and long-lasting. Occasionally, it can get so severe that it develops into postpartum psychosis.
Why Does Postpartum Depression Happen?
Like perinatal depression, the causes of postpartum depression vary. Psychological, chemical, and social changes that occur when having a baby all play a role. For example, progesterone and estrogen, which increase tenfold during pregnancy, drop sharply after giving birth, which can cause intense emotional instability in the few weeks after childbirth. Stress, lack of sleep, and mentally adjusting to having a new child can also trigger postpartum depression.
Treatments for Postpartum Depression
Traditional therapy and medication can be very effective for postpartum depression and are best used in conjunction with each other. Antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anti-anxiety medications can all be effective against postpartum depression, and you should always visit your doctor to determine the best course of action.
Ketamine for PPD
In recent years, ketamine has been an effective treatment for postpartum depression. Ketamine is a medication that is typically used as an anesthetic, but it also has wide-ranging positive psychological effects.
It also can act much faster than typical antidepressants. A single ketamine treatment can provide relief from postpartum depression within just a few hours. This can be compared to the standard four-to-six-week waiting period necessary to see the effects of antidepressant medication.
Both perinatal and postpartum depression are serious conditions that can greatly affect the quality of life of mothers.
If you think you might be suffering from any type of perinatal depression, whether it’s during or after pregnancy, contact your doctor or mental health professional for help.
And if you are interested in receiving ketamine treatments for postpartum depression, don’t hesitate to reach out to Edelica Health. With a wide range of treatments and an expert team of practitioners, we can help you get the treatment you deserve so you can begin enjoying motherhood.