Depression During Pregnancy and Postpartum

depression during pregnancy, woman's health

Photo courtesy of RenaudPhoto via Flickr

What is depression during pregnancy and postpartum?

Being pregnant for 9 months, and subsequently caring for a newborn, definitely takes its toll on a woman’s body and her mental health. Lasting stress, physical pain, and sleep deprivation can all contribute to a major depressive disorder.

Although I’m not personally aware of experiencing any depressive states (sometimes you are just too tired and sleepy that you can’t feel a thing), I admit there were times both during my pregnancy and after delivery when I was feeling rather “blue” —nothing major I wasn’t able to cope with on my own or by talking about it with my close friends, but it wasn’t a state of mind I would want to experience again. That just wasn’t ME.

As it happens, a new study recently published in the journal JAMA, focuses on this subject and suggests preventive screenings. According to this study of U.S. women evaluated in 2005, 9.1% of pregnant women and 10.2% of postpartum women meet the criteria for a major depressive episode. That’s a significant number. Maternal depression can also affect the baby since a mother suffering from depression tends to be less interactive, which can lead to higher rates of emotional and behavioral problems in babies, worse social competence with their peers, and poorer adjustment to the school environment.

As the study authors conclude, “Direct and indirect evidence suggested that screening pregnant and postpartum women for depression may reduce depressive symptoms in women with depression and reduce the prevalence of depression in a given population. Evidence for pregnant women was sparser but was consistent with the evidence for postpartum women regarding the benefits of screening, the benefits of treatment, and screening instrument accuracy.”

This is where a woman’s partner can play a significant role, as he/she might be able to recognize signs of the depression early, help her deal with it, and/or support her in getting help professionally.

This is a chapter from book “The Art of Pregnancy After 40“.

Another recent research published in the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia found a link between an epidural during childbirth and postpartum depression. And although most of us would expect that the effect of epidural would be negative, the study actually concluded that epidural labor analgesia was associated with a decreased risk of postpartum depression.

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Author:Katka Konecna-Rivera

Katka Konecna-Rivera, co-founder and host of Living Green with Baby, is an architect focused on sustainable design as well as a filmmaker, writer and personal wellness coach.

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