While most people are aware that depression occurs after pregnancy, not many health professionals are aware that depression is also common during pregnancy. In the last decade, several studies have shown women are in fact more likely to suffer from depression during pregnancy than the post partum period. Estimates indicate that about 20 percent of women develop some type of depressive symptom during pregnancy. In North America, there are about 4 million live births annually, and this equates to about 500,000 pregnancies that are associated with depression each year. The risk of depression is a lot higher in women who have a history of depression prior to pregnancy. At least 70 percent of women who discontinue their anti depressant medications relapse during pregnancy.
A recent study showed that depression is quite common at 32 weeks of pregnancy than eight weeks after birth. However, in the majority, depression finally disappears eight months after giving birth.
Depression during pregnancy is often difficult to diagnose because the symptoms often mimic symptoms associated with pregnancy. Symptoms like decreased energy, irritability, changing mood and poor concentration are common during pregnancy. However, women who are depressed are more likely to have poor prenatal care and are more likely to smoke, use alcohol or other drugs. The other problem is that many pregnant women with mental illness like depression are less likely to access care. In addition, even when they have access, they are unable to afford the medical treatment.
Universal symptoms of depression, such as reduced sleep and decreased appetite, may also have an unfavorable impact on pregnancy. Suicidal ideation and self-harm during pregnancy is also unpredictably high.
Now there is evidence indicating that a mother’s mood during pregnancy may affect her unborn child. Depression during pregnancy is linked to inferior obstetrical results such as premature birth, pre-eclampsia, low birth weight and a higher rate of admission to baby care units. More important is the fact that depression during pregnancy also continues into the postnatal period.