The majority of women who do get pregnant are delighted and looking forward to having a baby. It is a time of joy and there is a gradual change in lifestyle. Women who are pregnant often get doted upon and are treated well. Great effort is made in society to protect the physical well-being of the pregnant mother.
However, it is now recognized that pregnancy is also a time of emotional stress, and a fair number of women do develop depression. Even though it is well-known that postpartum women do develop depression and the blues, it was not appreciated until recently that depression during the pregnancy can also be quite moderate to severe in intensity. Many pregnant women with depression have been overlooked and underdiganosed. Unfortunately, depression during pregnancy has often been disregarded and never adequately treated.
The exact number of females who develop depression during pregnancy is not known but is believed to be quite common. One large study indicates that anywhere from 7 to 12 percent of pregnant women may develop depression. Further, women who already have been diagnosed with major depression are at a high risk for relapse during pregnancy. One has to remember that many women stop their antidepressants during pregnancy to avoid damage to the fetus, thus making them even more vulnerable to relapse.
The question being asked today is if there is a link between perinatal depression and adverse neonatal outcomes. Even though the topic is controversial, one review did conclude that presence of depression during pregnancy might be an independent risk factor for later adverse effects on both the mother and the fetus.
There is now ample evidence that when depression is untreated during pregnancy, it may lead to poor prenatal care: medical and obstetrical difficulties, self-medication, illicit substance abuse, weakened bonding, suicide and a higher risk of relapse of depression in the postpartum period.
What is of concern today is that despite the high number of females who develop depression during pregnancy, very few actually are diagnosed and adequately treated.