Pregnancy and Depression

Your doctor can give you an antidepressant medicine to help relieve symptoms of depression.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk with their doctors about the advantages and risks of taking such medicines. Some women are concerned that they may harm the baby. A mother's depression can affect her baby's development, so getting treatment is important for both mother and baby.
The risks of taking medicine have to be weighed against the risks of depression. It is a decision that women need to discuss carefully with their doctors. Women who decide to take an antidepressant should talk to their doctors about which ones are safer to take while pregnant or breastfeeding (see Drugs and Pregnancy).

The Effects of Depression on Pregnancy

Depression not only hurts the mother, but also affects her family. Some researchers have found that depression during pregnancy can raise the risk of delivering an underweight baby or a premature infant. Some women with the condition have difficulty caring for themselves during pregnancy. These women may:
  • Have trouble eating and don't gain enough weight during the pregnancy
  • Have trouble sleeping
  • Miss prenatal care visits
  • Fail to follow medical instructions
  • Have a poor diet
  • Use harmful substances, like tobacco, alcohol, or illegal drugs.
Postpartum depression can affect a mother's ability to parent. She may lack energy, have trouble concentrating, be irritable, and not be able to meet her child's needs for love and affection. As a result, she may feel guilty and lose confidence in herself as a mother, which can worsen the condition.
Researchers believe that postpartum depression can affect the infant by causing:
  • Delays in language development
  • Problems with emotional bonding to others
  • Behavioral problems
  • Lower activity levels
  • Sleep problems
  • Distress.
It helps if the father or another caregiver can assist in meeting the needs of the baby and other children in the family while the mother is depressed.
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