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Pregnancy and Mental Health

Whether you are prepared for it or not, pregnancy comes with a lot of physiological changes, many of which can lead to psychological changes, like mood swings, bouts of crying, and even the undoubtedly existent pregnancy brain. Your doctor will probably talk to you about the signs of postpartum depression (PPD), which may occur in about one in seven women after the baby’s birth. For many women, PPD may even begin during pregnancy. Furthermore, about one-fifth of women experience depression or anxiety during pregnancy, and many women are already facing mental health issues when they become pregnant. Here’s a look at how your mental health and its treatment can impact pregnancy.

Mental Health Statistics

Mental health issues come in many different shapes. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about a quarter of the world’s population has been or will be impacted by a psychological or neurological disease, with about 450 million people currently experiencing one. Furthermore, WHO explains, when it comes to developing countries, 15% of pregnant women and almost 20% of new moms “experience a mental disorder, primarily depression.” The Psychiatric Times reports forms of anxiety disorders during pregnancy occur at about as much or more than non-pregnant populations:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: 8.5% to 10.5%
  • Panic Disorder: 1.4%-5.2%
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: 1.2%-5.2%
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: 3%

When it comes to depression, Mental Health America reports that 1 in 8 women are likely to develop depression in their life, and women between 25 and 44 are even more likely -- an age group very firmly consistent with childbearing ages.

Mental Disorders and Pregnancy

Anxiety and depression, in particular, can make things more difficult during pregnancy. New recommendations for advising women who already have or currently are facing a psychological disorder before, during, and after pregnancy are coming down the tube. Although this has created a little bit of a question in regard to patient privacy, understanding how your mental health can impact pregnancy and motherhood is extremely important. Women with mental disorders who have taken steps to manage those disorders may find pregnancy throws a carefully tended schedule and methods totally wrong. Experts agree it is not uncommon for mental disorders to reappear with a vengeance during pregnancy, and women who have already faced these issues are at a higher risk for PPD.

Treating Mental Health During Pregnancy

Perhaps even more concerning is the seeking of treatment for these issues. Without resources like counselors and in some cases pharmaceutical intervention, depression and anxiety can become severe enough to lead to self-harm and other serious problems. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to look at mental issues with shame -- whether your own or from someone else.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some medications that were very helpful before pregnancy may have a negative impact on the fetus. Even if it doesn’t, there is another unfortunate tendency to shame pregnant mother’s using medication to control mental disorders, claiming it puts the baby at risk even for those pharmaceuticals with the smallest risk factors.

Managing Mental Health During Pregnancy

Talking to your obstetrician and psychologist before you get pregnant is a great way to figure out the best methods for managing any mental health concerns before you conceive. Admittedly, this isn’t always an option, which means having that talk as soon as possible may be even more important.

Finding natural ways to help control symptoms (regular exercise, support groups, etc.) is excellent, but for some patients, it just isn’t sufficient -- and that’s okay. Talk to your doctor about which medications may work for your conditions with the least potential for fetal complications.

Ultimately, you have to decide which is more dangerous for both you and your baby -- trying to control the disease without medications or knowing you have the control you need to manage your life and your child’s life throughout pregnancy and into the postpartum months.

(Image via Unsplash)

Last Updated: April 26, 2018