Depression and pregnancy

November 2, 2011 2:53:06 PM PDT
Women may know of postpartum depression, the mood changes that happen after childbirth. But there is another depression which happens during pregnancy that can have consequences for mother and baby.

The depression of pregnancy happens to more than ten percent of expectant mothers, and it can have devastating effects on the newborn, such as low birth weight, irritability and altered behavior during development. It's important for a woman to talk about unusual blue moods with her doctor.

Two month old Mia Rose Bobrow is as happy as she is beautiful. Happy just like her mother until she became pregnant.

"Right as soon as I got pregnant, I got very unhappy with things in my life, with how things were going. It was like a drastic change for somebody like me," Rochelle Aikens said.

She became withdrawn, stopped exercising and eating well. Michelle had the depression of pregnancy.

"I know that I wanted to be healthy and that it wouldn't be good for me and my baby girl if I didn't talk to somebody," she said.

Women may be more self aware in pregnancy.

"People sometimes ignore signs of depression, and since a woman is concentrating more on herself it may be harder to ignore," Dr. Jill Maura Rabin of North Shore-LIJ Medical Center said.

The red flags not to ignore? Previous depression or a family history of it, single motherhood and cigarette smoking, which can reduce oxygen to the mother's and baby's brains.

What can trigger depression in pregnancy? Stress, such as loss of family support or of medical insurance. A new medical diagnosis such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Physical abuse by a significant other, especially if there's a history of abuse.

Depressed moms may stop prenatal doctor visits or stop taking vitamins. The fetus can be put at risk, and medications for depression may be less risky than allowing depression to continue.

"Nothing is risk free. You want to make sure to take the best care of you and your baby and your other children and not be in a position to endanger your family," Dr. Rabin said.

Moms-to-be should discuss unusual blue moods with their ob/gyn, though Dr. Rabin says she works very closely with a psychiatrist or a psychologist to treat her patients. Talk therapy can sometimes be enough, and medications may not be necessary. Michelle's depression cleared immediately after delivery.