1 in 6 moms experience some form of depression during pregnancy. Before you even get pregnant, or if you’re pregnant now, here’s what you need to know about maternal depression and its effects on you and your baby.
Depression during pregnancy can affect not only your health, but baby’s too, including baby’s birth outcomes. There is no one single cause for depression in pregnancy, also called maternal depression.
Experts say the following factors increase your risks of depression during pregnancy:
Maternal depression is a complex health challenge; there are many triggers, which is why it’s important to discuss any of the mentioned risk factors with your pregnancy care provider, and to get mental health care if you have any risk factors for depression in pregnancy.
Secondly, replace risky behaviors, like using tobacco, alcohol or drugs in pregnancy with healthy habits, like seeking support from others, and being part of a community of women also experiencing pregnancy. Having risk factors doesn’t always mean you’ll experience maternal depression. If you’re concerned about any of the risk factors, ask your nurse for advice and specific actions you can take to reduce your risks.
Untreated, maternal depression can lead to postpartum depression and potential risks to your baby. Those risks include:
In the longer term, your baby may experience psychological and developmental delays, be born with a low birth weight or born before full term, and be small for their birth date.
Depression in pregnancy can also lead to postpartum depression (PPD). Children whose moms experienced PPD can struggle with school and have trouble making friends and getting along with others. Researchers have measured lower language skills in toddlers when their mothers had PPD during their first year of life.
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