More and more women are finding the joys of pregnancy (and the postpartum period) overshadowed by depression and anxiety. This, according to a study out of Northwestern University’s Medical Facility, is an ever-increasing prenatal concern.
Four years ago, research approximated the prevalence of depression in 10-13% of pregnancies. New research has emerged, citing as many as one third (YES – 33%!) of pregnant women may experience symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Feelings of shame or concern that feeling blue with a baby on board often cause more distress. Mom’s may feel that this indicates who they are as a parent, but that’s simply not the case. What is important is that pregnant mamas are taking stock of their mental health, and using a variety of resources to improve their well-being!
What is Prenatal Depression?
Prenatal depression, also known as antenatal depression, and sometimes related to postpartum depression, is an onset of depressive symptoms during pregnancy. These symptoms can vary from very mild to severe and can include symptoms of anxiety or compulsions (especially related to health and hygiene).
Depression of any kind is a mood disorder, with many potential treatment plans. Your treatment options should be discussed with your primary care provider since there are many natural changes you can make to help! It is important to speak to someone as soon as you recognize a change in how you feel.
Effects of Prenatal Depression
Prenatal depression can impact the health of both mom and baby. Research shows, babies born to moms with untreated depression are less active, and more agitated. It’s also possible that feelings of depression and anxiety can affect your ability to bond with baby during pregnancy.
No mom should have to suffer through prenatal depression, especially not silently!
These symptoms can be exacerbated by the worry, stress, and shame moms feel regarding the onset of their depression. With developments in mental health research and awareness, the stigma that once clouded mental illness is beginning to clear. Not only has science provided a better understanding of depression, but it has also explored many potential treatment plans.
Medication, Nutrition, and Exercise
In some cases, medication may be prescribed to assist with symptom management. When discussing your treatment plan with your physician, a number of options are available to you. The course of action proposed will take into account the severity of your symptoms and your personal health.
Some mom’s feel hesitant to seek medical assistance. If you require medication, just remember that a happy, healthy mom is what is best for baby. Be sure to have an informed conversation about the safety of any proposed medications or supplements.
In discussing your options for treatment, research shows that changes in nutrition and exercise frequently help to reduce depressive symptoms. Many mom’s don’t know that nutritional imbalances can cause or worsen symptoms of depression (Indian J. Phsych.). There are three major nutritional imbalances that affect mood disorders:
1) Too Few Good Fats, Including Omega 3 (read more about digestion/nutrition here)
2) Blood Sugar Imbalances
3) Vitamin D, Chromium and Seratonin (which can be affected by low amino-acid intake!) Deficiencies
These common nutritional requirements are proven to affect mental and physical health and well-being. And there are EASY dietary fixes to improve your nutrition!
Get Started Today With These Easy Tips:
* Add low-risk fish to your diet 1-2 times per week. Omega 3’s from fish oil are potent brain food. Try to find wild rather than farmed versions of salmon. You might also consider an omega supplement. Adding natural sources of fats like avocado, nuts, and flaxseed provides the extra fats required for brain health, growing and feeding babies, and keeping mama healthy!
* Fruits and vegetables are the traditional ‘health foods’ but when pregnant, your body responds to sugars differently. Even natural sugars from fruits, agave, maple syrup, and honey. Limit your intake of sugars, subbing instead for vegetables, legumes, and healthy fats to fuel your body longer. These foods provide you with a feeling of fullness longer (think high fiber) and don’t forget to drink plenty of water! Often, depressive symptoms are made worse by nutritional imbalances, lack of nutrients, hunger and dehydration.
* Vitamin D supplements are suggested by many pediatricians for babies, especially in Northern Climates. Taking a vitamin D supplement can boost your mood and help you feel better. Be sure to discuss this with your healthcare provider.
A well-fueled body will help prepare you for your exercise program. With your health care provider’s okay, beginning a safe, effective prenatal exercise program like the Prenatal Membership, reduces existing prenatal depressive symptoms. Additionally, it’s effective in preventing the onset of prenatal depression in pregnant moms, versus their inactive peers.
Aside from the endorphin, the feel-good hormone produced by an active body, exercise can provide mental and physical stability at a time when your body is changing daily (BJOJ).
The physical changes associated with pregnancy also aggravate prenatal depression. This is nothing to be ashamed of– pregnancy is hard work! By including exercise as soon as possible, you can help ensure your body grows slow and steady throughout the pregnancy. Prenatal exercise reduces the likelihood you’ll experience incontinence and can strengthen your pelvic floor to reduce pain. These are all significant factors in reducing the risk of prenatal depression.
Most importantly, watching how strong your body can be is a great way to feel proud of your body and give you a mental boost. Not only have you completed a workout– but you’ve done it while GROWING A HUMAN!!
Finally– it’s so important to cut yourself some slack during pregnancy. If you’re experiencing all-day-first-trimester-morning-sickness, it’s unlikely you’ll be hitting the gym 7 days a week. If you’re experiencing hip pain, carrying multiples, or finding yourself out of breath, there is no reason to push yourself past comfort. In fact, I STRONGLY recommend against it and instead remind clients to listen to their bodies. Do what feels good, as often and you can, for as long as you can. If it’s just five minutes of core-active breathing today, that’s great! If tomorrow you can do a few short videos and get a full workout, that’s wonderful.
*For tips on designing your home to help alleviate depression, check out Modern Castle!
“…I wanted to create something that could benefit others. I may never be able to help the way doctors or medications can, but I hope that our guide and just being a supportive friend can help where it can.”
As Mom’s, we learn It’s All About Balance!
Find your balance. In health, nutrition, exercise, and life. Make time for yourself, wherever you can find it. Include these tips, and talk to family, friends, your partner, and your physician to ensure your mental and physical health are a top priority as an expecting/new mama!