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Treating depression during pregnancy

Pregnancy can be a time of joyful anticipation in preparation of a new baby's arrival. However, for women with depression, excitement about pregnancy or many other life events can be hard to achieve.

Depression is a complex and serious mental illness involving more than a passing case of the blues or a short period of grief after suffering a loss and it is common among pregnant women. Between 14 percent and 23 percent of pregnant women will experience depression, and some will be diagnosed for the first time during pregnancy.

Identifying depression in pregnant women can be difficult because its symptoms mimic those associated with pregnancy, such as changes in mood, energy level, and appetite.

Symptoms may also include lack of interest in things that used to be enjoyable; feeling sad or "down in the dumps;" restlessness, not being able to sit still, or feeling very sluggish; feelings of worthlessness or guilt; thoughts of death or suicide or attempts at suicide; problems concentrating, thinking, remembering, or making decisions; or sleeping too much or having problems falling or staying asleep.

Experiencing several symptoms all day, every day for an extended period of time may be a sign of depression. Additionally, some women may suffer from headaches or other aches and pains, digestive problems, sexual problems, hopelessness and negative feelings, worry, or fear. Regardless of pregnancy status, you should talk to your doctor if you experience the symptoms of depression.

Pregnant women with depression often weigh treating their illness against concerns about using antidepressants which have been linked to fetal malformations, cardiac defects, and other negative outcomes during pregnancy. But not treating depression during pregnancy carries a risk as well.

Depressed women are more likely to have poor prenatal care and pregnancy complications, such as nausea, vomiting, and preeclampsia, and to use drugs, alcohol, and nicotine.

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