Depression during pregnancy is fairly common and according to the March of Dimes, can occur in up to 20 percent of expectant mothers. Hormonal fluctuations caused by pregnancy and the impending life change that comes with the birth of a new baby can cause severe stress, anxiety and depression in pregnant women. Symptoms of depression during pregnancy can cause a loss of interest in former activities, fatigue, changes in appetite and feelings of sadness.
Pros and Cons of Depression Medication During Pregnancy
Taking any type of medication during pregnancy must be considered carefully, since most medications cross the placenta and go to the unborn baby. Doctors must decide whether the benefit of taking anti-depressant medication during pregnancy outweighs the risk. Depression during pregnancy can lead to preterm birth, poor nutrition, amd inadequate sleep, and can put expectant mothers at higher risk for postpartum depression. In cases where there is a history of severe depression, it is often better for the health of the baby and the mother to be treated with anti-depressants. Use of anti-depressants is most likely to affect the unborn baby during the first trimester when important organs are developing.
Safe Depression Medication During Pregnancy
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs increase levels of serotonin in the brain and are the antidepressant most commonly prescribed for pregnant women. Studies have shown that babies born to mothers who are taking SSRIs are at no higher risk for birth defects than babies born to mothers who were not on medication. SSRIs that are commonly prescribed for use during pregnancy include Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and Celexa.
Side Effects of Depression Medication During Pregnancy
Pregnant women should consider the possible side effects before taking anti-depressants during pregnancy. Some anti-depressants can cause nausea, diarrhea, headaches and insomnia. For women who may already be feeling the physical effects of pregnancy, the side effects of taking an anti-depressant may be overwhelming. Different medications have different side effects and every woman reacts to medication differently.
Going off Anti-Depressants During Pregnancy
Women who have been taking anti-depressants before conception may opt to stop their medication before becoming pregnant. It is important to consult with a doctor before going off any medication. Most doctors will recommend that the woman go off the medication gradually to allow her body to adjust. Going off anti-depressants suddenly can cause severe side effects in some women and should be avoided. Any woman who is taking anti-depressants should consult with her doctor before becoming pregnant to determine the best course of treatment.
Alternatives Treatments for Depression during Pregnancy
Many pregnant women worry about the effects of depression medication on the unborn baby and look for alternative treatments. Many women find relief by eating a diet rich in nutrients, developing a daily routine that allows for plenty of downtime, and spending time outside in the sunshine to lift their mood. Relaxation methods can often help expectant mothers deal with feelings of sadness and depression during pregnancy and can be useful during labor as well. Carefully chosen music often improves mood and can be enjoyed with friends and family during times when an expectant mother is struggling with feelings of depression. Depression can be much more manageable for expectant mothers who have a strong support system of people who understand her struggles with it.
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