Pregnancy: An Emotional Roller Coaster

Image of medical card with pen on background of psychiatrist comforting her patient

Pregnancy is an exciting time when a new member is added to the household. However, it is also a stressful and worrying period coupled with many emotional and physical changes. Not surprisingly, many pregnant women develop depression.

“Depression is more than just feeling blue,” explains Dr Clarice Hong, Specialist in Psychiatry, Raffles Counselling Centre. “Depression is a mood disorder that causes an extreme dip in your mood so much so that it interferes with your daily activities. While depression is not uncommon, it is a source of concern during and immediately after pregnancy as it can affect the health of both the mother and the baby.”

According to studies, one in five women would experience some depression symptoms during their pregnancy, while as many as one in ten would develop full-blown clinical depression.

Depression usually results from a combination of factors. These range from family history of depression, hormonal and physical changes during pregnancy to stressful life events.

Pregnant women with untreated depression are more likely to experience pre-term birth, spontaneous abortion and gestational hypertension or pre-eclampsia.

Baby Blues

Feeling down after childbirth is common. Hormonal changes post-delivery coupled with the stress and fatigue from baby care are all triggers for one to feel blue.

There are three levels of depression that’s associated with post-delivery. The most common but the least severe of them is baby blues. Symptoms include moods swings, feeling sad, anxious or overwhelmed, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping. Such feelings usually go away naturally within a few days to a week.

Postpartum depression is a more severe level of depression. It can hit anytime within the first one year after childbirth. Sufferers will have thoughts of hurting the baby, themselves and lose interest in the baby. Postpartum depression usually lasts longer and will require treatment by a doctor. Early intervention can speed your recovery.

A severe but rare condition affecting only four in 1000 births, postpartum psychosis occurs in the first two weeks after childbirth. Sufferers see things that aren’t there, feel confused, have rapid mood swings and will actually attempt to hurt themselves or their baby. Sufferers of postpartum psychosis should get immediate medical help. Don’t wait and hope for improvement as it may lead to life threatening thoughts or behaviours.