Antenatal Depression: Causes and Treatment

More common than postnatal depression, antenatal depression strikes one in five pregnant women locally. We tell you the signs to look out for and what types of antenatal depression treatment work best.

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Pregnancy and childbirth are a special time in the life of most women. But sometimes, instead of bei​ng excited, joyful and in the pink of health, many women find themselves dealing with antenatal depression.


Research has suggested that depression during pregnancy may be even more common than postnatal depression. Locally, about one in five pregnant women is likely to show serious antenatal depression symptoms associated with impairment of functioning, and about one in 10 will have clinical depression, which requires focused medical attention. 

We also now understand that antenatal depression often marks the onset of depressive illness in women and increases the risk of postnatal depression. 


Causes of Antenatal Depression


Often, an interplay of various factors may lead to the onset of depression during pregnancy. Pregnancy is a time of significant psychological adjustment as a mother adapts to physical changes and emotionally prepares to nurture a new life. 

For new mothers carrying their first baby, the adjustment may be more challenging, especially:
If the pregnancy was unwanted or unplanned
If they have had difficult relationships with their own mother — any unresolved emotional conflicts may be awakened
If they are working as it may be challenging to balance career with motherhood, particularly if colleagues are not understanding or supportive
For teenage or very young mothers

Other factors that may contribute to antenatal depression include:
Having a complicated pregnancy
Foetal abnormalities
Past history of depression

The same factors that may contribute to depression at any other time in a woman’s life may also lead to signs of antenatal depression, including:
Marital difficulties
Interpersonal problems
Financial and occupational problems
Lack of social support
Loss of a loved one
Substance abuse and dependency

Lastly, if this is a precious pregnancy or if there has been difficulty conceiving or a history of miscarriage, there may also be an increased risk of depression. 


Seeking Antenatal Depression Treatment

In the first trimester, antenatal depression treatment may come in the form of familial support, therapy and counselling. Try to avoid using antidepressants unless depression is severe, as a baby’s organs are still developing at this stage.

Antidepressants may be administered for more serious cases in the second trimester but weaning closer to delivery is recommended.

Learn how to spot antenatal depression symptoms and where to seek support or antenatal depression treatment here.

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Antenatal Depression: Causes and Treatment

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