Pregnancy-related depression may manifest in a variety of symptoms, doctor warns

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Announcing the news of a pregnancy is one of the most exciting moments for an expectant mother, right?

For some mothers, while they may be happy, there could be a lingering darkness behind that smiling announcement. It’s called perinatal depression and anxiety, a condition that covers mental illness from pregnancy through postpartum.

“When we say, ‘I'm so happy for you, or you must be so happy, or we just demand that they be happy,' it makes it harder for them to say, 'I'm not, I'm not okay and I need help.' And that's why I think we see women feel shame about feeling this way. I call it a meta-depression, a depression about being depressed,” said Dr. Sarah Getch, the Director of the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program, at the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences.

Dr. Getch says perinatal depression and anxiety may be difficult to spot because some of the symptoms are typical for any pregnant woman.

“A lot of women experience anxiety about their pregnancy,” she said.

Dr. Getch warns a woman may need help if she experiences a few key symptoms: chronic worry, an overwhelming sense of dread, a racing heart rate, trouble sleeping, changes in weight, or a lack of interest in usual hobbies. She also warns suicidal thoughts are a definite indicator of a need for intervention.

“If those are some of the thoughts you`re having, then it`s time to talk to somebody,” she said.

Dr. Getch says one way perinatal depression and anxiety could be treated more efficiently is if women would be screened at their physician's office.

“Most providers are not assessing for depression and anxiety during pregnancy,” said Dr. Getch.

She says catching these symptoms early may help a woman avoid severe post-partum depression, and catching them early means being aware of when it's normal pregnancy emotions and when it's more serious.



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