Feeling depressed during pregnancy is just a case of haywire hormones, right? Maybe not. A study published in the January 2010 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology suggests that depression among moms-to-be is most often triggered by negative life circumstances, such as family strife and social isolation.
Combing through a decade's worth of studies on depression and pregnancy, researchers the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor identified maternal anxiety and worry, experiencing a divorce or family death, lack of social support, having an unintended pregnancy, smoking, and being a victim of domestic violence as key clues in determining which pregnant women were most likely to become depressed.
Other major risk factors included having a history of depression and being on Medicaid. Researchers were unable to conclude whether or not alcohol use, illicit drug use, race/ethnicity, and age contributed to depression risk.
It might seem odd to share news of relationship troubles or family worries at a prenatal checkup, but confiding in your doctor or midwife about difficult life circumstances could help your care provider better determine whether a negative funk has turned into full-blown depression.
According to the March of Dimes, as many as 20 percent of all women experience symptoms of depression (difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, lethargy, sadness) during pregnancy. Depression, especially when left untreated, increases a woman's risk for preeclampsia and use of drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. Also, depressed mothers are often less able to care for themselves or their children, or to bond with their children.