Studies show that pregnant women who are depressed are likely to also experience anxiety than just depression alone—the numbers may be as high as 60 to 80 percent. This might seem terribly unfair, but there’s good news: many women go on to make a full recovery and for those who have experienced anxiety and depression before pregnancy, there’s much they can do to manage their symptoms and feel better without endangering their baby.
I’ve written about the warning signs of anxiety and depression, but I’d like to add a gentle reminder that if you are feeling unwell for more than two weeks, please discuss this with your healthcare provider. The sooner you start treatment, the earlier you can start on the exercises and treatments that can bring you relief—and getting treated will protect your baby. Numerous studies show that untreated emotional and mental health problems contribute to preterm birth, low infant birth weight and infant health problems.
Help is possible. For women with a history of depression and anxiety, managing your health just as you would do in a chronic illness like diabetes is key. Here are some suggestions:
· Say no to stress: You may need to be extra careful of stressful situations during your pregnancy. Calming activities such as yoga, mindfulness, progressive relaxation and meditation have been shown to also help.
· Know yourself: Can’t handle the evening news without feeling triggered? Make a note to avoid it. A mental healthcare provider can help you learn to recognize your triggers and avoid them. Keeping a journal is also a great way of understanding your responses to difficult situations.
· Manage your care: There’s much you can do that will help. Studies have shown that nature, cardiovascular exercise, community support and sharing your feelings help manage anxiety and depression. Why not combine them and get exercise by taking a daily walk through the park with your spouse, sibling or close friend?
Bottom line: It’s important to recognize that your emotional health affects your baby and to get help from your healthcare provider if you’ve been experiencing negative emotions for two weeks or more. Early action in pregnancy may also help prevent postpartum depression.