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I’m still pregnant. What should I look for?

 

Pregnancy is a challenging journey accompanied by a myriad of physical and emotional changes. As you navigate this multifaceted experience, it’s crucial to focus not only on your physical health but also on your mental health. One significant concern for expectant and new mothers is the risk of Postpartum Depression (PPD).

Recognizing the perinatal signals that may indicate a higher risk for PPD is crucial for early intervention and support.

 

Perinatal Signals and Risk Factors

  1. Previous Mental Health Issues: If you have a history of depression, anxiety, or any other mental health disorders, you may be at a higher risk for PPD. Prenatal depression and anxiety serve as significant predictors for PPD.
  2. History of PPD: If you’ve experienced postpartum depression with previous pregnancies, there is a higher likelihood you might encounter it again.
  3. Family History: A family history of depression or other mental health conditions can increase your susceptibility to PPD.
  4. High Levels of Stress: Financial issues, relationship problems, or lack of support from family and friends can contribute significantly to the risk of developing PPD.
  5. Complicated Pregnancy: Health complications during pregnancy such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or multiple pregnancies can elevate stress levels, increasing the risk of PPD.
  6. Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations during and after pregnancy can affect mood and emotional stability and may contribute to the onset of PPD.
  7. Sleep Deprivation: Changes in sleep patterns and chronic sleep deprivation often associated with caring for a newborn can significantly impact mental health and increase PPD risk.

Preventive Measures

  1. Communicate Regularly with Healthcare Providers: Keep an open dialogue with your obstetrician, midwife, or mental health professional about your feelings and any emotional changes you experience during pregnancy.
  2. Build a Support Network: Surround yourself with supportive family members and friends who can provide emotional and practical support.
  3. Self-Care: Prioritize activities that promote your physical and mental well-being, such as exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep.
  4. Educate Yourself: Learn about PPD and its signs and symptoms, so you can recognize them early.
  5. Join Support Groups: Engaging with other expectant mothers, especially those who might be experiencing similar feelings, can provide comfort and lessen feelings of isolation.

While pregnancy is often depicted as a joyous occasion, it’s essential to recognize and address the challenges that come with it. By understanding perinatal signals and acknowledging the risk factors for PPD, you can take proactive steps towards your mental wellness. Early intervention and a strong support system can make a meaningful difference in ensuring a healthy and happy journey into motherhood. However, keep in mind that there are cases where you think all is perfect, your pregnancy is perfect, really easy without any difficulties, but somehow you feel down after the delivery. This area is still underresearched and we do not know enough to be able to predict everything. But you can always do any of the preventative activities, mentioned here. Most importantly, surround yourself with people you love and cherish!

If you or someone you know is struggling, reach out to healthcare providers to discuss potential preventive measures and treatments. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health for both you and your baby.

References:

Hutchens, B. F., & Kearney, J. (2020). Risk factors for postpartum depression: an umbrella review. Journal of midwifery & women’s health65(1), 96-108.