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Depression & Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a joyous occasion.  Pregnancy, though, does not protect women from experiencing mild to severe depression. Medication and/or therapy may be recommended.

Treating depression is always important and it can be successfully treated during and after pregnancy. Some antidepressant/anti anxiety medications can be used safely throughout pregnancy and breast feeding.

A drug free way of treating depression during pregnancy is by using a light therapy box.  Bright light therapy is as effective as the antidepressants in depression cure in pregnant women.  Bright light therapy has yielded favorable results for curing depression in pregnancy.  It also is quite safe as it does not have any side effects.  It requires a patient to sit in front of a box for about 30 minutes a day, depending on the patient.

Here are some findings from research on pregnancy and depression:

  • Babies born to moms with depression have an increased risk for irritability, less activity and attentiveness and fewer facial expressions.
  • There are possible fetal abnormalities when mothers take antidepressants in the first trimester. But there’s not a particular pattern associated with a specific medication or class of medications.

Some specific treatment recommendations include:

  • Talk to your provider early if you are planning to conceive. You can talk about the best options for you as an individual.
  • Encourage the provider who will deliver your baby and your mental health provider to consult with each other on the best options for you. They will help you understand the risks and benefits of medication versus therapy, etc.
  • If you are taking an antidepressant for depression, don’t discontinue or change your dose of medication on your own. This could be dangerous and your symptoms could worsen.
  • Use bright light therapy as a drug free option to treat your depression during pregnancy.
  • If you have severe depression and are pregnant, you should remain on medication.

Untreated depression during pregnancy has been proven to lead to higher rates of:

  • Lower birth weights
  • Pre-term labor (depression doubles the risk)
  • Increased use of alcohol and drugs to self-medicate

Please have a candid discussion with both your psychiatrist and OB-GYN regarding the benefits, risks and side effects of all medications. If you have been diagnosed with depression and are considering pregnancy, meet with your health providers before you get pregnant. This will provide peace of mind and help to make sure that you and your baby are both as healthy as possible.

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