depressionMany women express surprise that pregnancy symptoms aren’t what they’d expected. Some express surprise at frequent nosebleeds, fuller hair, trouble sleeping, and other incidents never before experienced or anticipated. All baby-related activity isn’t limited to the abdomen. It’s a full body experience, inside and out.

Pregnancy churns up hormonal activity that affects every process of the body. One of the often-unexpected symptoms of pregnancy is depression, affecting as many as 13 percent of women during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth. Even the most joy-filled expectant mother is subject to hormonal changes that represent themselves as the blues from time to time.

When feeling blue lingers longer than two weeks or affects daily living, medical intervention is in order. Report emotional symptoms as well as physical symptoms at every doctor visit during pregnancy and after delivery. Most medical conditions, including depression, are best treated early.

Postpartum depression is a frequently used term to lump all down-in-the-dumps feelings after childbirth. There are degrees of depression, however, each one with its own unique set of symptoms, each requiring a different course of treatment.

Baby Blues
A mild case of the baby blues is the body’s way of adjusting to life without a baby in the womb. Loss of appetite, insomnia, mood swings, and crying spells are common in new mothers. Feeling anxious, overwhelmed, even sad, for a few days is nothing to be alarmed about. These symptoms almost always go away after a week or so.

Postpartum Depression
Sometimes the baby blues escalate into more serious symptoms or linger longer. Postpartum depression can begin any time during baby’s first year. When the blues get so blue there’s no interest in the baby, it’s time to consult a physician. It’s vitally important to consult a physician if lack of interest and feeling blue include thoughts of hurting oneself or one’s child.

Postpartum Psychosis
In extreme cases, postpartum psychosis develops, usually in the first two weeks after childbirth. This medical diagnosis is so rare it affects fewer than four mothers for every 1,000 births. The risk of postpartum psychosis is highest in women who were diagnosed before pregnancy with serious mental health issues that include bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder. Postpartum psychosis symptoms include hallucination, confusion, and rapid or extreme mood swings. Thoughts of doing harm to oneself or one’s child may escalate into action. Immediate medical care is required.

Pregnancy is a time for change, change that affects one’s body and feelings. It’s also an important time to be open and honest about all concerns and symptoms with one’s team of healthcare providers. Most episodes of the baby blues are fleeting, requiring little more than time to get beyond them, but only a skilled medical profession should made that determination.

Source: "Depression During and After Pregnancy Fact Sheet." Office of Women’s Health. US Department of Health and Human Services. Web. 28 Oct 2013.