Depression in Pregnancy

A number of risk factors are said to be responsible for the sudden change of mood of some women during pregnancy and after child birth.

|  By Chinwe Okafor  |  Oct. 28, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

IFEOMA Okoli, a corps member, who is 12 weeks pregnant, is not happy about her mood swings because it affects everyone around her. She is always looking for the slightest mistake to yell at anyone who annoys her. “I find myself grumpy most of the time. My husband comes home from work and I yell at him for no apparent reason. When he fails to respond, I start crying. I am not happy about this character at all and I wished there was something I could do to stop these mood swings,” she said.

Adanna Ekeh, a housewife, also 16 weeks pregnant, gets upset over ordinary things. She said that the latest cause of her anger was her frequent state of fatigue because things she ordinarily did without stress have become a burden to her and that she gets tensed up when she sends people on errands and they grumble. “I can’t wait to deliver my baby and get back to my normal self and I pray that my next pregnancy will not be like this one. I get angry easily and it extends to anyone around me. I can’t even wash my clothes again like before because I enjoy washing clothes,” she said.

A pregnant woman in the maternity for check-up
A pregnant woman in the maternity for check-up

The stories of Okoli and Ekeh are those of just two out of the numerous women who feel depressed during  pregnancy and even after delivery. They all suffer from perinatal depression which is a mood disorder that causes sad feelings, sudden anger, irritation, frustration which interferes with everyday life for an extended time. This disorder in some women’s mood makes them feel irritated and unbearable during pregnancy. They tend to upset everyone around them, most especially their husbands. Perinatal depression is the type of depression that occurs during pregnancy and can last till some months after delivery.

Odinaka Nwachukwu, a doctor in Ebonyi, said the cause of depression and irritations are the various forms of changes that occur in pregnancy due to the inter play of hormones and chemical mediators. These, she said, include weight gain, increase in the size of the sexual organs, increase in the basal metabolic rate and skin changes among others. She said that depression is the most common complication during and after pregnancy in some expectant women’s life. “Its symptoms in pregnant women are feelings of restlessness, sadness, hopelessness, frequent crying, fatigue, erratic eating habits, sleeping and inability to focus and loss of memory.

Others are loss of interest in activities, detachment from friends and family, headache, chest pain, heart palpitation or hyperventilation, constant fear of hurting oneself or the baby, lack of care for the baby and self and many more.” Ali Usiholo, a doctor at University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH, also said depression is a well recognized clinical entity in obstetric practice and can also occur following delivery, hence it’s called postpartum or postnatal depression. It’s a range of mood disturbance, from postnatal blues to pure psychosis, which everyone calls madness, fortunately, this is very uncommon.”

A pregnant woman
A pregnant woman

He said that not all women are depressed during and after delivery. Up to half of the pregnant women may have some mood disturbances and less than one percent exhibits psychotic symptoms. “The cause of depression in women is not well understood and no single entity has been identified as a cause but there are some risk factors that have been identified but there are no hard and fast rules about them. They include hormonal changes in the mother’s body, formula feeding rather than breastfeeding, a history of depression, cigarette smoking, low self-esteem, childcare stress, prenatal depression during pregnancy, low social support, life stress, poor marital relationship, single marital status, low socioeconomic status and unwanted pregnancy or baby among others.”

According to him, there are medical evaluations to rule out physiological problems which may resemble depression and they are amendable to various forms of medication. These are possible medication use, variety of the drugs to be used, most essentially the antidepressants, psychotherapy, support groups, home visits, healthy diet, consistent or healthy sleep patterns.

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