Prenatal depression is a common but frequently undiagnosed condition that affects pregnant women, as emphasized by a new study published in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing. Because the symptoms of depression such as weight gain, fatigue, sleep and appetite disturbance, and diminished libido can be confused with the changes associated with pregnancy, many women go undiagnosed and untreated.
Over one-third of study participants reported sub-clinical levels of depression symptoms. This level is far above both the 12 percent annual prevalence rate for major depression and the 24 percent lifetime prevalence rate including minor depression among the general population.
Although sub-clinical depression lacks the longevity of other forms of depression, it is of significant importance to the mental and physical health of mothers and their infants. Brief and intermittent cases of depression during the early stages of pregnancy may be indicators of depression during the third trimester or postpartum, and they should not be overlooked by prenatal care providers.
Women should be encouraged to discuss feelings they consider brief or mild in order for clinicians to develop effective interventions for these sub-clinical symptoms, says study author Kathie Records, Ph.D., R.N.
Supportive relationships were shown to minimize prenatal depression, though there was no correlation demonstrated between abusive relationships and depression during pregnancy.
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