Pregnancy is a time of change. This change can be beautiful, but it also holds the potential to trigger mental health disorders. According to the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Women’s Mental Health, up to 20 percent of expectant mothers struggle with mood or anxiety disorders at some point during their pregnancy. Whether relapsing into a past mental illness or exhibiting signs for the first time, the presence of related symptoms can put both the woman and her unborn child at risk.
A March 2005 publication in the BC Medical Journal, entitled “Psychiatric disorders in pregnancy,” reports that depression is the most common mental health disorder during pregnancy. Risk factors include a history of clinical or postpartum depression, having recently gone off medication and a lack of support from loved ones regarding the pregnancy. Panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are the most common anxiety disorders associated with pregnant women. Those who exhibit signs of depression and anxiety in their third trimester are more likely than the general population to go into labor prematurely. Women with these symptoms are also more likely to have newborns with hypoglycemia or respiratory distress.
Mental health disorders are often dismissed during pregnancy as hormonal fluctuations. However, poor mental health in the woman often translates into poor physical health for the fetus. The presence of mental health issues can result in increased rates of self-medication through drugs and alcohol, in addition to self-harm and suicidal thoughts. The National Eating Disorders Association notes that babies born to mothers with active eating disorders throughout the pregnancy are more likely to have “poor development, premature birth, low birth weight for age, respiratory distress, feeding difficulties…” and other complications.
Though there is no prescription medication for any mental health disorder currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use during pregnancy, the organization aims to improve its current labeling system and conduct further research in this regard. This is significant since a study by the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Women’s Mental Health found that women who stopped taking antidepressants during pregnancy were five times more likely to relapse than those who continued their regular dosage. The potential risks to the fetus keep many women from taking medications during pregnancy, indicating a need for further research and the development of drugs with fewer prenatal side effects.
If you or a loved one has relapsed or is exhibiting signs of mental illness, help is available. Sovereign Health Group provides support and treatment for individuals facing mental health disorders, substance abuse issues and dual diagnosis. Call (866) 819-0427 to speak with a professional today.
Pregnancy and mental health: Physical effects on baby (Part 3 of 4)
Written by Courtney Howard, Sovereign Health Group writer