Addressing Depression and Sleep Problems in Pregnancy and Afterward

Perinatal depression is a common mental health concern, and the medical and psychological health professions have a crucial responsibility to detect and treat this mental health care that affects so many women. Many clinical psychology professionals provide treatment for both pregnant moms and new moms. Protocols are designed to keep depression from interfering with the health and happiness of both mother and child

Identifying depression in new or soon-to-be moms

Medical providers should be aware of risk factors for peripartum depression, and take into account relevant issues such as: 

  • A prior history of depression
  • Life events
  • Interpersonal conflicts
  • Lifestyle considerations

Perinatal depression has produced many poor outcomes that include maternal, child, and family unit challenges. Infants and youngsters of perinatally depressed moms are more likely to have difficult temperaments. These children may have emotional and cognitive delays, as well. Primary care providers are uniquely positioned to screen expectant and new moms for depression, and should identify and refer them to the appropriate mental health professionals. However, some obstacles interfere with this. 

Treatment guidelines favor psychological counseling and therapy above medicines as first-line treatment for mild to moderate depression in women, while medications are the first choice for severe depression. For these women, drugs are often combined with psychological or integrative approaches. 

Furthermore, moms who stop taking their antidepressant medications despite ongoing depression often suffer a relapse of symptoms. Depression that continues postpartum increases the risk of poor mother-infant attachment. There is also an increased risk of delayed thought and speech skills in the newborn, impaired emotional development, and higher risk for behavioral problems in later life. 

A sophisticated, comprehensive, and multilevel approach is needed to treat perinatal depression. Doctors and mental health professionals are best poised to initiate, carry out, and evaluate how effective these interventions are working for each individual. The goal is to prevent the unfavorable impact of maternal depression on the well-being of mother and child.

Assessing sleep as a contributor to perinatal depression

There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that poor sleep quality during pregnancy and the postpartum period may be a significant risk factor for developing perinatal depression. Undoubtedly, the relationship between sleep and depressive issues is quite complicated. Does disrupted sleep lead to depression? Or, are sleep disturbances merely an early symptom of a developing depressive illness?

Studies link poor sleep quality with increased risk for perinatal depression. As such, it is recommended that all pregnant women be screened for depressive symptoms and anxiety. It’s not yet fully understand the mechanisms by which sleep and perinatal depression are interrelated. 

However, it has been confirmed that specific techniques can be used to improve sleep quality, and evidence suggests that certain interventions, such as using medication or non-pharmacologic strategies, can reduce the risk and severity of postpartum depression, as well.  Therefore, examining and assessing sleep quality in women who are pregnant or have recently given birth may be a critical element in preventing and treating perinatal depression. 

To find out more information about pregnancy, sleep quality, and depression, reach out to a therapist for depression treatment in Palatine, IL to schedule a consultation.

Thanks to Lotus Wellness Center for their insight into counseling and how depression and sleep problems can affect pregnancy.

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