January 01, 2023 By Leah Malone

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Pregnancy


Pregnancy is a glorious season of change in the female body. However, if you have struggled with major depressive disorder (MDD) prior to conception, some of the emotions you experience now may be less than blissful. 

Pregnancy may only last 40 weeks, but when you live with MDD, its effects can encompass your mental and emotional health for an extended period of time. MDD should be closely monitored before, during, and after pregnancy, as well as during the childhood years.  

Pregnancy May Require You to Change Your Medication

If you are currently on prescribed medication, your doctor may talk to you about changing it. Adverse fetal outcomes have been reported with the maternal use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). The risk of maternal depression also presents a risk of preterm birth.

These are both important factors to consider when speaking with your doctor about your symptoms. Managing the symptoms of MDD both during and after your pregnancy can greatly impact your views and experience of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. 

Changes in Symptoms

Due to the influx of hormones and chemical changes happening inside the pregnant body, you might experience new or worsening symptoms. It can be helpful, especially if this is your first pregnancy, to keep a feelings journal during this time.

Documenting what you are feeling, both about yourself, your changing body and the baby, can help untangle your thoughts. This is also a great place to note any changes in symptoms, either physical or mental, and share them with your healthcare professional. Keeping track of your feelings can help your doctor identify the best medication or treatment plan for your pregnancy. 

Balancing Mama and Baby’s Health 

MDD can affect maternal-fetal attachment (MFA), and this is something your doctor may consider when adjusting or prescribing medication. MDD and different classes of medication can have an effect on you and your baby. It is important to weigh the risks and benefits of medications in relation to both your mental health and the health of the baby.

Experiencing depression during pregnancy, whether it is new or a worsening of previous symptoms, can affect the relationship you have with your unborn child. This study concludes that a poor mother-infant attachment after birth may be rooted in MDD during pregnancy. 

Depression not only affects the developing relationship with your baby in utero. Maternal depression can affect the relationship and attachment you have with your child and even into the childhood years. 

Managing Your Mental Health Is a Parenting Priority

Being honest with your healthcare provider about any changes in symptoms can help set you up for maternal mental health success. Bringing a new soul into the world will keep you busy for almost every waking (and sleeping) moment. In protecting your mental health, you are ensuring that you are present to care for your baby. Having a mental health care and transition plan on how you and your doctor are going to manage your pregnancy and motherhood is preventive medicine. 

The majority of your mind space will be devoted to caring for your baby, especially in the early days. It is unbelievably easy to neglect your mental health during this time and forget to take your medication or convince yourself that you can make do without it.

 If you are not your best, you cannot care for your child in the best manner, and abruptly stopping medications can be dangerous. Motherhood is not an excuse to devalue your well-being; having a plan before birth can help you avoid tragedy.

Peripartum Depression

Formally known as Postpartum depression, peripartum depression occurs during pregnancy and after the birth of your baby. A family history of depression or other mood disorders and a lack of support can put you at increased risk.    

Post-partum Psychosis 

A serious psychiatric disorder that emerges postpartum is postpartum psychosis (PPP). Although it is rare, it has a wide range of consequences and is a mental health emergency. If you are experiencing hallucinations or delusions, contact your healthcare provider immediately, or call 911. 

Keep an Eye Open for Changes

The profound hormone shifts that occur in the female body in the pregnancy and birthing process can wreak havoc on your system. Medications that manage the symptoms of your MDD prior to conception may not work in the same way. It is important to take note of any changes you or your loved ones notice and bring them up with your healthcare provider.

Struggling with MDD and being a mother will be a challenge, but you can take small steps toward balance. With a little planning before, during, and after pregnancy, you can better manage your symptoms. Be keenly aware of any mental health changes and take note of them. Bringing this information to your healthcare providers is a great way to prevent a decline in depression before it becomes unmanageable. 

The time after you give birth will be a transitional time in all areas of your life. Your hormones will continue to shift before returning to normal while you and your baby will try to establish a normal routine. Remember to have compassion for yourself as you and your baby make this transition into motherhood together.   

Managing the symptoms of MDD is challenging. Finding a medication that promotes your healing is imperative, pregnancy can wreak havoc on your emotions and make it more difficult to cope. There is no shame in needing additional help during this season. Like motherhood, living with MDD is a journey, and at certain times you may need to lean on another for additional support. If you or a loved one is struggling in caring for their mental health during their pregnancy, Grace Recovery TX may be able to help. With our dynamic approach, we are here to assist you on the road toward healing. You already possess the power inside. Call us today at (737) 237-9663.

About Author

Leah Malone

Learning to sit with uncomfortable feelings can be painful and disturbing at times. When Leah was able to see her behavior patterns and decided there was enough pain to be disturbed, she became motivated to make changes and accept the work that needed to be done to heal. She needed direction and had no clue how to heal on her own. Through a connection with God, authentic connection with others, honesty, willingness, and humility, Leah is now in recovery from addiction and trauma.

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