Managing seasonal depression during pregnancy

November 8, 2017 Providence Health Team

An interview with Sheryl A. Ross, M.D. “Dr. Sherry,” is an award-winning OBGYN affiliated with Providence Saint John’s Health Center, an shares why pregnant women shouldn’t delay seeing their doctor when they’re feeling down.

More than 10 million Americans suffer from seasonal depression each year. Although many people shrug it off as a byproduct of colder temperatures and shorter days, it is a recurrent major depressive disorder that can affect your quality of life and, in severe cases, require hospitalization.

We spoke with obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Ross who urges all moms-to-be to seek help sooner rather than later if they are experiencing feelings of sadness or depression. Hormonal fluctuations that occur during and after pregnancy can trigger depression; particularly in women prone to seasonal affective disorder, and in many cases, make the symptoms worse.

“If you have a friend or relative who suffers from seasonal depression, you can help them immensely throughout their pregnancy,” says Dr. Ross. “Spend time with them even if they are resistant—get them outside, invite them for coffee (tea is better) or a walk in the park.”

“Relaxation activities include yoga, meditation, and mindfulness help give you a sensible perspective on holiday stressors. Listening to music, getting a massage or reading a book can be an ideal way to relax and take care of your personal needs. These types of activities slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure and relax muscles all over the body. When you are taking care your personal needs this gives you extra mental strength and clarity in dealing with seasonal depression.”

Signs and symptoms of seasonal depression

The symptoms below are common for those suffering from seasonal depression:

  • Anxiety
  • Apathy
  • Desire to avoid social contact
  • Despair
  • Irritability
  • Letharg
  • Loss of libido or desire for physical contact
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Overeating

5 ways to beat the winter blues naturally

If you are a mom-to-be who is experiencing mild seasonal depression, there are some things you can do that will help lift your spirits. For more serious cases of depression or seasonal depression, however, it is best to seek medical support. Your OB/GYN will be able to determine if an antidepressant will be beneficial for you and safe for your baby.

  • Get outside and get moving - Not only does exercise during pregnancy increase your chance of having an easier labor and delivery, it can improve your mood in as little as 30 minutes of physical activity a day.
  • Do something you enjoy - Getting pampered with a mani/pedi or massage, taking in a yoga class or planning a fun arts and crafts project can boost your endorphins, relieve pain and help you feel better.
  • Eat healthy foods - While snuggling up on the couch with your favorite comfort foods may sound enticing, it won’t help you feel better in the long run. Instead, opt for healthy foods that will give you energy and your metabolism a boost.
  • Go out with friends and family - You may not want to at first, but a little laugh therapy works wonders on your mood. Plan a lunch date, connect, socialize and feel better.
  • Try light therapy - Sunlight is believed to stimulate the part of your brain that controls your mood, sleep and appetite. Light therapy can effectively trick your brain into thinking you are in the sunlight.

“Regular exercise, relaxation activities, social engagement or other activities that get you out of the house will compete with that tendency to be lethargic,” says Dr. Ross. “Kick your endorphins up a notch and elevate your mood with 30 minutes of low-impact exercise every day to help stabilize your mood. It’s so important for ensuring your health and the health of your baby.”

Seasonal depression increases your risk of pregnancy complications

If seasonal depression goes untreated, you may be increasing your risk of many different issues.

  • C-section
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Health problems for baby
  • Low birth weight for baby
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Premature birth
  • Suicide

If you’re feeling more anxious, down or tired than usual, be sure to talk to your doctor to find out if you are suffering from seasonal affective disorder. Seasonal depression should not be taken lightly, especially when there are two lives to consider. Contact one of our skilled OB/GYN doctors today to get the guidance you need so you can have a happy, healthy pregnancy.

About the Author

The Providence Health Team brings together caregivers from diverse backgrounds to bring you clinically-sound, data-driven advice to help you live your happiest and healthiest selves.

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