Moms May Experience Pre-birth Anxiety, Depression
> 11/9/2007 10:42:27 AM

Post-partum depression has become a well-documented and increasingly researched topic, a fact that bodes well for the millions of families affected by the condition. A new study by a team from the University of Hong Kong looks at how mental health problems can arise at other points in a pregnancy, particularly before a mother has given birth. Researchers performed four examinations of 357 pregnant women—during the first trimester, second trimester, third trimester, and after birth—and then calculated the levels of depression and anxiety experienced at each point in the pregnancy. Their results appear in the November issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Depression and anxiety, the study found, can appear at any point in a pregnancy, and can affect those who have no prior histories. In total, 54% of respondents experienced anxiety at some point during their pregnancy and 37% had signs of depression. The former figure should come as less of a surprise, as along with all the changes a woman undergoes during a pregnancy, there are also the preparations for a new life that must be made. This is a time of great changes and even in the most stable and loving of relationships, both partners can feel anxiety about the events. The depression numbers, while perhaps not shocking, are higher than many estimates of post-partum depression, so to see that so many women may be experiencing depression before giving birth should serve as an area of concern.

Speaking to Reuters, the team's lead researcher, Dr. Antoinette Lee, made clear that while both depression and anxiety were most prevalent in the first and third trimesters, either could appear at any point during a pregnancy. It's because of this fact that doctors need to always be conscious of and concerned with the mental health of mothers as well as their physical health. Pre-natal conditions fostered by the mother for the unborn child can be affected greatly by the mental health of the mother. Beyond that, anxiety and depression can lead a woman to participate in behaviors that are not in her own best interest or the interest of the child.

Treatments for depression and anxiety during a pregnancy can be trickier than for non-pregnant individuals, and there is little consensus about what if any pharmacological options are available. Nevertheless, the many therapeutic   variations (personal, group and cognitive behavioral therapies) are safe and practical. It's also important to identify mothers who are struggling with anxiety and depression if only to let them know that these changes are not unusual, and can be dealt with in healthy ways. Addressing these concerns is of tremendous importance to the life of the new child, but also to the lives of the parents who will raise it.

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