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Depression and Pregnancy What the Can Husband Do?

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Authored by Jane Bayer in Mental Health
Published on 01-08-2010

Depression in pregnancy is not uncommon. Most people have heard about post-partum depression, which is depression after pregnancy once Mom is home with the baby. But according to the March of Dimes, about one out of five women have some depression symptoms during those nine months before giving birth. For some women, those depression symptoms are significant. And research shows that a woman who has experienced depression previously is more likely to become depressed during her pregnancy. If you’re the husband of a woman who is pregnant and depressed, you may feel helpless to intervene. Isn’t this supposed to be the happiest time in a woman’s life? What about that pregnancy glow you’re always hearing about in movies and books? For many women, this just isn’t the case. And while clinical depression requires professional treatment, there are steps you can take to help your wife.

With hormone levels going wild, it’s not unusual for a pregnant woman to cry and feel anxious about everyday events. But clinical depression, sometimes called major depressive disorder, is different. The symptoms are more severe and are long lasting. The condition interferes with the person’s daily life. Symptoms of clinical depression include feelings of hopelessness, lack of interest in everyday events, sleeping problems such as sleeping too much or too little, loss of energy and feeling tired all the time and difficulty concentrating. Sometimes people who are clinically depressed will start to think about suicide.

The best thing you can do for your wife, besides encouraging her to get treatment, is to talk to her about the depression. Start a dialogue about the situation, even if she doesn’t seem to want to talk. Tell her you realize she’s feeling down, and you want to help. Ask for specific instructions. Does she need more help around the house? Does she need you to return phone calls? Maybe she’d like a nap every day or a walk by herself. Or maybe she’d like you to talk a walk with her. Tell her you love her and care about what she’s going through. And tell her you need to know what will help. This is a time to pull together as a couple. It’s also a time to cut your wife a little slack, and give her the support she needs.

It also may be up to you to push her into professional treatment if her depression is severe. Yes, depression during pregnancy can be difficult to diagnose, since many of the symptoms are also ordinary physical signs of pregnancy. What expectant mother doesn’t feel tired? What’s unusual about having trouble sleeping when you’ve got a tiny whale bouncing around in your stomach? But you know your wife better than anybody, and you’ll be able to discern between what is normal and what isn’t normal. Your wife just may need a little tender loving care, or she may need some counseling. What’s critical is that the two of you need to work together as a team to get through this life-changing event.

A new baby is a wonderful event in a couple’s life. Facing the challenges and changes together will make all the difference.

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