The 'Baby Blues'

Depression and anxiety of pregnant mothers may affect babies' health

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) For many women, pregnancy is an exciting time. However, some pregnant women experience deep depression and anxiety, which puts the health of their baby at risk.

A recent study found that pregnant women who have a bad relationship with their husband or partner are most likely to experience these emotional problems.

dailyRx Insight: Anxiety and depression during pregnancy can lead to premature birth and low birth weight.

Children of women who were anxious or depressed while pregnant can experience health problems all the way through early school years.

In order to understand which women run the highest risk of anxiety and depression during pregnancy, Norwegian researchers assessed how nearly 50,000 mothers-to-be felt about their work and their family or partner. The researchers also looked at the women's smoking and drinking habits, as well as any illnesses.

While their results show that illness, troubles at work, and alcohol problems were all associated with emotional distress during pregnancy, the researchers found that a good relationship with a husband or partner can help protect against these stresses. Women involved in a good relationship had a greater ability to deal with difficulties at work, money shortages, and other stressful situations.

The researchers also found that older women avoided emotional distress better than younger women.

According to Gun-Mette Røsand from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, both mother and child can experience problems if emotional distress isn't identified and treated during pregnancy. In light of the study's findings, Røsand recommends that prenatal education should include relationship classes, and that close attention should be paid to women who do not have the support of a good relationship.

Depression impacts an estimated 15 million adults in the United States. Depression is a state of prolonged low mood and aversion to activity. A person's thoughts, behavior, feelings and physical well-being are affected and may include feelings of sadness, anxiety, emptiness, hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt, irritability, or restlessness. The primary treatments for major depression are psychological counseling and medications. Medication therapies include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs). SSRIs include: fluoxetine (Prozac®), paroxetine (Paxil®), sertraline (Zoloft®), citalopram (Celexa®) and escitalopram (Lexapro®). SNRIs include: duloxetine (Cymbalta®), venlafaxine (Effexor®) and desvenlafaxine (Pristiq®). Bupropion (Wellbutrin) is an NDRI. Atypical antidepressants include trazodone (Desyrel®) and mirtazapine (Remeron®). Each medication category has different side effects.

The Norwegian study is published in BMC Public Health

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 14, 2011
Last Updated:
March 14, 2011