FourFour Two: What happens when a pregnant woman’s depression gets too much?

When a pregnant mum and dad are struggling to cope with the depression of a new baby, it can be very difficult to get the support they need to cope.

A study from The University of Sydney suggests there’s a risk they may not be getting enough support from doctors, family doctors and GP’s to cope if they have depression during the pregnancy.

The research suggests that depression may be so bad that they are unable to cope or even stop themselves from doing something they normally would have done during pregnancy.

It is thought to be a common problem, and that a lack of support may cause depression in later life.

The study was carried out by Professor Richard Linnell from The School of Health Psychology at the University of NSW, and his colleagues, including Dr John Riddell, Professor John Smith and Dr Susanne Rehle, and Dr Rebecca O’Keefe.

The results were published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The team interviewed 1,000 Australian women and 4,000 fathers and asked them about their depression during their pregnancies.

The women and fathers were asked to rate their depression on a 10-point scale, where 0 indicates ‘completely normal’, 10 ‘quite normal’, 11 ‘quite abnormal’ and 12 ‘very abnormal’.

They were also asked to answer questions such as ‘Do you feel that you are in the middle of your own depression or you are not sure?’

It was also asked if they thought they had suffered a severe depressive episode in the past 12 months.

They were then asked to provide information about how they had managed their depression.

The researchers then asked the women and dads to report any side effects from the trial, including side effects such as weight gain, insomnia and headaches.

They also asked them to describe any other symptoms, including if they felt guilty, tired or anxious.

Dr Linnll said they found that while depression may affect both women and men, the relationship between women and their doctors and family doctors was the most important factor.

‘This research suggests the importance of addressing depression in the mother during pregnancy, particularly during the first six months of pregnancy, as the risk of depression increases during pregnancy and can lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes,’ he said.

‘Pregnant women with depression who are unable or unwilling to seek professional help for depression during this critical period should be able to have a safe, positive and supportive pregnancy.’

Dr Linsdale said more research needed to be done to better understand the role of the mother and her relationship with the baby during pregnancy to avoid giving women or fathers the false hope of a quick recovery.

He said that the research showed depression during a pregnancy can cause depression and that women may be able cope with depression when they get the help they need.

‘In this study, we found that depression in pregnancy was significantly associated with an increase in the risk for adverse pregnancy outcome, and the risk increased with increasing maternal depression severity,’ he explained.

‘The research is interesting and should help inform the way we approach maternal depression during pregnancies, as well as the potential benefits of interventions that address maternal depression at a very early stage.’

The research was funded by the Australian Research Council.

Dr Riddel said he was grateful for the support of his team at The University, and was excited to be able play a role in the research.

‘My primary focus in the second trimester is to help the mother recover, so it’s been really exciting to be involved in this research and to see how the research has been going,’ he told FourFourtwo.

‘As a mum, you’re dealing with the stress of having a new child, and as a doctor, you have a role to play in the care of a woman and baby.’

I’m really excited about the research and what it has uncovered about the impact of maternal depression on pregnancy outcomes.’

He said the researchers would like to explore other aspects of maternal mood in future research.