What’s Making Depressed Mom’s Deliver Early?

Written by yvonnethornton on July 30th, 2012

Nothing messes with our hormone’s more than pregnancy, which is why we feel so emotional during that time.  These emotions can certainly run the gamut, but when a tearful moment turns into weeks of depression, it’s time to call your physician.  There are studies pointing to depression as a factor when it comes to some premature births.  Besides that, it is simply a dangerous state in general for a pregnant or new mom to be in.

Researchers for the North Shore University Health System at the University of Chicago studied 14,000 pregnant women.  Their results showed that among the women who were clinically depressed, 14% delivered before their due date.  In women who were not depressed, preterm births were only at 10%.  Although 4% may not seem like much, when you’re talking about the health of your newborn, 4% is a big increase in odds.  The study did include socioeconomic factors as well, but did not study some other confounding variables.  Despite those flaws, the study found depression to be the common thread in many of the preterm births.

However, this doesn’t mean that being depressed will definitely lead an early delivery.  The way people handle depression can also affect their health and the health of their unborn baby.  Women using antidepressants, eating more comfort foods, drinking or using drugs could all be increasing these odds by not taking care of their depression properly.  Fewer than half of pregnant women in the U.S. are screened for depression. It’s always a good idea to seek out the advice of a physician before self-medicating, whether you are pregnant or not.  A good physician will try to determine the underlying cause of your depression instead of simply treating it.  Also, while it hasn’t been proven that antidepressants themselves may be linked to preterm births absolutely, there are studies suggesting a correlation.  Upon speaking with your physician, they may be able to offer alternative therapies for treating your depression rather than trying to prescribe medication to stop preterm birth——because that medication usually is ineffective with potentially harmful side-effects.

This information isn’t really surprising, as stress has long been known to have negative effects on pregnancy.  With depression being yet another source of stress for soon-to-be mom’s, and a medically-diagnosed one at that, you would be wise to take note of your mood.  It probably won’t stop swinging, but at least that’s better than slipping into long-term sadness.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.



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