Morning sickness, swollen ankles and a growing belly are just a few of the many physiological changes that women experience during pregnancy. The changes we can see are just the tip of the iceberg. Blood volume, bones, heart rate, skin and many other parts of a woman’s body function differently during pregnancy.
Pregnancy-related changes can sometimes lead to more serious health consequences for mother and baby during pregnancy and beyond. For example, gestational diabetes—a temporary condition in which the body can’t process sugar during pregnancy the way it usually does—can lead to a higher risk of other pregnancy complications, including having a large baby and increased chances of developing diabetes mellitus down the road. Now researchers have found a link between gestational diabetes and depression during pregnancy, a condition which affects an estimated 13 percent of moms-to-be.
A recent study showed that women who had more symptoms of depression in the first and second trimesters were at the greatest risk of developing gestational diabetes. The study also found that women who had gestational diabetes were four times more likely to develop postpartum depression after giving birth. Researchers say the relationship between the two conditions needs more study, but they think that the chemical changes in the brain that occur with depression during pregnancy may affect how we break down sugar.
These links emphasize the need to tune in to emotional shifts that many pregnant women experience. When crying jags and lack of energy lasts for more than two weeks or if symptoms get increasingly worse, it may be more than just pregnancy hormones at work. Women should also look out for the physical symptoms of depression which may include:
- general aches and pains
- stomach problems
- loss of appetite (which may sometimes be mistaken for a side effect of morning sickness)
Now that doctors are learning more about the link between depression and gestational diabetes, they can monitor their patients more closely for both conditions during pregnancy. For more information about depression during and after pregnancy, visit the federal Office on Women’s Health website.