This purpose of this article is to bring awareness to women who experience perinatal depression, as well as women who experience postpartum depression, up until the first year, after giving birth, and how these depressive symptoms affect not only the mother, but also, the fetus in utero, and the child, all throughout the life stages of development (infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood). It also serves to give interventions to nurses who work closely with patients who are experiencing depression, or who are at risk.
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Perinatal depression can have a range of symptoms and emotions which can be classified as mild or severe. It can affect any woman, but higher rates have been found in women who come from a low socioeconomic background, as well as women who have faced major life stressors and who have a history of mental illness. Women who experience depression during pregnancy tend to forget to care for themselves, they are also more likely to have pre-term babies, or babies with low birth weight. Their depressive state can cause them not to take safety precautions in regards to the infant (Goodman, 2019).
During the early infant/early child hood stage, a child learns to develop loving bonds with those around them, especially the caregiver. They should feel emotionally secure, and have their need met. In the first year of a child is a very important time, because there is a lot of cognitive growth taking place, if nurtured in a healthy way. Because newborns of depressed mothers may not get lot of healthy maternal-infant interaction, they tend to have problems with sleeping and difficult temperaments (Goodman, 2019).
Research shown that there is a correlation between the levels of the stress hormone, cortisone, and the neurotransmitter, serotonin of depressed pregnant women on the fetus. If fetus receives an excessive amount of both cortisol and serotonin. This results in the child being at risk for mental health disorders and behavioral issues (Goodman, 2019).
Depressed women who fail to display any sort of positive facial expressions or affection, toward their baby tend see their infant exhibit similar dysfunction. The baby’s response in turn affects the depressed mother, who begins to feel even more depressed. This dysfunction also sets the kid up for behavior issues later on in life (Goodman, 2019). Not all children of depressed mother have been affected negatively. It really depends on the severity of depression. It has been shown that the children of women who have been depressed all throughout their pregnancy, was negatively affected more (Goodman, 2019).
Both pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments exist for women who are pregnant and have depression. Most women prefer non-pharmacological means of controlling depression because research is unclear on the effects that medication for depression has on the fetus. Psychotherapy is the first line of treatment, followed by medication, if psychotherapy is not sufficient (Goodman, 2019).
Most of research have been geared towards women who have experienced perinatal depression, but not enough research has been focused on how the child the depressed mother is affected. There now exists research that aims to provide interventions to not only provide the mother with support to ameliorate the effects of depression, but to improve the mother-infant interaction (Goodman, 2019).
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There are several interventions that nurses can implement to help women cope with depression during pregnancy. Psychiatric nurse practitioners need to be trained and help clients who are at risk for and suffer from depression develop a plan for their mental well-being. The psychiatric nurse practitioner should be trained on perinatal depression, both pharmacological and non-pharmacological means of treatment available, and be trained on infant development and child parenting. Routine screenings of depression should be conducted at every prenatal visit. For patients who doesn’t have access to treatment, there needs to be alternatives set in place to assure that the patient gets the help that they need. Because maternal depression affects children, there needs to be more teaching geared to help prepare patients for parenthood. Nurses should also encourage patients to bring their infant to their visits to observe how the mothers interact with their child. This is helps he care provider screen for potential symptoms of depression (Goodman, 2019).
Perinatal depression has a negative impact on patient care when untreated. There are women that suffer in silence because there are not enough routine screenings to detect depression before and during their pregnancy, as well as interventions set in place to provide relief. This negatively affects the fetus in utero, infant, and child, emotionally, socially, and cognitively. With routine screening, and intervention are set in place, it benefits both the mother and the child.
- Goodman, Janice H. (2019). Prenatal depression and infant mental health. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 33(3), 217-224. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.10161j.apnu.2019.01.010
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