Discomfort during pregnancy is nothing new, but it is typically something most of us can handle – especially when we think of the miraculous outcome!
But for some expectant moms, so-called “morning sickness” can last through the pregnancy — and can be debilitating.
And now one study is connecting this difficult time for moms with a lasting effect that can have devastating consequences for the whole family.
When we feel seriously ill, it doesn’t just affect our physical body, but also our spirit. We typically don’t have much interest in what’s going on or what we need to get done – we simply want to feel better.
There really is truth to that old saying, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything,” because when we feel unwell, it impacts every other part of our lives. We aren’t able to participate in the activities we love, and we often aren’t able to do the things we’d like for our family.
While “morning sickness” can vary from being a temporary annoyance to severe enough to require hospitalization, one thing is clear: Long-term physical illness of any kind can be a drain on our mental health.
While nearly 90 percent of pregnant women experience episodes of food aversions, nausea, and vomiting in early pregnancy, the most severe morning sickness, referred to as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), can last well into the second and third trimesters.
It is estimated that one-half of a percent to 3 percent of pregnant women are affected by HG across the globe, and many must be hospitalized for its effects, such as dehydration and extreme nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.
And then there’s the mental component to feeling so severely ill, just at the time you’re trying to take the best care of your health possible for the child you’re carrying.
So it may come as no surprise that this condition can increase the risk of depression both during and after pregnancy, compounding the already common symptoms of postpartum depression that many women experience.
One study conducted by physicians at Imperial College in London found that women who suffer with HG during pregnancy are four times more likely to have postpartum depression, and many have such severe symptoms that they have reported thoughts of suicide.
This particular study involved more than 200 women in their first trimester of pregnancy, half of whom were diagnosed with HG and had to be hospitalized for the condition.
Of those hospitalized for HG, half reported seeking treatment for symptoms of depression during pregnancy, and one-third had serious symptoms of postpartum depression.
It was also found that women fortunate enough to avoid morning sickness in the first trimester reported feelings of depression far less frequently, both during pregnancy and after birth, offering further proof of a connection between HG and depression.
And HG did not just negatively impact the women suffering from the condition.
Long periods of illness can lead to strain on personal relationships, anxiety about juggling the needs of other children in the family, and stress related to missing work and income from lost hours on the job.
Too often, women suffering from HG lack the necessary support they need to take care of themselves. Many have other children at home with no other caregiver available to help, and many need to continue working full-time to help meet the family’s financial needs.
This research, along with other studies on the effects of serious illness during pregnancy, have brought to light the need for greater support and resources for women experiencing a difficult pregnancy.
These physicians hope to create a better approach for women to receive support in terms of therapy, childcare, leaves of absence from work, and overall health.
Pregnancy is a milestone in every couple’s life. There are great joys and anticipation, but there can also be anxiety and concern surrounding this life-changing event.
When serious physical illness compounds these anxieties and concerns, the whole family must be given extra support, understanding, and compassion – especially when symptoms of serious depression are reported.
With better understanding of the impact of HG on mental health, doctors and therapists can provide more targeted support to both parents, as well as to friends and family members who may be able to help provide a safety net for the family’s benefit.
The mind and body connection is especially important during pregnancy, and further research on this connection is planned to help women better enjoy this miraculous time in their lives.
(h/t Mommy Underground)