Pregnancy is one of life’s miracles, but sometimes it happens even when you’re not actively trying to conceive. Whether you’re in your early 40s and find out you’re pregnant with your third or fourth child when you thought you were done, in your early 20s and realize you need to look into single mother support, or just didn’t have any plans for another child on the way, unintended pregnancies can happen to anyone. Women deal with unplanned pregnancies in their own ways, but research has recently suggested that many women may be in the same boat when it comes to their mood.
Many new mothers experience the “baby blues” after giving birth, which usually involves some crying and mood swings as they get used to life as a parent. That’s pretty normal, but some moms experience a longer, more intense form of depression called postpartum depression. The baby blues are characterized by mood swings, anxiety, sadness, irritability, crying, decreased concentration and trouble sleeping. Postpartum depression includes those symptoms as well as loss of appetite, insomnia, intense irritability or anger, fatigue, lack of sexual interest, lack of joy, feelings of shame or guilt, difficulty bonding with the baby, withdrawal from friends and family, and thoughts of harming yourself of others.
If you notice any of these issues that last longer than two weeks, it’s time to see your health care provider, who can set you up with treatments involving counseling or medication.
Postpartum depression and unplanned pregnancies
A study from researchers at the University of North Carolina, published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, found that mothers whose pregnancies were unintended were at a higher risk of developing postpartum depression.
The researchers questioned 688 women who were 15 to 19 weeks pregnant and attending a pregnancy clinic whether they were having an intended, mistimed or unwanted pregnancy. Sixty-four percent of the pregnancies were intended, 30 percent were mistimed and 6 percent were unwanted. The mistimed and unwanted pregnancies were categorized as unintended.
The researchers checked in with the women when their babies were 3 months old. Of the women whose pregnancies were unintended, 11 percent had postpartum depression. Only 5 percent of those who had intended pregnancies were depressed.
A year later, researchers followed up with 550 women. Twelve percent of the women whose pregnancies were unintended had postpartum depression, while just 3 percent of the intended group had it. Overall, if the pregnancy was unintended, women were 2.1 times more likely to have postpartum depression after three months, and 3.6 times more likely to have it after one year compared to women with planned pregnancies.