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What kind of treatment is available for depression while trying to conceive?

Depression is a mood disorder that impairs your ability to experience (and enjoy) a normal state of mind. Since depression is at least partially caused by changes in brain chemistry, it isn’t typically just something that a person can ‘deal with’ or move on from. That’s why treatment for depression is so important, especially when you’re trying to conceive (TTC).

Treatments for depression while trying to conceive

One of the hardest things about depression is that it sounds just like the voice in your head, and it can be convincing – but what it says isn’t in line with the truth. If you’ve been struggling with depression while TTC or if this is your first time experiencing it, you might have had some of the following thoughts, all of which feel totally real but are actually your depression speaking.

  • I’m not meant to be a mother
  • I don’t deserve to be pregnant anyway
  • Something is wrong with me
  • I did something wrong
  • I’ve failed myself/my partner/my family
  • I’m useless because I can’t get pregnant and raise a child
  • Everyone is better off without me being a parent

The truth is, these thoughts stem from your depression and aren’t correct in the least. In reality, your TTC journey doesn’t say anything about who you are as a person. Nor does it say anything about what is meant to be or what you and your family deserve. It’s important to be able to recognize these thoughts for what they are so that you can start working on improving your mental health.

Therapy for treatment

Sometimes a provider will ask you to try talk therapy, especially if this is your first experience with depression. One kind of talk therapy, called Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, has been proven to be particularly helpful while TTC. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is a type of talk therapy that helps people identify certain unhealthy thoughts (like the ones above) and change them, slowly over time. Your provider might ask that you see a mental health professional by yourself, or that you attend group therapy sessions.

According to a statement from the Office on Women’s Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, studies have shown that people who undergo talk therapy during infertility treatments were more likely to get pregnant than those who didn’t go to talk therapy. So there is some evidence to support that therapy can actually increase your chances of conceiving.

Antidepressants for treatment

Your provider might prescribe you antidepressants. Whether or not you are prescribed them will depend on a number of factors, all of which your provider can assess, but there’s no doubt that for some people medication is extremely beneficial in helping with depression.

  • Safety: It’s completely understandable that you’d be wary about the effects of antidepressants. While research on antidepressants during pregnancy is limited due to the fact that it’s unethical to experiment with such thing, enough research is out there to show that certain medications have little to no effects on a developing fetus. These include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), or paroxetine (Paxil).
  • People who are already on antidepressants: For people who are already on antidepressants, if they’re on one that has safety concerns during pregnancy, their provider may have them switch to an antidepressant that is safer.
  • The bottom line: Medication is enormously helpful for many people, and depending on various factors, it could also be helpful for you. Some antidepressants have more research to support that they’re safe to use while TTC and also during pregnancy. Don’t stop or switch your medication until you speak to your provider, as they can help you weigh the risks and benefits of a change.

In addition to treatment: Things that can help

Medication and therapy are without a doubt the most important options to consider when treating depression. And there are other things you can consider doing to support your mental health on a day-to-day basis.

  • Take time to regularly focus on yourself. Ask yourself what you need, and then make a point to meet that need.
  • Find positive things to do when you notice yourself exhibiting signs of depression.
  • Stay aware of your mental and emotional state. If something is causing you anxiety, worry, or sadness, be mindful of the fact that whatever it is might not be the best choice for you.
  • Get regular physical activity.
  • Rely on your support system. Reach out to a partner, friends, or a family member to create a small community that you can rely on for different things.
  • Try to avoid mood-altering substances. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that depressed people tend to seek out these things. But the health risks that come with alcohol and drugs, and also prolonged exposure to either, aren’t worth it in the long run. Not only is it unsafe to drink while taking antidepressants, mind-altering substances like alcohol actually tend to enhance depressive feelings.

Depression is serious, common, and sometimes, a long-term illness that can impact parents trying to conceive. It can be hard then to remember that depression is a treatable illness, but it is treatable. And starting getting treated for depression will make a world of difference in a TTC journey.

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Cognitive behavioral therapy” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Feb 23 2016. Web.
  • “Depression” ADAA. Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Aug 2016. Web.
  • “Major Depression Among Adults.” NIMH. National Institute of Mental Health, 2015. Web.
  • Daniel K. Hall-Flavin. “Why is it bad to mix antidepressants and alcohol?” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Jun 12 2014. Web.

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