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It might if it goes untreated. If you have depression while you're pregnant, it's important that you get the help you need – both for your health and your baby's health.
Pregnant women who get treatment for depression are less likely to use unhealthy coping behaviors, such as smoking, and more likely to get consistent prenatal care and eat a healthy diet.
On the other hand, pregnant women who don't get treated for depression show higher levels of the prenatal stress hormone cortisol compared to healthy women. This may be one reason why women who are depressed during pregnancy are more likely to give birth prematurely and have a baby with a low birth weight.
Newborns of depressed moms also show significantly higher levels of the stress hormones themselves, compared to those born to healthy mothers. This can make these babies more reactive to stress, temperamentally difficult, and especially challenging to care for and soothe.
In the long run, there's some evidence that children exposed to maternal depression in pregnancy face more social and emotional problems (such as aggression and other behavior problems) as young children. But some researchers suggest this may be the case only if depression continues to go untreated after your child is born.
If you're suffering from depression during pregnancy, talk with your provider about your treatment options. You may need to weigh the risks and benefits of taking certain medications, considering the stage of your pregnancy, the severity of your depression, and the likelihood of relapse.
You may also want to include nonmedicinal alternatives in your treatment plan. Talk therapy, exercise, prenatal yoga, bright light therapy, and meditation or mindfulness practice are all good options to try.
And even if you haven't ever been diagnosed with depression but are having symptoms of the condition, you could be developing postpartum depression – many women experience their first symptoms during pregnancy.
Visit the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's website for more information and to find an MFM specialist near you.