Christine Doherty Ashley, currently six months pregnant, realizes that her first trimester was fraught with depression. Now, with the perspective of an improved mood, Ashley recalls being particularly judgmental of her doldrums, questioning, "Am I allowed to say I'm sad or that I hate how I feel?" Nausea kept her on the couch and logistics kept her isolated: She was a high school teacher on summer break, had just moved to a new town, and she and her husband were not yet sharing the news because, at 41, she was at higher risk of early miscarriage. "It was a perfect storm," she explains.
Depression in pregnancy not only causes mom to suffer; it can also pose health risks to the baby. Research published today in the journal Human Reproduction found that women with symptoms of depression were more likely to experience a preterm birth. The greater the severity of depression symptoms, the greater the likelihood of early delivery. This research adds "strong evidence that depression during pregnancy is bad for the fetus," says lead study author De-Kun Li, reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente's Division of Research in Oakland, Calif., "This should not be dismissed anymore." Preterm birth, write the study authors, is the leading cause of infant mortality and medical expenditures for newborns.
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