Can depression in women run in families?
Yes. Depression can run in families. When it does, it generally starts between the ages of 15 and 30. A family link to depression is much more common in women.
Depression in women differs from depression in men in several ways:
- Depression in women may occur earlier, last longer, be more likely to reoccur, be more likely to be associated with stressful life events, and be more sensitive to seasonal changes.
- Women are more likely to experience guilty feelings and attempt suicide, although they actually commit suicide less often than men.
- Depression in women is more likely to be associated with anxiety disorders, especially panic and phobic symptoms, and eating disorders.
- Depressed women are less likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs.
How are PMS and PMDD related to depression in women?
As many as three out of every four menstruating women experience premenstrual syndrome or PMS. PMS is a disorder characterized by emotional and physical symptoms that fluctuate in intensity from one menstrual cycle to the next. Women in their 20s or 30s are usually affected.
About 3% to 5% of menstruating women experience premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD. PMDD is a severe form of PMS, marked by highly emotional and physical symptoms that usually become more severe seven to 10 days before the onset of menstruation.
In the last decade, these conditions have become recognized as important causes of discomfort and behavioral change in women. While the precise link between PMS, PMDD, and depression is still unclear, chemical changes in the brain and fluctuating hormone levels are both thought to be contributing factors.
How are PMS and PMDD treated?
Many women who suffer with depression along with PMS or PMDD find improvement through exercise or meditation. For individuals with severe symptoms, medicine, individual or group psychotherapy, or stress management may be helpful.
Does depression in women occur during pregnancy?
Pregnancy has long been viewed as a period of well-being that protected women against psychiatric disorders. But depression in women occurs almost as commonly in pregnant women as it does in those who are not pregnant. The factors which increase the risk of depression in women during pregnancy are:
- having a history of depression or PMDD
- age at time of pregnancy -- the younger you are, the higher the risk
- living alone
- limited social support
- marital conflict
- uncertainty about the pregnancy
What is the impact of depression on pregnancy?The potential impact of depression on a pregnancy includes the following:
Pregnancy may have the following impact on depression in women:
- Depression can interfere with a woman's ability to care for herself during pregnancy. She may be less able to follow medical recommendations and to sleep and eat properly.
- Depression can cause a woman to use substances such as tobacco, alcohol, and/or illegal drugs, which could harm the baby.
- Depression can make bonding with the baby difficult.
Preparing for a new baby is lots of hard work. But your health should come first. Resist the urge to get everything done, cut down on your chores, and do things that will help you relax. In addition, talking about things that concern you is very important. Talk to your friends, your partner, and your family. If you ask for support, you will find you often get it.If you're feeling down and anxious, consider seeking therapy. Ask your doctor or midwife for a referral to a mental health care professional.
- The stresses of pregnancy can cause depression or a recurrence or worsening of depression symptoms.
- Depression during pregnancy can increase the risk for having depression after delivery (called postpartum depression).
How is depression in women treated during pregnancy?Growing evidence suggests that many of the currently available antidepressant medicines are safe for treating depression during pregnancy, at least in terms of the potential short-term effects on the baby. Long-term effects continue to be studied. Risks can differ depending on medication. Untreated depression can put both mother and infant at risk. You should discuss the possible risks and benefits of treatment with your doctor.
How is postpartum depression in women treated?Postpartum depression, or depression following childbirth, can be treated like other forms of depression. That means using medicines and/or psychotherapy. If a woman is breastfeeding, the decision to take an antidepressant must be made with her doctor after a discussion of risks and benefits. According to the NIH, problems to nursing infants from mothers taking antidepressants are few.
Does the prevalence of depression in women increase at midlife?Perimenopause is the stage of a woman's reproductive life that begins eight to 10 years before menopause. In the last one to two years of perimenopause, the decrease in estrogen accelerates. At this stage, many women experience menopausal symptoms.Menopause is the period of time when a woman stops having her monthly period and experiences symptoms related to the lack of estrogen production. By definition, a woman is in menopause after her periods have stopped for one year. Menopause typically occurs in a woman's late 40s to early 50s. However, women who have their ovaries surgically removed undergo "sudden" menopause.The drop in estrogen levels during perimenopause and menopause triggers physical and emotional changes -- such as depression or anxiety. Like at any other point in a woman's life, there is a relationship between hormone levels and physical and emotional symptoms. Some physical changes include irregular or skipped periods, heavier or lighter periods, and hot flashes.