Look out for postpartum depression in unintended pregnancies

While pregnancy should be a time where you feel excited for the new addition to your family, that is not always the case. Unintended pregnancies are extremely common, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that, in 2006, an estimated 49 percent of pregnancies were unplanned. Often, women end up embracing their unplanned pregnancy, but sometimes getting used to the idea of having a child when you were not planning on it can be difficult. 

Recently, researchers from the University of North Carolina found that women who experience an unintended pregnancy are four times more likely to experience postpartum depression one year after giving birth than those who planned to have a child. 

Watch out for signs 
To come to their conclusions, the scientists questioned women about their initial pregnancy intentions when they were between 15 and 19 weeks along. They found that, out of the more than 600 women surveyed, 64 percent had been trying to conceive, 30 percent had a mistimed pregnancy and 6 percent said their pregnancies were unwanted. For the purposes of this study, the researches classified both mistimed and unwanted pregnancies as unintended. 

The researchers then followed up with these women after they gave birth and found that, three months after having their babies, women with unintended pregnancies were more likely to experience postpartum depression than women with planned pregnancies. The difference was 11 percent compared to 5 percent. At 12 months after giving birth, the number of women with postpartum depression was 12 percent for unintended pregnancies, and 3 percent for intended ones. 

The scientists said that these findings suggest that experiencing an unintended pregnancy could have a lasting impact on women, and clinicians should take notice. 

"Unintended pregnancy carried to term may have a long-term effect on women. Healthcare professionals should therefore consider asking about pregnancy at early antepartum visits to screen for unintended pregnancy as women who report that their pregnancy was unintended or unwanted may benefit from earlier or more targeted screening both during and following pregnancy," said researcher Rebecca Mercier, M.D., from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at UNC. 

Mike Marsh, editor-in-chief of BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, where the study was published, added that unintended pregnancy has also been associated with other issues. For example, women with unintended pregnancies have been shown to have a higher risk of experiencing poor prenatal care, high-risk pregnancy behaviors, low birth weight, increased rates of preterm birth, higher medical costs and having children with social issues. 

What can you do
There is always a chance that you may experience postpartum depression whether your pregnancy was intended or not. If you do, there are things you can do to help yourself. For example, the Mayo Clinic recommends that you be honest with your healthcare provider about how you're feeling, so they can help determine if you simply need counseling, or if medication may be warranted. 

Also, the clinic suggests that, to help combat this issue, you should make healthy lifestyle choices that could improve your mood, such as choosing healthy foods, exercising regularly and avoiding alcohol. You should also be sure to make time for yourself. Ask your partner, friend or family member to look after your baby for a few hours so you can relax and focus on trying to feel more positive. 

In the end, remember, communication is key. You shouldn't feel ashamed or embarrassed if you are experiencing postpartum depression, since many women do and successfully overcome it.

Did you experience postpartum depression? What did you do to cope? Tell your story here!