Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), most commonly known as Seasonal Depression affects over 10 million people a year. If you have ever experienced it, you understand its effects and how hard it can be to push yourself through the winter. Some people joke about this and blame their laziness on it, but it is not a laughing matter.
Suffering from Seasonal Depression is already a battle, but adding in a pregnancy throughout the same timeframe can really hit you hard. Technically, a doctor will not diagnose SAD until you have experienced the symptoms throughout the same season for three consecutive years, but I’ll tell you from experience that it doesn’t take but one season to really know that you have it.
We have lived in the southeast our entire lives, and moved to Northern Virginia 1.5 years ago, in January. The first few months were fun, as we had never lived in snow before. But the following winter hit me hard. I didn’t want to socialize, was tired, grumpy, just all around miserable. I had no idea what seasonal depression even was, seeing as how my Christmases have always been spent on a beach. Vitamin D has been in ample supply my entire life, until winter in the “North.” (This is very north for us!)
I started feeling better the same time our flowers began to bloom in the spring. I started researching and realized that it wasn’t just a funk, but actual depression that had beaten me down.
Here we are, about to start another winter. There’s one big thing that is different though: I’m Pregnant. I am determined not to let this year’s weather beat me down.
Symptoms linked only to SAD (not full depression): http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/sad
- Depression: misery, guilt, loss of self-esteem, hopelessness, despair, and apathy
- Anxiety: tension and inability to tolerate stress
- Moodchanges: extremes of mood, especially dealing with rejection
- Sleep problems: desire to oversleep and difficulty staying awake or, sometimes, disturbed sleep and early morning waking
- Irritability: Cranky feelings towards others
- Lethargy: feeling of fatigue and inability to carry out normal routine
- Feeling Heavy: The arms and legs feel heavier and harder to utilize
- Overeating, Appetite Changes, and Weight Gain: craving for starchy and sweet foods resulting in weight gain
- Socialproblems: irritability and desire to avoid social contact
- Sexualproblems: loss of libido and decreased interest in physical contact
The above symptoms are common for those experiencing seasonal depression, but what can we do about it? How can we prevent it from occurring? Especially while pregnant?
Pregnancy has a way of making us feel sluggish and tired without the struggle of Winter Blues. Our little growing fetus needs so much, and we just feel depleted.
If we don’t treat Seasonal Depression or Winter Blues, as pregnant women, we are putting ourselves at risk for the following:
- Bonding and Attachment problems when baby is born
- Addiction or Substance Abuse
- Postpartum Depression
- Low Birth Weight for baby
- Gestational Diabetes
- Premature Birth
- Low APGAR Score
- Health Problems for baby
We have the ability to change this. We need to tackle winter head on! We know what is coming, so let’s set a plan and put it to action. Sure, we will struggle and have crappy days, but we will beat the blues this year and enjoy our pregnancies!
Exercise Goals: Saying you will exercise is not enough. Set a goal. “I will walk 10 miles a week.” (On a treadmill, outside, whatever.) Order a prenatal yoga DVD, or something with higher energy to get your blood flowing!
- Regular exercise is a powerful way to fight seasonal depression, especially if you’re able to exercise outside in natural daylight. http://www.helpguide.org/articles/exercise-fitness/emotional-benefits-of-exercise.htm
- Regular exercise can boost serotonin, endorphins, and other feel-good brain chemicals. In fact, exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication.
- Exercise can also help to improve your sleep and boost your self-esteem.
- Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of activity on most days. Even something as simple as walking a dog, for example, can be good exercise for you and the animal, as well as a great way to get outdoors and interact with other people.
Eat Well: Feeling down triggers the body to crave and eat sugar and carbohydrates, as well as processed foods. This can cause unnecessary weight gain, gestational diabetes, and many health problems. Cut down (or eliminate) gluten and possibly dairy, as it is an inflammatory. Eat small meals often to keep blood sugar leveled.
Go Outside: Fresh air speaks to the soul. Even in the dead of winter, go outside and see the sky, breathe the air, and connect with the earth.
PLAY: Play music, dance, laugh, and find a happy moment in each day. Light a candle, diffuse essential oils, cook your favorite meal, just stop and enjoy the day.
Socialize: It is the last thing you want to do when depressed, but being around happiness can be contagious. Call a friend on the phone, meet for lunch, or just sit at a coffee shop and be surrounded by happiness.
Supplement: It’s no secret that the body is lacking in nutrients when depressed. Stick with high quality products that have little to no fillers, dyes, or sugars.
- Vitamin D: Multiple studies and ample research all prove that VitaminD drops drastically during the fall and winter months. With this drop, the body’s immune system is at risk for illness, major depression, and seasonal affective disorder. Vitamin D helps boost mood, the immune system and heart health. Supplementing with Vitamin D is needed by everyone, not just those at risk for winter blues.
- Omega 3: Studies show that Omega 3 is beneficial in the treatment of depression.
Chiropractic Care: A great chiropractor is worth his weight in gold. Not only can he make sure the body is properly preparing for labor by assisting baby into a good birth position, but he can keep the body in alignment, helping to process stressful situations.
Acupuncture: Well-known for the therapeutic results, acupuncture can heal or prevent (or at least help) the body process stress and handle depression. With no risk to the fetus, this is a great preventative measure to try.
Himalayan Salt Lamp: Salt lamps are known to purify the air by balancing the ions. This helps with health issues such as asthma, but it can also help “de-fog” the mind. There are specific Himalayan salt lamps made to beat the winter blues, and I will be investing in one as a holiday gift to myself this year! (You can never have enough salt lamps in the home.)
Light Therapy: Talk to your health care provider about utilizing a light therapy SAD lamp. Morning is the best time to sit and soak in the light, as it will help your mood throughout the entire day.
Seasonal Depression is not to be taken lightly, especially when there are two lives affected by the illness. Take steps to prevent winter blues from effecting you and your growing baby this season!