When winter arrives, it’s easy to get in a bum mood. The days are shorter; there’s less daylight to enjoy; and the weather is cold and miserable, especially when it’s snowy outside and you’re cooped up inside the house.
Winter depression – called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects over 20 million people every year. It also affects many pregnant women.
An estimated 14 to 23 percent of pregnant women experience depression, and this depression can also lead to full-blown postpartum depression after the baby is born.
But when you are pregnant, how do you cope with your winter depression?
Anti-Depressants During Pregnancy
Although using anti-depressants during pregnancy may be necessary for women who are suicidal or with severe depression, if your depression is mild or moderate, you may want to stay away from using any medications.
When you’re pregnant, any medicines that you take may have consequences for your baby.
The use of anti-depressants during pregnancy remains a controversial topic. For example, women with clinical depression who are taking antidepressants on a regular basis who suddenly stop cold turkey are more likely to relapse into depression. This can have very negative consequences for the pregnancy and baby. For example, these women may not properly care of themselves during pregnancy, and they may have trouble bonding with their baby after he or she is born.
Taking anti-depressants in pregnancy do come with certain risks, however.
Research has been inconsistent in determining whether anti-depressants (SSRIs) increase your baby’s risk for birth defects. However, there’s some evidence that seems to show that heart defects, anencephaly (a serious birth defect that occurs when a baby is born without part of his brain and/or skull), and limb malformation has been linked to the use of anti-depressants in pregnancy. The risk for birth defects seems to be low, but to be safe, you may want to avoid anti-depressants in pregnancy.
If you are pregnant and suffering with winter depression, you should consider looking for natural ways of brightening your mood and feeling better.
Light Therapy and Winter Depression
Light therapy for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can offer an effective and helpful way to feel better.
Although the cause of winter depression isn’t completely understood, researchers believe it may be linked to the lack of sunlight exposure in the winter. For this reason, SAD lights can be very effective to improving your mood.
Sunlight is believed to stimulate the part of your brain that controls your mood, sleep and appetite. For this reason, when you lack sunlight exposure in the winter months, it can cause you to be moody and irritable. Your sleep patterns can change – you might oversleep or not sleep enough. You may also not want to eat as much, or you may want to overeat.
SAD lights can be very effective because it mimics the sunlight. You’re basically tricking your brain to think you’re in the sunlight. When you use a sunlight on a regular basis, you can lift your mood naturally and feel much better.
Light therapy boxes for seasonal affective disorder are great for pregnant women, because it’s a natural treatment option. All you have to do is sit with the SAD light near your face for 30 minutes every day.
SAD lights are pretty affordable. On Amazon, you can find them between $40 – $150. They come in a variety of shapes with various features. The one that I use during the winter is NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy Lamp, available for $68. It has a built-in timer that automatically turns off when the time is up. It works great for my winter depression.
Ideally, you will want to choose a SAD Light with an intensity of 10,000-lux light. You can easily read a book, work on your computer, knit or just relax under the light. Although you can use the light at any time of the day or night, studies have indicated that light therapy for winter depression is most effective when you use it in the morning.
Exercise and Be Active
Another way that you can fight winter depression in pregnancy is to stay active. If you’re not already, exercise on a regular basis. Even taking a walk around the house, or just getting up and moving around can also improve your mood.
The American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that you are active and exercise at least half an hour on most days. Exercising during pregnancy can greatly improve your mood, in addition it helps with your muscle tone and strength. In fact, did you know that women who exercise regularly when pregnancy are more likely to have easier labors and deliveries?
When To Go See a Doctor
Seasonal affective disorder tends to ease up in the spring, when the weather is warmer. If you believe you are suffering from clinical depression and not SAD in pregnancy, and you need help, please make an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss your emotional issues. You may need professional help to cope with your depression.