Pregnancy Nutrition : Special Pre-Pregnancy Conditions - Asthma , Depression

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1. Asthma

Asthma is defined as a chronic respiratory disease that affects some 10 million American adults. Asthma is characterized by periods of inflammation or swelling of the airways, increased sensitivity of the airways to a variety of irritants, and obstruction of airflow. Many factors can cause symptoms of asthma to flare up, including allergies, irritants, infections (such as bronchial infections), exercise, weather, gastric reflux, and hormonal changes. This condition can be very manageable even during pregnancy and delivery with good medical care, monitoring, and medication. However, asthma can affect pregnant women in a number of different ways.

Some women experience an increase in symptoms, such as a greater number of attacks or an increase in the severity of the attacks. This is more common if the pre-existing asthma was severe or if asthma was worsened by a previous pregnancy. Most women notice no change in their symptoms, and a few may notice an improvement in their condition. Asthma that is not under control during pregnancy can threaten your health and your baby’s. The goal of treatment should be to keep you and your baby healthy and breathing normally.

If you have asthma, you should have your condition under control before becoming pregnant. This means understanding how to deal with it and being aware of the causes for your asthma episodes. As with any pre-pregnancy medical condition, you should visit your doctor before trying to become pregnant. During this visit, make sure you have your condition under control, that all medications you are taking are safe during pregnancy, and that you know how your condition will be dealt with during the pregnancy. This is an opportunity for you and your doctor to develop an action plan. This will ensure a safer pregnancy and will cause less anxiety about your condition during pregnancy.

No matter what the severity of your condition is, treatment options and lifestyle changes should be discussed with both your attending doctor and your OB/GYN before you become pregnant.

Managing Asthma During Pregnancy

It is important to work with your doctor and your OB/GYN during your pregnancy to safely manage your asthma. Your breathing ensures an optimal oxygen supply for your baby. Working closely with your doctor will enable him to take the safest approach to treating your condition and to use the least amount of medication possible. Most of the drugs used to treat asthma are safe for use during pregnancy. As with any medication use during pregnancy, the benefits need to be weighed against the risks. Medications that may be used include preventers such as steroid inhalers, relievers or bron-chodilators; long-acting relievers; and steroid tablets or injections. The type, frequency, and amount used will depend on your individual case and how frequent and severe your symptoms are. Uncontrolled asthma can be detrimental to a baby as well as the mother, and proper treatment often requires the use of medication. Sometimes it is simply a case of adjusting the dosage of the medication you are already taking to help control your asthma with minimal side effects to the pregnancy.

In addition to medication, other steps can be taken to control asthma, such as eliminating as much as possible typical allergens and irritants from your environment. Most people living with asthma are aware of their individual triggers. These may include pets, cigarette smoke, household dust, and environmental allergens such as pollen. Other triggers that may precipitate an attack include stress. It is essential to schedule and keep routine visits so that your doctor can accurately assess the respiratory function of both you and your baby. It is important to take your medication as directed.

2. Depression

Pregnancy should be a happy time in a woman’s life, but many women struggle with depression while they are pregnant. In fact, about 20 percent of women suffer from depression during pregnancy, and 10 percent experience severe depression. Depression is a mood disorder that affects about one in four women at some point in their lives. Many times it is difficult to diagnose during pregnancy because it is assumed that symptoms are due to hormonal imbalances. Depression is an illness that can be properly managed and treated during pregnancy.

Mood disorders, such as depression, are biological illnesses that many times involve changes in the chemistry of the brain. During pregnancy, hormonal changes can affect the brain chemicals that are related to feelings of depression and anxiety.

Weighing the Risks

If untreated during pregnancy, depression can cause risks to the mother and the baby. It can lead to poor nutrition, weight loss, little sleep, drinking alcohol, smoking, illegal drug use, and/or suicidal behavior, which can lead to premature birth, low birth weight, birth defects, and developmental problems. Women who are depressed have a hard time caring for themselves properly, which can cause problems. Depression can arise during pregnancy, but it can also be a pre-existing condition. If you suffer from depression, it should be under control with therapy and medication, if necessary, before you consider having a baby. You should talk with both your doctor and therapist about your desire to have a baby. Depression during pregnancy can also put you at a higher risk for postpartum depression after the baby is born.

Signs of Depression

Signs of depression usually present themselves for two weeks or more. Some of these may include the following:

• Persistent sadness

• Difficulty concentrating

• Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much

• Loss of interest in activities that you usually enjoy

• Anxiety

• Feelings of guilt

• Negative self-image

• Reoccurring thoughts of hopelessness, death, or suicide

• Change in eating habits

Depression can be triggered during pregnancy by many different events, including relationship problems, history of family or personal depression, fertility treatments, previous miscarriage, stressful life events, complications in pregnancy, and history of abuse or trauma.

Never treat your depression with herbal supplements without speaking with your doctor first. Many herbal supplements, even though they are natural, can be harmful to your baby.

Treating Depression

First and foremost, if you feel you are struggling with depression, you should seek immediate help. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and feelings. Your doctor can discuss the treatment options that will be the healthiest for you and your baby. Treatment options can include private psychotherapy, support groups, medication, and/or alternative therapies such as Reiki, light therapy, or touch therapy. If your condition is severe, your doctor may prescribe medication immediately. Medications proven to be safe during pregnancy include Paxil, Zoloft, and Prozac. As with any medications used during pregnancy, the benefits need to outweigh the risks.

 
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