Pregnancy Depression

Even though pregnancy is supposed to be one of the happiest times in a woman’s life, anywhere from 10-20% of pregnant women will experience some symptoms of depression.

What is pregnancy depression?

About 50% of women who experience depression symptoms will experience major depression. Depression is hard to handle at any point in life, and being pregnant makes it even harder. However, being pregnant is a major reason that you should definitely handle the depression, more so than you would at any other point in life. The following information will help you determine the difference between a simple pregnancy-induced hormonal imbalance, and a more serious depression issue so that you will know what you are up against.

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Pregnancy depression is the same as any other depression in terms of being a mood disorder and chemical imbalance. The only difference is that the depression occurs during, or is brought on by the hormones of the pregnancy itself.

What are the signs of pregnancy depression?

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms for periods lasting two weeks or longer, you may be experiencing pregnancy depression and should talk with your doctor.

  • Persistent sadness
  • Difficulty sleeping, sleeping too much, or not sleeping enough
  • Recurring thoughts of death, or suicide
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Thoughts of hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy

What are pregnancy depression triggers?

Below is a list of things that could possibly cause the onset of depression during pregnancy.

  • Relationship issues
  • Financial issues
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Previous pregnancy losses
  • Fertility treatments
  • Family history of depression

How do you treat pregnancy depression?

Because your doctor will want the healthiest course of action for you and your baby, you will likely see many different approaches to your pregnancy including the use of safe prescription drugs to treat your depression. Here are some options that you and your doctor can use to help you through the depression:

  • Support groups
  • Private psychotherapy
  • Medication
  • Light therapy

How will depression affect my baby?

Naturally, worrying about your baby is normal. Your depression will not harm your child as long as your depression does not become so bad that you begin to ignore your nutritional needs or start doing things to intentionally harm yourself. The most common reason for unborn children to experience harm as a result of a depressed mother is that the mother loses the desire to appropriately care for herself and her baby.

Realize that feeling sad from time to time, or worrying about the baby is normal, and it will pass. You are not depressed if you have these feelings occasionally at the expense of either circumstance or hormones, and you should not overly worry about being depressed. Depression only becomes an issue when these feelings do not go away and you start to suffer because of it.  If you feel like any of these things in this article have described you, speak to your healthcare professional right away.

Read More:
Mood Swings and Emotional Changes During Pregnancy
Postpartum Depression Quiz

More Resources:

*Postpartum depression: current status and future directions. O'Hara MW, McCabe JE. Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2013;9:379-407.

*Postpartum depression: Pathophysiology, treatment, and emerging therapeutics. Stewart DE, Vigod SN. Annu Rev Med. 2019 Jan 27;70:183-96.

ACOG Committee Opinion No. 757: Screening for perinatal depression. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol. 2018 Nov;132(5):e208-e12.

Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Program for Moms: Utilization and quality assessment. Byatt N, Straus J, Stopa A, Biebel K, Mittal L, Moore Simas TA.  Obstet Gynecol. 2018 Aug;132(2):345-53.

Interventions to prevent perinatal depression: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. Curry SJ, Krist AH, Owens DK, Barry MJ, Caughey AB, Davidson KW, Doubeni CA, Epling JW, Jr., Grossman DC, Kemper AR, Kubik M, Landefeld CS, Mangione CM, Silverstein M, Simon MA, Tseng CW, Wong JB. Jama. 2019 Feb 12;321(6):580-7.

Incorporating recognition and management of perinatal depression into pediatric practice. Earls MF, Yogman MW, Mattson G, Rafferty J. Pediatrics. 2019 Jan;143(1).

Depression and treatment among U.S. pregnant and nonpregnant women of reproductive age, 2005-2009. Ko JY, Farr SL, Dietz PM, Robbins CL. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2012 Aug;21(8):830-6.

Trends in postpartum depressive symptoms - 27 states, 2004, 2008, and 2012. Ko JY, Rockhill KM, Tong VT, Morrow B, Farr SL. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017 Feb 17;66(6):153-8.

Primary care screening for and treatment of depression in pregnant and postpartum women: Evidence report and systematic review for the US Preventive Services Task Force. O'Connor E, Rossom RC, Henninger M, Groom HC, Burda BU. Jama. 2016 Jan 26;315(4):388-406.

Consequences of maternal postpartum depression: A systematic review of maternal and infant outcomes. Slomian J, Honvo G, Emonts P, Reginster JY, Bruyere O. Womens Health (Lond). 2019 Jan-Dec;15:1745506519844044.