Pregnancy is full of changes to your body and your life.
These changes can feel overwhelming and can lead to feelings of depression.
When you feel like you aren’t able to cope with your pregnancy as well as you should, you could be suffering from depression.
What Is Depression During Pregnancy?
If you’ve never experienced depression until you became pregnant, it can be hard to identify just how you’re feeling.
Most of the time, depression manifests with feelings of sadness, anxiety, worry, worthlessness, loss of interest, and lonesomeness.
These feelings are not your fault, don’t define you, and aren’t the result of being a “bad” person or inept parent.
Depression is a medical condition that requires treatment and social support, even if you are pregnant.
Perinatal depression, depression that starts when you are pregnant, can last throughout your pregnancy and even for several months after your baby arrives (postpartum depression).
You can have perinatal depression even if you don’t have a history of depression.
Why Am I Experiencing Depression During Pregnancy?
There are many emotions involved with daily life when becoming pregnant, carrying a baby, giving birth, and raising a child.
The commitment and sacrifice can feel overwhelming.
Combined with hormonal changes in your body necessary to facilitate your pregnancy, you can begin to feel downcast, lose interest in things you once enjoyed, and experience feelings of hopelessness.
Is Perinatal Depression Common?
Yes. It affects nearly 1 in 7 pregnant people, or about 15 percent of people who become pregnant.
This figure also includes people who suffer from postpartum depression or depression that happens once your baby is born.
What Are the Symptoms of Depression During Pregnancy?
Everyone has bad days, but if you find that your feelings don’t change for two weeks or longer, you could be suffering from prenatal depression.
Depression is different for everyone but can include changes in your emotions, everyday life, and physical health. Let’s discuss some of the common signs of depression.
- Changes in feelings and mood. You may feel sad, overwhelmed, anxious, hopeless, restless, moody, irritable, and emotional. You may cry more frequently or even have thoughts of self-harm.
- Changes in everyday life. People with depression often lose interest in commonly enjoyed activities, withdraw from friends and family, have trouble focusing, and may begin to sleep more than usual.
- Physical changes. You may experience weight gain or loss, headaches, chronic pain, and energy loss.
Is Pregnancy Depression Harmful to My Baby?
Pregnancy depression can interfere with your ability to care for yourself during pregnancy properly.
A lack of self-care can, in turn, have a negative impact on your growing baby.
- Poor nutrition. If you aren’t eating enough or aren’t eating enough of the right foods, your baby could suffer. During pregnancy, you’ll need to eat an additional 350 calories per day to support your growing baby. Depression can rob you of your appetite and the means of feeding your child.
- Use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Depression during pregnancy that is left untreated can cause an increased risk of drug and alcohol abuse. It also increases the parent’s likelihood of using tobacco to cope with uncomfortable feelings. These substances are not safe for your unborn child regardless of the trimester.
- Preterm labor. Depression increases your risk of preterm labor or having your baby before 37 weeks. It also increases the chances your baby will have a low birth weight and learning challenges as they grow and develop.
Am I at Risk of Developing Depression During Pregnancy?
Although it affects some pregnant people, not everyone will experience depression when they are pregnant.
You have a higher chance of developing depression when you become pregnant if:
- You have a history of mental illness, including depression or anxiety
- Your pregnancy was not intentional
- You do not have a supportive network of family and friends
- You are under a heavy amount of stress in your life
If you are concerned that depression could be an issue for you during your pregnancy, or if you feel you are already experiencing it, the best thing to do is talk to your doctor.
Your doctor can discuss risk factors and align you with resources to help you manage depression during pregnancy.
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Seven Tips To Face Depression During Pregnancy
If you are feeling the effects of pregnancy depression, you can take steps to get relief and help manage your depression while pregnant.
1. Talk to Your Doctor
The first step in managing depression during pregnancy is talking to your doctor or OB-GYN.
Your doctor can help you understand your risk, the risk of depression as it relates to your unborn child, and how to get help.
Your discussion may involve your primary healthcare provider, a psychiatrist, and an obstetrician.
Making sure that you have a team of qualified health professionals can ensure both you and your baby have the care and health information you need throughout your pregnancy.
Together, you and your doctor can decide on treatment options.
2. Ask About Medication
Many people who suffer from depression and other mood disorders take medication to help manage their symptoms.
When they become pregnant, they may want to stop taking the medication because they’ve heard it could be harmful to the baby.
Research shows that the risks of untreated depression during pregnancy usually outweigh the risks of staying on your antidepressants or SSRIs during your pregnancy.
While medication may not be the solution for every person, and your particular medication may not be safe for your pregnancy, it is worth discussing with your doctor to determine the best course of action.
3. See a Counselor or Therapist
Many resources are available to help you talk about your feelings, address your concerns, and deal with depression and pregnancy issues.
Counseling and other human services can be healthy outlets for you to voice your concerns and learn coping techniques to deal with your depression while pregnant.
There are many different options for psychotherapy (talk therapy) during pregnancy, including cognitive behavior therapy. These are non-medicated ways of managing mental health conditions during your pregnancy.
4. Join a Support Group
A support group is a group of people who meet for a common purpose.
In this case, a pregnancy and depression support group would meet to discuss their struggles, address concerns, and offer encouragement and hope to one another.
Support groups can make you feel less alone and can remind you that others are facing the same issues that you are.
5. Ask for Help
During pregnancy, you’ll experience periods of fatigue even if you aren’t depressed.
Normal daily activities can leave you feeling overwhelmed and alone.
Reaching out to family and friends for support can help you feel more connected and can help you avoid activities that you simply can’t do.
6. Maintain an Active Lifestyle
Exercise is integral to a healthy pregnancy and can increase your ability to manage depression.
Research shows that exercise benefits people who suffer from depression by helping increase endorphins, alleviating symptoms of depression, and supporting your body and brain health.
Exercise is also good for your baby and helps bring fresh oxygen and nutrients to them as they develop.
Exercise can help you maintain a safe and healthy weight during pregnancy, help ease discomfort from aching muscles and joint pain, and prepare your body for a healthy delivery.
7. Eat Healthfully
Although it can be difficult, eating a balanced diet can help improve mental clarity and ease strong feelings.
Nutritional psychiatry findings have shown that diets high in antioxidant-loaded fruits and vegetables, lean meat and fish, and whole grains are associated with less risk of depression than diets that do not include these elements.
Supporting a Healthy Pregnancy
In addition to taking care of your mental health, you can take measures to ensure your pregnancy is stress-free, which can help ease feelings of worry or doubt.
Get Prenatal Care
Proper prenatal care is essential to ensure your pregnancy is healthy and that your baby thrives.
Prenatal care involves regular check-ups with an obstetrician or midwife, screenings, and information about pregnancy — what to eat, how to assume normal activities, and what to expect each step.
Have a Plan
Planning for birth and delivery can help alleviate feelings of anxiety and worry.
If you don’t have a birth plan, consider making one and sharing it with friends, family members, and medical professionals who will be with you when you give birth.
It can also help to take child-birthing and breastfeeding classes if you plan to nurse.
Additionally, early parenting courses can help you feel more prepared for your baby and help you feel secure in your ability to be a good parent.
Talk About It
If you’re suffering from depression or think you might be, the best action is to talk to someone about it, preferably a trusted family member, friend, or doctor.
Pregnancy is a memorable time, but hormonal shifts and overwhelming emotions can cloud your ability to care for yourself and your baby properly. Talking about these feelings can help keep you and your baby safe.
Managing Depression During Pregnancy
Pregnancy creates many changes in your body and life and can feel overwhelming. You’re not alone if you are experiencing perinatal depression, but there are ways to prevent and combat it.
Focusing on healthy lifestyle choices, seeking support, and having a plan will set you up for success.
For support on your pregnancy journey, check out our blog for more helpful information to support your pregnancy journey.
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Bridget Reed is a Tampa-based content development manager, writer, and editor at GR0; specializing in content related to varying fields including medicine, health, and small businesses. Bridget went to St. Petersburg College and majored in Management and Organizational Leadership.
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