Most women and couples view pregnancy as a joyous time in their lives. People call to congratulate you and to express their excitement and anticipation for the newest member of your family. Everywhere you go people greet you with a smile and ask you when you are due or if you know whether it’s a boy or a girl. “You’re absolutely glowing!” may be a common compliment you hear. With all of this excitement and attention, is it possible to be depressed during pregnancy? The answer is yes and it is more common than you might think.

Everyone is so happy and excited for me but am I? Why is it that I don’t always feel excited and sometimes I feel scared, worried, or angry? Is this a sign of things to come? Does this mean that I am not ready to be a mother or that I will be a bad mother? Why can’t I be excited like everyone else? I’ve heard about postpartum depression but why I am I feeling like this and the baby hasn’t even arrived?

Feelings of anxiety, worrying, fear, and sadness is actually quite common during pregnancy. Hormonal imbalances and adapting to pregnancy can affect your moods and make you sad or irritable. Prolonged feeling of sadness during pregnancy is referred to as prenatal depression. Much like postpartum depression, prenatal depression may be difficult to diagnose because many of its symptoms mimic symptoms of pregnancy. Depression affects 1 in 4 women at one point in their lifetime so it is no surprise that pregnant women are vulnerable to depression. Between 14% and 23% of pregnant women are affected by prenatal depressionaccording to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

If you are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant it is important to be aware about the possibility of prenatal depression. Learning about the signs and causes of prenatal depression can help you identify and prepare for it if it strikes you. Studies have shown that untreated prenatal depression can increase the likelihood of lower birth weight, stillbirth, and organ malfunction. Depression is the one of the most common mood disorder but also one of the most treatable so if you or someone you know if experiencing any of the signs below it is imperative to contact your doctors or a mental health provider.

Signs of Prenatal Depression

The American Pregnancy Association has identified the following signs and causes of prenatal depression. Experiencing one or some of the following symptoms for more than two weeks:

  • Persistent sadness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Problems sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of interest in activities that you previously enjoyed
  • Anxiety
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt
  • Changes in eating habits

Possible Causes of Prenatal Depression

  • Poor social support
  • History of depression
  • Infertility treatment
  • Being a young mother
  • Being divorced, widowed, or separated
  • Pregnancy complications, possible bed red
  • History of miscarriage

Treatment for Prenatal Depression

In most cases, prenatal depression can be treated without taking any medications. Support groups and counseling have been shown to decrease the effects of symptoms and help develop effective coping strategies.

I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and have extensive experience helping women and couples overcome depression related to pregnancy. Pregnancy can be a wonderful yet challenging journey. Please contact me if you have any questions regarding prenatal depression. I am happy to help!

Your Relationship Expert,

Frequency and Associated Factors for Anxiety and Depression in Pregnant Women: A Hospital-Based Cross-Sectional Study
Coping With Anxiety and Depression During Pregnancy