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Depression During Pregnancy: You're Not Alone

last year11 min read
Last updated: Jan 20 2023

If you’re going through depression during pregnancy, whether you’ve been through it before or not, know that there is help for you. You don’t have to do it alone.

Depression During Pregnancy

If you or someone you know needs urgent help with depression symptoms, call a crisis line. There is help available.

Depression during pregnancy is common, treatable, and not talked about nearly enough.

It’s also really nuanced.

Too often we lump together complex experiences and tie them up in neat little terms like “the pregnant blues”.

“It’s just hormones. I guess this is just what pregnancy feels like. There’s just a lot going on right now.”

By writing off these very real feelings as “I suppose this is par for the course”, we end up silencing ourselves.











And then we just cope. Until we can’t.

And it doesn’t have to be that way.

It’s time we changed up the conversation.

There are ways to manage and treat all forms of pregnancy depression.

It’s not something you have to just struggle through alone.

In this article: 📝

  • Is depression a side effect of pregnancy?
  • Signs of prenatal depression
  • How to cope with depression during pregnancy

Is depression a side effect of pregnancy?

First, let’s talk about how common this is.

Rates of depression in pregnancy range from 7% to 25%, depending on where you live in the world and what your circumstances are.

And then, there are different ways to have depression in pregnancy. It can be:

  • A (very normal) response to the massive changes that you are negotiating both within your body and within your life.
  • A mental health disorder where you are navigating pre-existing depression while you are pregnant.

Either way, you absolutely do not have to go through it alone.

Here are some of the common questions that come up and how to navigate them:

Is it normal to be in a bad mood during pregnancy?

Yes, totally. For two key reasons:

1. Hormonal changes

The two main culprits are estrogen and progesterone.

They both go on a wild ride during pregnancy.

Everyone responds differently to these shifts.

For some mamas-to-be, these biological changes mean psychological ones—and yes, mood swings can become a very real thing.

2. Your whole world is shifting

Pregnancy is up there with the biggest of life changes you can go through.

Yes, it’s exciting—but it’s all sorts of other things as well.

There are so many things to feel strongly about right now, from pregnancy to parenthood, and that whole giving birth thing that happens in between.

It’s no wonder you’re feeling out of sorts.

Is it normal to cry a lot during pregnancy?

Yes. Tears of joy. Tears of frustration. Tears of sadness.

But if the feelings you are having are overwhelming or have stuck around for more than a few days, you may have depression.

Depression is a serious disorder that requires treatment.

Talk to your healthcare provider as soon as you can about accessing the help you need.

Can my baby feel my emotions when pregnant?

New(ish) research is showing just how connected we are to the babies growing inside us.

They are getting messages from us all the time.

But that doesn’t mean you have to be some kind of weird robot who doesn’t have any feelings lest they affect your baby.

So here’s the deal: feeling sad now and then will likely not have an impact on your baby—but serious depression might.

Depression might also make it harder for you to care for yourself.

Eating, moving, and sleeping may not come so easily.

If you’re struggling with serious depression during pregnancy, it’s important to get treatment.

Getting the help you need now will help you as you move into mamahood.

Signs of prenatal depression

While feeling sad and anxious is common, if your symptoms don’t get better on their own within a few days, you may have depression.

Here are some of the possible symptoms:

  • Feeling low or hopeless.
  • Crying more often.
  • Feeling exhausted or drained.
  • Not enjoying the things you used to enjoy.
  • Withdrawing from other people.
  • Having trouble being comforted.
  • Missing appointments or get-togethers.
  • Eating more or less than you used to before ‒ your relationship with food changing.
  • Feeling guilty.
  • Feeling like you’re not good enough.
  • Thinking of hurting yourself.

You are also more likely to suffer from depression during pregnancy if:

  • You have a history of depression and/or anxiety.
  • Your family has a history of depression and anxiety during pregnancy.
  • You have other life stressors (finances, relationships, living conditions). Higher rates of perinatal depression are seen in lower-income countries.
  • You are having a challenging pregnancy. Health challenges, from high blood pressure to a thyroid condition to diabetes, can add extra stress to your pregnancy.
  • You’ve had a pregnancy loss before.
  • You don’t have the support you need.
  • You struggle with substance abuse.

How to cope with depression during pregnancy

The golden rule is that if you’re struggling, reach out.

Fair enough.

But the irony of the golden rule is that depression often prevents you from doing exactly that.

This isn’t easy, but there is so much help available for you wherever you are on this journey.

If you are feeling like your depression is affecting your life, reach out to a healthcare provider so that they can talk through treatment options.

What are the options for how to treat depression during pregnancy? The most common are:

Talk therapy

Two popular approaches are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which helps you with thinking patterns, and Interpersonal Therapy (IT) which helps you with your relationships with others.

Medication

Yes, it is an option.

Talk to your doctor about what antidepressants are safe for you to take right now.

They may refer you to a specialist known as a reproductive psychiatrist who will be able to weigh out the risks and propose a course of treatment for you.

Acupuncture

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that it helps.

Yoga and meditation

Prenatal yoga classes are designed for you.

And if you don’t feel like the stretching part, you can just do the breathing part.

Meet yourself where you are.

Exercise

Depression and exercise have a complicated relationship.

It helps but can feel impossible to do when you’re feeling low.

Start very small, like a walk around the block.

Reaching out to your loved ones

Connecting when you don’t feel like it is hard.

Try. Lean on those around you.

There’s zero shame in experiencing depression during pregnancy.

Keying into other mama communities

You are not alone in your experience.

It’s amazing what knowing that simple fact can do.

In fact, here are some mamas of Peanut sharing their experiences of depression during pregnancy:

  • “Gosh, mine was awful in the first trimester. I was literally scared of myself. I was so depressed and so suicidal. I was already diagnosed with depression and anxiety when I was about 18, but it was usually pretty manageable. I couldn’t wait to feel like myself again because deep down I knew it was from my body going through such a big hormonal shift. I’m back to feeling like myself now ‒ mentally anyway, physically I feel awful and can’t wait to have my daughter.” ‒ Zoey
  • “What helped me was my partner stepping up making me not feel so alone. Take the time to work through your emotions and communicate with your partner without anger. It turned the whole pregnancy around verses my last 2 pregnancies.” ‒ Pamela
  • “Mine got a lot worse in the second trimester, and now heading into the third, the excitement of the baby is helping but it’s still lingering as I came off meds as soon as I found out I was pregnant (not necessary, just my choice and came off slowly).” ‒ Lara
  • “I really didn’t notice that it was depression. I just felt very tired, low energy. I slept non-stop, I didn’t know what the symptoms of depression were. I went down a dark tunnel. I was afraid of myself of my thoughts, of sleeping I’ve had depression moments, but I’ve never felt so alone and down and terrified.” ‒ Sheyla
  • “It started when I found out I was pregnant. I told my close family and friends. I felt depressed because they brushed it off as not important news. Then I didn’t want to get super attached to the idea of being pregnant because I was afraid I could lose my baby. So throughout the whole pregnancy, I was emotional and sad every day. I had no one to talk to. It didn’t really hit me that I was experiencing perinatal depression until I decided I didn’t want to go to my gestational diabetes appointments because I was self-medicating with sweets. I think if I had a better support system things would have been different and I would have prepared for the baby to be here more.” ‒ Caprice
  • “I am 12 weeks and have been crying or extremely angry off and on daily. I already suffer from anxiety and depression and I think I have undiagnosed ADHD. I feel like I’m stuck in a dark hole that I can get out of. Hoping once the second trimester hits, it will be better.” ‒ Taylor
  • “I was under the community mental health team and perinatal team during my pregnancy. I found myself very up and down and it affected me quite badly. I had terrible mood changes and difficulties coming to terms with my body changes. I chose not to continue with my medication and I found talking helped me a lot.” ‒ Siobhán
  • “At around 19 weeks I really started struggling and I still am. The changes my body is going through and the pure depression and crying constantly my body changing is having a massive impact on me. I’m worrying about things that are not even worth worrying about and it’s making my mental health worse. Then feel like im failing as a mum before she’s even born.” ‒ Lauren
  • “I feel like it took away from my pregnancy experience. A contradicting feeling of being excited yet afraid. I would recommend getting out push yourself to go on a walk. Try to be around friends or family. Write down your feelings or do things for baby to look forward to. For me, it was clothes, decorations, socks, and buying a photo album and starting it with sonograms and a letter to the baby. Get therapy if you have the option.” ‒ Nicole
  • “It almost gave me PTSD at first because I’ve never experienced depression. I became scared in moments when I felt alright that it could creep back in at any second. The darkness felt so unbearable that I finally settled for meds and to my surprise, they saved my life.” ‒ Jessica
  • “It will hit you during and after. It will go away! Just talk about your feelings to somebody, that helped me. I thought I was going crazy it’s our hormones. I cried a lot for no reason.” ‒ Dana
  • “I think the hardest thing about my first two babies was the guilt and the lack of understanding. I didn’t seek help as much as I should have out of fear. I hated myself if I felt like I wasn’t enjoying my pregnancy or baby enough, my self-esteem dropped massively and it started a vicious cycle. I always, always felt guilty at people’s comments to ‘enjoy pregnancy’, because I didn’t. I think that it would have been easier if people had been more appreciative of how difficult pregnancy can be, mentally and emotionally. That awareness would have probably lessened my guilt and maybe made me more likely to get help sooner.” ‒ Katie

If you’re experiencing depression during pregnancy, there are a few things we want you to know.

You really matter.

You’re not alone in this.

We’re rooting for you. 💕

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