Depression During Pregnancy: Everything You Need to Know

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Although pregnancy is often portrayed as a time of great joy, that's not the reality for all women. At least one in ten pregnant women suffers from bouts of depression. Hormonal changes can also make you feel more anxious than usual. Anxiety is another condition that can and should be treated during pregnancy.

Depression and anxiety may go undiagnosed because women often dismiss their feelings, chalking them up to the temporary moodiness that often accompanies pregnancy. So don't be shy about letting your doctor or midwife know if you feel low.

Common risk factors include:

  • Personal or family history of depression or anxiety. If you have ever experience bouts of depression before or have a close family member who has, be sure to stay in tune with your emotional health.
  • Relationship difficulties. If you're in a troubled relationship and talking things out as a couple isn't working, get counseling. Don't make the mistake of assuming that your baby's arrival will make everything rosy.
  • Fertility treatments. If you had trouble getting pregnant, chances are you've been under a lot of stress. And if you've gone through multiple fertility procedures, you may still be dealing with the emotional side effects of months or even years of treatments and anxiety-laden waiting.
  • Previous pregnancy loss. If you've miscarried or lost a baby in the past, it's no wonder you're worrying about the safety of this pregnancy. And as with fertility treatments, if you're dealing with health restrictions you're more vulnerable to depression and anxiety.
  • Problems with your pregnancy. A complicated or high-risk pregnancy can take an emotional toll, particularly if you're enduring weeks of bed rest or numerous genetic tests.
  • Stressful life events. Financial worries? Relocating? Planning to stay home after years of working? Any major concerns or life changes such as these — as well as a breakup, the death of a close friend or family member, or a job loss — can send you into a serious funk.
  • Past history of abuse. Women who've survived emotional, sexual, physical, or verbal abuse may have low self-esteem, a sense of helplessness, or feelings of isolation — all of which contribute to a higher risk for depression.

Symptoms of depression:

Some symptoms, such as fatigue or trouble sleeping, are common among healthy women during pregnancy. But if they interfere with your ability to function, depression is probably at least partly to blame.

Among Latina women, there is a tendency to underplay feelings of emotional instability. Many women will claim to be fine, just “mal de nervios”. Don’t ignore the signs! If you are feeling really sad or unstable, don’t be ashamed to visit a psychologist, even though a stigma still exists in our community against this kind of treatment. Seeing a therapist or psychiatrist isn't an indication of weakness. On the contrary, it shows that you're willing to take the steps necessary to keep your baby and yourself safe and healthy.

If you've experienced three or more of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, talk to your health care provider immediately:

  • A sense that nothing feels enjoyable or fun anymore
  • Feeling blue, sad, or "empty" for most of the day, every day
  • It's harder to concentrate
  • Extreme irritability or agitation or excessive crying
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping all the time
  • Extreme or never-ending fatigue
  • A desire to eat all the time or not wanting to eat at all
  • Inappropriate guilt or feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness

For more BabyCenter Content:

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  2. Delirious with happiness now and an emotional wreck 5 minutes later? Find out why you have mood swings during pregnancy and what you can do about them.
  3. Read everything you need to know about gaining weight during pregnancy.
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