Reviewed by Laura Angers, LPC
There are a lot of changes that come with being pregnant. Most people focus on the physical changes that take place. But pregnancy can also have an impact on your mental and emotional health. While postpartum depression is starting to get a lot more attention in the media, there still isn’t as much information shared about depression and pregnancy in general.
While pregnancy and depression don’t necessarily just go hand in hand, it has been found that around 7% of pregnant women experience depression symptoms while they are still pregnant. The symptoms that come with depression may be alarming if you’re unaware that depression is causing them. You may feel confused over the lack of feelings or negative feelings that you may have over what you thought would be a joyous time in your life.
Understanding the symptoms of depression during pregnancy and what you can do about them can be an important first step in remaining healthy through and after your pregnancy.
Are Depression And Pregnancy The Same As Post-Pregnancy Depression?
Post-pregnancy depression is more commonly referred to as postpartum depression. While many of the symptoms are similar between postpartum depression and depression during pregnancy, they are not the same.
Postpartum depression is not diagnosed until at least two weeks after a woman has given birth. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, it has been found that adoptive mothers and fathers can experience symptoms of postpartum depression as well. So, if you think you’re experiencing symptoms of it, don’t rule it out if you are a male or if you have adopted a child or are fostering one.
Depression can be diagnosed at any point during pregnancy. Many of the symptoms will be the same as that of general depression; however, there are some similarities between symptoms between postpartum depression.
Symptoms Of Depression While Pregnant
Depression in pregnancy can be a little harder to diagnose because many of the symptoms can be normal to the changes that occur during pregnancy. For example, depression can cause you to have a change in your sleeping habits or eating habits. However, it’s also normal to experience these changes while you’re pregnant as well.
Here are some of the common signs of depression during pregnancy to watch for:
- Feeling guilty, worthless, or hopeless
- Feeling overwhelmed or sad
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- Not being interested in former hobbies
- Isolating from others including family and friends
- Feeling lethargic
- Not feeling any emotions or feeling numb
- Stomach aches, headaches, or chronic pain
As you can see, there are several symptoms of depression that overlap with normal pregnancy symptoms. When you are pregnant, your body is already experiencing many changes, and your hormones are fluctuating. Some women find that they are a lot more emotional and cry easier during pregnancy.
If you experience symptoms above or other symptoms you’re concerned about, it can be important to address it and get help. Or, if you just don’t feel like yourself, but you can’t quite put your finger on why it’s also important to address with your doctor.
Depression during and after pregnancy can have an impact on your baby as well. It’s important for both of you that you get the help you need if you’re struggling with depression.
Who Is At Risk?
There are some possible indicators of being more at risk of experiencing depression during pregnancy. This could include having a family history of mental health disorders. It can also put you at risk if you have experienced depression yourself in the past.
You may also be at high risk of experiencing depression if you experience other difficult situations during your pregnancy. This could include an unstable financial situation, a difficult relationship, or health concerns or complications during your pregnancy.
However, it’s important not to rely on risk factors when determining if you may be depressed while you’re pregnant. If you are having symptoms of depression or symptoms that you’re not sure what they’re connected to, talk to your doctor about what you’re experiencing.
It’s important to note that new dads and new adoptive parents can also experience postpartum depression.
Things To Do When You’re Pregnant And Depressed
There are many ways that you can address depression during pregnancy in a healthy way. Some of the things you can try on your own at home, and others involve getting care and help from a professional.
Focus On Self-Care
Self-care plays an important role in your mental health and emotional wellness. As you’re experiencing a flood of emotions and physical changes during pregnancy, it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re taking care of yourself. This includes basic things like getting enough rest, eating enough of the right foods, and doing a little bit of physical activity.
However, self-care also includes participating in hobbies that you enjoy, spending time with friends, journaling about your feelings and emotions, and any other activity that helps you rest and recharge.
It can be tempting to put self-care aside when you’re pregnant because you may feel very focused on getting through your to-do list before your baby arrives. But it can be important for your mental health and your baby’s future health that you prioritize taking care of yourself during pregnancy.
Make sure you set aside time for yourself regularly to do the things you enjoy.
A study was done that found that women may reduce depression symptoms during pregnancy through acupuncture treatments. If this is something you want to explore, consider talking to your physician about it before engaging in this type of treatment.
Connect With A Support Group
If you’re feeling depressed, it can be easy to start to withdraw from other people. You may not feel like you have the energy to put into connecting with others, or you may just feel sad and not want to talk to people. However, it can be very helpful to have a support group during pregnancy and if you’re experiencing depression.
Finding a group of women who can connect with the symptoms you’re experiencing, and the feelings you have can help you know that you’re not alone. It can also be a great way to learn strategies that can help you overcome your depression.
If you don’t have anyone in your personal life that has dealt with depression during pregnancy before, you can connect with a support group instead. And if you’re not comfortable meeting with others in person right now, there are plenty of online forums and groups for expectant mothers. Look to get connected within these groups as a way to handle your depression healthily.
Talk To A Professional
If you believe that you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, it can be helpful to speak with a therapist or other mental health professional. There are several treatment options that they may be able to use to help you overcome your symptoms.
Your doctor or psychiatrist could explore any available medication options that would be safe for you to take while pregnant. However, medication is not the only formal treatment for depression. There are other forms, such as psychotherapy, that can help you healthily handle your depression symptoms.
If you have any thoughts of suicide or harming yourself, you must reach out for immediate help. You can call 911 or have a loved one take you to the emergency room.
Get Help If You Need It
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the number of people diagnosed with depression when they have their baby has been on the rise over recent years. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, you are not alone.
There are many different strategies that you can use to overcome your depression symptoms while pregnant. However, it’s important to remember to speak with your OBGYN or physician before trying some depression treatments. For example, there are certain essential oils that you may want to avoid when pregnant, certain medications you shouldn’t take, and other restrictions that you may have during pregnancy. It’s important to make sure that you aren’t treating your depression with anything that could cause you or your baby harm.
While it’s normal to experience many different emotions, feelings, and concerns during pregnancy, if you are experiencing symptoms that are impacting your daily life, it’s important to address them and seek help. This includes if you’re just not feeling like yourself anymore and aren’t sure if it’s just pregnancy-related or not.
If you’re wondering if the feelings you’re experiencing right now are from depression, it may help take this depression quiz. You can share your results with your physician or a mental health professional to seek the best treatment options for you and your baby.