More likely than not, you’ve heard about postpartum depression — a mental condition that commonly affects mothers after delivering their babies, sometimes even for years after.
But, did you know that you can experience depression during pregnancy, too — and that it’s actually a common mental health issue?
It is normal to feel depressed while pregnant; in fact, some may say it’s unreasonable to expect to be happy every day during your pregnancy. Your body is undertaking a huge challenge, and the side effects and hormone swings that come with these changes are enough to make an expectant mother irritated. If you’re feeling depressed, sad or anxious during your pregnancy, know that you are not alone — and there is help.
We encourage any woman who is pregnant, feeling depressed and alone to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) to get the support they need right away. We also encourage you to contact your local mental health professional to set up a therapy appointment. There is never any shame in reaching out for help during moments of mental health crisis and, as an expectant mother, you always want to keep your little one in mind.
In the meantime, find out what you need to know about depression during pregnancy and how to handle depression while pregnant below.
Is Feeling Depressed While Pregnant Normal?
There are a lot of reasons that women may feel sad or depressed about their pregnancy. Many of the women who view this site feel this way because they never planned to become pregnant in the first place. They may be worried about whether their lifestyle is conducive to raising a child, or they may be concerned about their child’s future if they are considering adoption. Women in this situation often feel bad about the emotions they’re coping with, because they’ve been led to believe pregnancy is something that must always be celebrated. So, they ask, “Is it normal to feel depressed while pregnant?”
The answer is yes.
Many women — both those who have planned to become pregnant and those who are facing unplanned pregnancies — feel a wide range of emotions during their pregnancies. The changing hormones you experience while pregnant can cause all kinds of mood swings, which can exacerbate stress and worry you felt prior to your pregnancy. In fact, depression during pregnancy is common enough that doctors have identified a name for this condition: antenatal depression.
So, whether you are pregnant and depressed about weight gain, pregnant and depressed about relationship problems, or feeling pregnant, alone and depressed in general — know that you are not alone. What you’re feeling is entirely normal, and it’s important that you get the help and support you need during this trying time.
How to Know If You’re Depressed While Pregnant
As mentioned, it’s completely normal to have feelings of sadness during your pregnancy. After all, you are going through a huge physical change, and it can obviously affect your mental well-being at the same time. Only by identifying your mental health situation can you begin looking into ways to deal with depression while pregnant.
But, how do you know if what you are feeling is depression? There are a few signs that point to a larger issue of depression during pregnancy. If you are feeling any of the following symptoms for two weeks or more, please reach out to your doctor:
- Persistent sadness
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Difficulty concentrating
- Recurring thoughts of death, suicide or hopelessness
- Loss of interest in activities that you usually enjoy
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Change in eating habits
Even if you are not experiencing these exact symptoms, but you are worried about your mental health and feel like something is “off,” don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Something to note: Taking a “pregnant and depressed” quiz or reading an article online cannot provide a medical diagnosis of depression. Please, please speak with your local doctor or mental health professional if you think you may be experiencing depression during your pregnancy.
How to Deal with Depression While Pregnant
As mentioned, if you are looking for how to handle depression while pregnant, your doctor is always your best source of support. He or she can provide any medical prescriptions you may need and make sure that your medical protocol will not affect your developing fetus. He or she can also offer other suggestions and referrals to assist you in coping with depression while pregnant in a healthy way.
There are a few different ways to deal with depression while pregnant, and only your personal doctor will know which treatment option is best for you. If you’re wondering how to deal with anxiety and depression while pregnant, your doctor and you will likely talk about these options:
- Medication: For many people, medication is the first line of defense against feelings of depression. However, when you’re figuring out how to stop depression while pregnant, medication may not be your doctor’s first choice. Any medication you take will cross the placenta and reach your baby, so you will have a lengthy conversation with your doctor about the pros and cons of this treatment method before you start taking antidepressants during your pregnancy.
- Therapy: Many people who cope with depression do so through psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. During these appointments, you will speak with a trained mental health professional about what is causing your depression and how to handle your depression while pregnant (in healthy ways). Therapy can be done individually between you and a therapist, in group therapy sessions, couples therapy (if you are pregnant and depressed about your relationship) and more.
- Support Groups: One of the best ways to deal with depression while pregnant is by understanding that you are not alone and that your feelings are 100 percent normal. For this reason, support groups with other pregnant women can be invaluable. Your doctor may be able to refer you to appropriate support groups to attend during your pregnancy.
- Natural Methods: Not all the ways of how to deal with depression have to be coordinated by a mental health professional. There is a lot you can do on your own to try to improve your mental health. Simple things such as exercising, getting enough sleep, and eating a healthy diet can go a long way to keeping you positive during your pregnancy. You should be doing all of these things while pregnant anyway, but we know how difficult even the simplest things can be when you are struggling with depression. That’s why it’s recommended that you speak with a doctor before attempting only natural methods of coping with depression while pregnant on your own.
While this article offers helpful information on how to deal with depression while pregnant, it is not intended to be taken as medical advice. Only your medical provider can offer the best suggestions for you moving forward if you are experiencing antenatal depression. Remember: You are not alone, and there is always support out there for you during this difficult time.