You’ve heard all the rumors: Pregnancy is supposed to be the best time of your life before your little one comes. It’s supposed to make you “glow,” and your changing body should bring a sense of wonder and excitement as you get closer and closer to meeting your baby.
But, for many women, this isn’t the case. Pregnancy isn’t always a positive experience, and many women feel less-than-thrilled about the situation they are in. Perhaps they never planned to become pregnant, or certain circumstances have occurred during their pregnancy making their upcoming delivery and child-raising experience something to dread — not to look forward to. Even women who have planned for their pregnancy and are excited to parent can experience completely normal feelings of depression as they deal with the challenges of pregnancy and their changing hormones.
Whatever the reason for it, you may be experiencing signs of depression while pregnant and wondering what to do next. Before you do anything, know this: What you are feeling is 100 percent normal, and you are not alone. There is help.
In the article below, you’ll find some important information to guide you if you are feeling symptoms of depression while pregnant. However, remember: Nothing in this article is intended to be or should be taken as medical advice. If you think you may be experiencing depression while pregnant, please contact your doctor right away.
If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or your unborn baby, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) right away.
Can You Get Postpartum Depression Before Giving Birth?
If you’re like most women, you’ve heard about postpartum depression, a mental condition that commonly emerges after a woman becomes a new mother. It affects biological and adoptive mothers alike and stems from the exhaustion of raising a new child and the incredible changes that come into a woman’s life after her baby is born.
But, you may be experiencing the same thoughts and panic of postpartum depression before you’ve even given birth. If this is the case, you may be wondering: “Can you get postpartum depression while pregnant?”
The answer is yes. While the technical name for the condition is not “postpartum” depression, it is still a serious mental condition that affects expectant mothers. You can become depressed while pregnant and, while it is a difficult position to be in, having antenatal depression is 100 percent normal.
According to a study by the Harvard Medical School, almost 25 percent of postpartum depression cases start during pregnancy. Among women who self-reported their moods during pregnancy for the study, depression ratings were actually highest at the eighth month of pregnancy. In fact, 14 percent of women scored above the threshold for probable clinical depression just before their child’s birth.
These results may worry you and leave you asking: Do you get depressed when pregnant, no matter what? Are the trials of pregnancy that bad for every woman?
While antenatal and postpartum depression are more common than you may think, they do not affect every woman. That’s why it’s so important to recognize the symptoms of depression while pregnant and after childbirth to get any help you need early on — to reduce the potential of a more serious mood disorder later on.
What are the Signs of Depression While Pregnant?
It’s normal to have some degree of mood swings and severe emotions during pregnancy, especially if your pregnancy is unplanned. You are coping with the physical and mental effects of pregnancy at the same time that you are trying to determine what path you will take with your pregnancy — and, if you are thinking about parenting, planning for the arrival of your little one.
Feeling overwhelmed or stressed during this time is only to be expected. However, there are larger symptoms of depression while pregnant that should not be ignored:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, overwhelmed, restless, moody, worthless, or guilty
- Crying a lot
- Experiencing a drastic change in your appetite and sleep schedule (either more than usual or less than usual)
- Having trouble remembering things, concentrating or making decisions
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Losing interest in things you usually like to do
- Having no energy or feeling tired all of the time
- Having headaches, stomach problems or other long-lasting aches and pains
Some of these signs of depression while pregnant can simply be side effects of normal emotions during your pregnancy. However, if any of these symptoms last for more than two weeks, please contact your doctor right away; it could be a sign that you are experiencing true antenatal depression.
Your Options When Experiencing Antenatal Depression
Now that you know you can become depressed while pregnant, what can you do if you find yourself in this position?
If you are feeling depressed while you are pregnant, the first thing you need to do is seek out help. Your doctor can properly diagnose any mental health condition you might have and prescribe medication to help you cope with these difficult emotions. Your doctor can also explain what kind of natural steps (healthy diet and exercise, etc.) you can take to alleviate your depression during pregnancy. You may find that, once your depression is treated, you are 100 percent excited for this next step in your life and to raise a child of your own.
But, if you find that treating your depression does not eliminate the questions and concerns you have about raising a child (especially one from an unplanned pregnancy), your sadness during pregnancy may be an indicator that you are not ready to become a parent. If this is the case, you may consider adoption.
When you choose adoption, you can place your child with a family who is 100 percent prepared for and excited to raise a child. You can choose the family you want for your baby, get to know them before childbirth and even have a relationship with them and your child after the adoption is complete. This way, you may be able to alleviate some of the guilt you feel about becoming pregnant when you didn’t want to and move forward with your life in the way you had originally planned — while seeing your child grow up happy and healthy. Consider contacting an adoption agency if you are interested in this option.
However, it’s always important that you are in a stable state of mind before making any life-changing decisions for yourself and the child that you carry. That’s why, if you are experiencing any signs of depression while pregnant, you should reach out to your doctor straight away. If you are considering adoption, an adoption agency may be able to refer you to or help provide mental health care for free, without obligating you to choose adoption until you are confident it is the right choice for you. Your health is always the most important thing during this important and vulnerable time in your life.