July 13, 2024

Depression During Pregnancy – The 10 Most Common Questions

Many women are led to expect that pregnancy will be the most magical time of their lives – nine months of good feelings and happy glowing skin.   The fact is about 15% of all women experience some symptoms of depression during and after pregnancy (courtesy American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.)

Depression During Pregnancy:  An Overview

It’s completely normal to experience some form of anxiety or depression when pregnant since it involves such a major life change but what if you aren’t sure whether it’s more than just a bout of ‘normal’ pregnancy jitters?  Since the consequences of maternal depression can be so severe, every woman should have information about this health issue so she will know when outside help is required and when she needs to contact a medical professional.

Here is the top ten list of most frequently asked questions about depression during pregnancy:

Do I really have depression or is it just be hormones?

It’s true that changes in hormone levels are a part of the pregnancy process so you may just be experiencing the effects of those changes; however, depression is a very real illness that affects about 15% of all women either before or after pregnancy.   There is a difference between baby blues and depression.

If you are a woman who is depressed with symptoms of depression that last two weeks or more it’s important to seek help and talk with your doctor or health care provider.  Your emotional health during pregnancy is every bit as important as your physical health.

Depression is not ‘all in your head’ or ‘just hormones.’  It is a mood disorder brought about by changes in the brain chemicals which can be brought on by major life changes or hormonal changes both of which a woman goes through when expecting a baby.

What are the symptoms of maternal depression?

Here are some of the main symptoms of depression women who are pregnant may experience.  A woman may have all of these symptoms or just some of them.  Also she may experience mild to moderate depression or severe depression.    A woman may have feelings of depression or anxiety during and after pregnancy.  Each instance of depression is as unique as the person experiencing the illness.

* Feeling depressed or sad and having those feelings persist for weeks or even months

*Having a low level of energy

* Unmotivated to participate in normal activity that the woman previously enjoyed

* Irritability and mood swings,  being ‘moodier’ than normal

* Having sleep issues – either sleeping a lot more or having trouble sleeping him

* Change in eating patterns

* Feelings of hopelessness

* Crying more than normal for no apparent reason and/or out of control crying.

A woman who experiences any of these symptoms for more than two weeks should consult her doctor or health care provider since untreated depression can put both a woman and her baby at risk.    It is important for a woman suffering from this condition to know that things will get better

What caused my depression?  I want my baby.

Just because a woman is depressed doesn’t mean she does not want her baby yet a lot of women suffer from guilt because of their depressed state.  There is a very real and valid cause behind their depressive state so no shame is warranted.

Being depressed when pregnant can stem from one or more of the following causes:


  • History of depression or metal illness.  If a woman has been clinically depressed in the past or she has been diagnosed as bipolar she has a greater chance of developing depression while pregnant and immediately after birth.
  • Family history of depression   A woman is at greater risk of depression if there is a history of depression within her family.
  • Stressful life events. A woman may be experiencing additional stressful event(s) in her life besides the pregnancy.  Since the ability to handle stress can be compromised while in a pregnant state this can increase the level of anxiety which can lead to depression.
  • Past or Present Abuse.  Physical sexual or emotional abuse whether past or present can trigger depression in a woman who is pregnant.
  • Pregnancy complications. A woman may become depressed if there are complications with her pregnancy or a fetal abnormality has been detected.
  • Single Motherhood.
  • Having more than three children.

This is not a comprehensive list nor should it be taken as such but these tend to be some of the main causes of depression during pregnancy.

depression during pregnancyCan my depression hurt my baby?

If you get help for your depression then the likelihood of it affecting your baby is highly reduced; however, if your depression is left untreated it can hurt your baby in one or more ways.

Untreated depression has been linked to the following:

* Prenatal development issues.   These issues include but are not limited to increased risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, preterm labor and smaller-than-age fetal development.

* Lack of Proper Prenatal Care.   A woman who is depressed may not take care of herself during pregnancy. This may result in lack of proper nutrition for the baby or failure to seek and follow prenatal medical care.  She may also stop taking the recommended prenatal vitamins during this time.

* Self-medication with drugs or alcohol.

* Suicide.

* After birth issues. These issues include infanticide, lack of bonding, severe postpartum depression and other major issues.

As you can see it’s very important for a woman to seek help for her depression.

When does depression usually happen during pregnancy?

Women are most likely to develop depression during the first trimester of pregnancy and in the first nine weeks after giving birth.

This should not be confused with the normal ‘baby blues’ period that over 80% of women experience approximately 3-4 days after birth.  These blues usually go away within a couple of days.

What is the best course of treatment for my depression?

There are several forms of treatment that are recommended for depression of pregnant women.

The two most common forms of treatment are psychotherapy and anti-depressant medication.


Psychotherapy and light therapy have been proven successful in the treatment of depression.  Therapy can take place one-on-one with a counselor or in a support group.  There are many others who have this same disorder so there should be no shame felt in getting  help.  It is important for a woman to do whatever she needs to do to get help for herself and her baby.

Light therapy provides exposure to certain spectrums of light and can be a good substitute for anti-depressant medications.

Anti-Depressant Medication

Taking antidepressants during pregnancy is something you should talk over with your doctor.

Although research isn’t definitive yet indications show that certain drugs such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors are relatively safe; however, other research shows that there are some common side effects of various anti-depressant medications such as early labor and neonatal hypertension among others.

A woman and her doctor need to properly evaluate the risks associated with taking an anti-depressant based on the individual circumstances of the woman.   The more severe the depression the greater the likelihood of anti-depressants being prescribed.

Will my depression go away after the birth of my new baby?

It depends on a lot of factors including whether or not your depression was treated while pregnant.

Approximately 4 out of 5 women get the blues a few days after giving birth.  This is usually attributed to a change in hormone levels which affect the brain chemistry and thyroid levels.  Usually this goes away in a few days.

This is not to be confused with postpartum depression.  Postpartum depression usually starts within the first four weeks after a baby’s birth but really ‘hits’ when the new baby is between 3 and 6 months of age.  While some women only have mild to moderate postpartum depression some women have it in a severe form.  Regardless of the form, postpartum depression should be taken very seriously.   For more information on postpartum depression click here.

If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby GET HELP IMMEDIATELY.

Who gets depression during and after pregnancy?

Approximately 10-15% of all women experience depression before or after pregnancy.  There is no one type of woman – it affects rich women, poor women, thin women, large women and every type in between.   It affects women who ‘do everything right’ in their pregnancy and those who don’t do what they should.

Pregnancy related depression presents itself across every socioeconomic field.  Here are just a few of the celebrities who have experienced maternal depression:  Brooke Shields, Gwyneth Paltrow, Courteney Cox, and Angelina Jolie.

What’s the ONE thing I need to know about depression?

Depression CAN be treated.  If you are depressed or think you have depression, get help for your sake and the sake of your baby.  Help is available for you.


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