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Depression During Pregnancy

Answers to all your questions about depression during pregnancy.

What is depression during pregnancy?

Depression is a mood disorder that can affect your usual functioning — your work, sleep, eating and general happiness can all be affected. You might feel extremely sad, moody, stressed, scared or confused, or lose interest in the things that you normally enjoy. Your hormones are going so haywire during pregnancy, and for some women, that could change their brain chemistry and make them more prone to depression.

What are the signs of depression during pregnancy?

They vary from having  trouble sleeping to sleeping too much, from restlessness to fatigue. You may have intense feelings of guilt or even have thoughts of suicide. Your eating habits might change a lot too.

Are there any tests for depression during pregnancy?

It can be tough to diagnose depression during pregnancy because a lot of the symptomssound a lot like those of pregnancy itself. If you think you might be depressed, your doc will probably ask you a lot of questions about your symptoms and might test you for other pregnancy health problems, to rule out other issues.

How common is depression during pregnancy?

It’s common! According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, between 14 percent and 23 percent of pregnant women experience depressive symptoms.

How did I get depression during pregnancy?

Women with a history of depression — or a family history of depression — are more prone to it during pregnancy. Stressful or traumatic events like abuse or relationship problems could put you at risk for depression. So could pregnancy complicationsfertility treatments and past pregnancy loss.

How will my depression affect my baby?

It seems like it’s just a personal, emotional issue, but depression can actually affect your baby a lot. If you don’t seek treatment, you’re more likely to drink, use drugs, smoke or eat poorly during pregnancy — all of those behaviors could lead to low birth weightpreterm birth and developmental impairment. Studies have shown that babies born to depressed mothers are less active and aware than other babies — more irritable too. Get treatment — not just for you, but for your baby.

What’s the best way to treat depression during pregnancy?

A lot of medications aren’t tested on pregnant women, so it’s not really known whether antidepressants can affect baby or not. Usually, it’s a judgment call you’ll make with your doctor — to figure out whether any potential risks of medications outweigh the risks your depression poses to baby. Support groups, therapy or counseling can often help with depression. Your doctor might also advise you to focus on healthy habits like exercise, good nutrition and rest to help you better handle the stress of pregnancy.

What can I do to prevent depression during pregnancy?

Often, it’s a simple matter of brain chemistry, something you can’t control. But exercising, eating right, getting enough rest and not stressing yourself out can put you at a lower risk of depression.

What do other pregnant moms do when they have depression?

“I’ve had a few major depressive episodes for many years, and they’re terrible. I’ve opted to stay on a very low dose of antidepressants during pregnancy. I also have a good therapist.”

“I was actually on Lexapro, and my doctor told me to stop immediately when I found out I was pregnant again. I was on 10 mg a day, and I had a lot of side effects.”

“I’ve had mild depression, which was made much worse by pregnancy. Things seem to have been getting better, but it’s still a struggle. I see a therapist regularly and that really helps.”

Are there any other resources for depression during pregnancy?

Health Resources and Services Administration Maternal and Child Health

Plus, more from The Bump:

Mood Swings During Pregnancy

Pregnant and Miserable

Can I take antidepressants while pregnant?