Although pregnancy is a joyful experience for many women, it can also elicit feelings of fear, anxiety and even depression. In fact, research shows that about 7 percent of women experience some level of depression during pregnancy.
Depression is a mood disorder that can result in feelings of sadness, hopelessness and a loss of interest in activities the person normally enjoys. People with depression may find it difficult to complete everyday tasks or provide adequate care for themselves.
Depression affects women twice as often as it affects men and tends to peak during a woman’s reproductive years.
While the exact cause of depression is still unknown, doctors believe that chemical imbalances in the brain and fluctuating hormone levels may be contributing factors. Some hormones are thought to affect the parts of the brain that control emotions.
Genetics may also play a role, as depression is more common in people who have family members with depression.
You may also be at a higher risk of depression during pregnancy if:
If you think you’re experiencing any of these issues and are worried about how they might affect your mental health during pregnancy, be sure to discuss your concerns with your OB-GYN.
Many of the symptoms of depression in pregnant women are similar to those experienced by the larger population. Below are some of the most common signs that you may be experiencing depression.
Emotional symptoms of depression may include:
Physical symptoms of depression may include:
Feelings of depression in pregnant women may also lead to:
Make sure to talk with your OB-GYN if you think you’re experiencing any symptoms of depression during pregnancy.
Depression can affect your baby during pregnancy if it prevents you from taking adequate care of yourself. Your baby depends on you for all the nutrients they need to grow and develop. So if your depression causes you to eat a poor diet, smoke, drink alcohol or take illegal drugs, your baby's health could be at risk.
Depending on the circumstances, depression can increase a baby's risk of:
Depression that continues or develops after birth, called postpartum depression, can make it difficult to care for yourself or your infant and prevent you from forming a loving bond with your baby, which can affect your baby’s development. Babies that are unable to form secure attachments may have:
As they grow older, children with depressed mothers may be more likely to have:
Treatment for depression is available during pregnancy, and the sooner you get help, the better the outcome is for you and your baby. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, treatment options may include:
The most important thing you can do if you’re experiencing symptoms of depression during pregnancy is talk with your doctor. Getting the right treatment and support can make all the difference for you and your baby. We know depression can be a very isolating experience, but you’re not alone–we’re here to help you every step of the way.