What is depression?

Depression is a condition that affects your emotional state. It can cause you to have feelings of sadness and disconnection. A depressed mood is a normal reaction to loss, change, life’s struggles or self-esteem issues. However, depression can sometimes become intense, last for long periods of time and prevent you from leading a normal life.

It’s important to reach out to a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing depression. It can be treated, helping you feel better.

Is it common to get depressed during pregnancy?

Depression is almost as commonly seen in pregnant women as it is in non-pregnant women. This condition can happen at any time in your life, including during pregnancy.

What factors increase my risk of being depressed during pregnancy?

There are many different factors that can add to your risk of developing depression during your pregnancy. These risks can include:

  • Having a history of depression or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
  • Your age at time of your pregnancy — the younger you are, the higher the risk.
  • Living alone.
  • Having limited social support.
  • Experiencing marital conflict.
  • Feeling ambivalent about your pregnancy.

Does pregnancy cause depression?

Pregnancy can cause you to experience depression. Your body goes through a lot of change and the stresses of pregnancy can trigger depression in some women. Not everyone who becomes pregnant will also be depressed.

If you have experienced depression in the past, your symptoms could return or if you were living with depression before your pregnancy, it may get worse once you’re pregnant.

It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider about depression during pregnancy because it can extend after delivery. Women who experience depression during pregnancy are at a higher risk of postpartum depression (depression after the baby is born).

What are some of the signs of depression during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, your body goes through many changes. You may experience a lot of different emotions throughout pregnancy — sometimes carrying you up the emotional roller coaster, and sometimes down. It’s okay to feel all of these different emotions. However, if you find you’re having any of the following symptoms during your pregnancy, it could be depression and you should reach out to your healthcare provider right away. Signs of depression during pregnancy can include:

  • Having recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
  • Having a depressed mood for most of the day, nearly early day, for the last two weeks.
  • Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless.
  • Having difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions.
  • Losing interest or pleasure in most activities during the day, nearly every day, for the last two weeks.

If you have any of the above symptoms your provider may ask you the following questions:

  • Over the past two weeks, have you felt down, depressed or hopeless?
  • Over the past two weeks, have you felt little interest or pleasure in doing things?

If you answer yes to either of these questions, your healthcare provider will ask you more questions during a more in-depth depression screening test.

How does depression affect pregnancy?

Experiencing depression during pregnancy can impact a mother’s health in several ways. Depression during pregnancy can affect you by:

  • Interfering with your ability to care for yourself. It’s important to take care of your own health during your pregnancy. Depression can cause you to push those personal needs aside. If you’re depressed during pregnancy, you might be less able to follow medical recommendations, as well as sleep and eat properly.
  • Placing you at a higher risk of using harmful substances. These substances can include tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs. Depression may cause you to turn to these substances, all of which can have a negative impact on your pregnancy.
  • Interfering with your ability to bond with your growing baby. While your baby is in the womb (uterus), the baby can actually hear you talk and can sense emotion by the pitch, rhythm and stress in your voice. If you are experiencing depression during your pregnancy, you might find it difficult to develop this bond with your baby. You might feel emotionally isolated.

What are my options if I’m depressed during pregnancy?

If you are experiencing depression during your pregnancy, there are steps you can take to help improve how you’re feeling. Preparing for a new baby is a lot of hard work, but remember that your health is important and needs to come first. There are a few things you can do to help with depression during pregnancy, including:

  • Resisting the urge to get everything done. Cut down on your chores and do things that will help you relax. And remember, taking care of yourself is an essential part of taking care of your unborn child.
  • Talking about your concerns. Talk to your friends, your partner and your family. If you ask for support, you’ll find that you often get it.

If you are not finding relief from anxiety and depression by making these changes, seek your healthcare provider’s advice or a referral to a mental health professional.

Are antidepressant medications safe during pregnancy?

Growing evidence suggests that many of the currently available antidepressant medicines are relatively safe for treating depression during pregnancy, at least in terms of short-term effects on the baby. Long-term effects have not been fully studied. You should discuss the possible risks and benefits with your doctor.

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