Prenatal depression is depression that happens during pregnancy. Depression symptoms include extreme or ongoing sadness, anxiety, fatigue and changes in sleeping and eating habits. In severe cases, prenatal depression can cause people to harm themselves or their baby. Treatments include therapy and medications.
Prenatal depression is depression that happens during pregnancy. Depression causes ongoing or extreme sadness. It can also cause anxiety, fatigue and trouble sleeping. If you have this mood disorder, you may withdraw from family and friends. You may not have any interest in activities you once enjoyed.
Prenatal depression can affect you at any time during pregnancy. Postpartum depression (PPD) is depression that develops after you have the baby. It’s important to note that prenatal and postpartum depression are different from the “baby blues." The “baby blues” usually resolve within two to three weeks. Meanwhile, prenatal and postpartum depression don’t go away without treatment.
Symptoms of depression sometimes get better with lifestyle changes. But if they don’t, providers treat this condition with therapy and medications. If you have prenatal depression, you are not alone. Depression is a common medical condition, and treatments can help.
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Anyone can get prenatal depression. You’re more likely to have this condition if you or your family members have a history of:
Prenatal depression is more common among people who:
This condition is very common. Researchers believe depression is one of the most common issues pregnant people face. Around 5% of adults in the United States have persistent feelings of depression.
Many factors play a role in who gets depression during pregnancy. One of the main factors is having a history (or family history) of mood disorders. During pregnancy, hormone levels shift, which can affect mood. Depression can result from an imbalance of chemical levels in the brain.
Many people also feel sad or anxious about changes happening to their bodies. They may experience pregnancy discomforts. They may have financial concerns and worry about taking on new responsibilities. For those with a higher risk of depression, these changes can be overwhelming.
Everyone feels sad, anxious or worried occasionally. It’s normal to feel this way sometimes, especially during pregnancy. But depression symptoms don’t go away after a few days. They can last for weeks or months, and they can worsen over time. Symptoms of depression during pregnancy include:
In severe cases, people with this disorder have thoughts about harming themselves or their unborn baby. If you have self-harm thoughts or thoughts of suicide, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. This national network of local crisis centers provides 24/7 free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
If you have signs of prenatal depression, it’s important to get an evaluation. Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms They’ll want to know when they started and how often they occur.
They may recommend seeing a mental health professional (such as a psychologist, therapist or counselor). This specialist can offer a complete evaluation and treatment. Tell them if you have a history or family history of depression or other mood disorders.
Healthcare providers treat prenatal depression with:
There are several things you can do to improve your mood and outlook. These include:
You may not be able to prevent depression during or after pregnancy (postpartum depression). If you’ve had depression or anxiety before or you have a family history of mood disorders, you have a higher risk. Talk to your provider about the signs to look for so you can get help.
For most people, symptoms of prenatal depression get better with treatments. Therapy, medications and lifestyle changes can significantly improve your outlook. Keep in mind that you may need a combination of medications and therapy for symptoms to improve. You may also need to try different types of therapy or medications.
Untreated, depression can be dangerous for an unborn baby. Prenatal depression can make it difficult for people to care for themselves properly while pregnant. They’re more likely to make unhealthy choices, such as drinking alcohol, smoking or avoiding exercise. All of these choices impact the baby’s health.
In severe cases, people with prenatal depression may harm themselves or their babies. It’s essential to get help right away if you have signs of depression during pregnancy.
If you have signs of depression during or after pregnancy, get help right away. Safe, effective treatments are available. Get emergency medical help if you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you’re pregnant, it’s normal to feel anxious, worried or emotional from time to time. But if sadness or anxiety is affecting your daily life, see your provider. Be open and honest about your symptoms, feelings and concerns. Treatments for prenatal depression can help, and they’re safe for you and your baby. You may need a combination of therapy, medication and lifestyle changes to help you feel better. If you think you may harm yourself or your baby, get emergency help.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/10/2022.
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