Help, I’m Pregnant and Depressed! What Does It Mean?
There are plenty of stereotypes about “glowing” women and moms-to-be who are happy all the time. So, feeling depressed when your pregnant might not seem right to you.
But does it indicate there’s a problem, or is it perfectly natural? You’ve probably heard of some women experiencing depression after the baby is born, but what about before?
An essential thing to understand is that you’re not alone. According to the Mayo Clinic, about 7% of women experience depression during pregnancy.
But what does it really mean?
Getting the Right Diagnosis
If you feel “off” during your pregnancy or have feelings of disinterest and sadness, it could be depression. Unfortunately, depression often goes undiagnosed during pregnancy. It can also cause trouble sleeping and a decrease in libido. So, your doctor might attribute your symptoms to the pregnancy itself, rather than any underlying depression.
Additionally, it can be hard for expectant mothers to talk about feelings of depression. Many women think pregnancy is supposed to be a time of joy, so they might not feel comfortable expressing anything less than that.
Furthermore, most women and doctors alike tend to focus on the physical health of the mother and child during pregnancy. That doesn’t mean mental health is disregarded entirely, but it often takes a back seat.
Signs of Depression During Pregnancy
Along with feelings of disinterest or a general sense of sadness, there are some more specific signs of depression during pregnancy, you can look out for, including:
Anxiety about your pregnancy and baby
Extreme weight gain
Non-responsive to reassurance
Not adhering to directions of prenatal care
You don’t enjoy activities you once did
Many potential risk factors could be contributing to your depression. Some of the more common causes include an unsupportive or absent partner, an unintended pregnancy, or you don’t have support from friends/family. An additional risk factor includes a recent move to a new neighborhood or community. For example, many expecting couples move to a more "family friendly" neighborhood with green space and better schools in anticipation of starting or growing a family.
Adding a major life event (having a baby) on top of a major life event (moving to a new neighborhood) can contribute to feelings of sadness or depression as your support system changes or is less available. Some couples also find a job change occurs while pregnant. I refer to this as "stacking". As life events stack up, so can the chance of experiencing prenatal depression or anxiety.
If you’re unhappy in your relationship with your partner, that could also contribute to feelings of depression. It’s essential to make sure that in any situation, you and your unborn child remain safe. If your depression stems from not knowing what to do with your relationship, make it a priority to take yourself out of danger above all else.
Can Treatment Help?
If you have any signs of depression while you’re pregnant, it’s crucial to talk to your doctor about it as soon as possible. If depression goes untreated, you run the risk of not giving yourself the best care possible throughout the pregnancy, which can impact your baby’s health. You might also not have the energy you need to care for yourself properly.
Depression can easily cross over into postpartum depression after your baby is born. Prenatal depression that turns into postpartum depression generally requires treatment from a mental health professional to overcome; it is not something that will just go away in a few weeks. But the good news is that both are treatable with the right supports. Learning how to manage your symptoms is essential for your overall well-being as well as your newborn’s general health.
If you’re worried that you might be struggling with depression, the first step is to talk to your doctor. Most treatment options include individual therapy, couples therapy or group therapy, in addition to certain medications.
To learn more about how counseling can help you during your pregnancy, please click here.
By getting help early in your pregnancy, you can enjoy your pregnancy more while remaining confident that you are doing your best for your baby. I offer a complimentary phone consultation to all potential clients. To schedule yours in a matter of seconds, please check here. Together, we can get to the root of your anxiety, and go over ways you can manage your symptoms.
COMING SOON! A workshop for couples who are thinking about or planning to have a baby, who are expecting a baby or who have children already. Based on years of research and experience and developed by the Gottman Institute, this 12 hour workshop is designed to repair communication skills and jump start your relationship with your partner. For more information, please click here.
Jennifer Perera is a mom, spouse and Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over a decade’s worth of experience in mental health. She has a private practice in New Jersey, with locations in Cranford and Princeton. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual, group and couples counseling. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with a pregnancy loss or infertility. Her other passion is travelling to different parts of the world and her goal is to vacation in a different locale every time. She also has a great fondness for cats!