It Was Time To Get Help
She actually began researching ways to end her life. The suicidal thoughts were intermittent and not long-lasting. But even after theyd passed, the depression remained. At about five months postpartum, Saremi had her first-ever panic attack during a Costco shopping trip with her baby. I decided I was ready to get some help, she says.
Saremi talked to her primary care doctor about her depression, and was happy to discover he was both professional and nonjudgmental. He referred her to a therapist and suggested a prescription for an antidepressant. She opted to try therapy first and still goes once a week.
Postpartum Depression Is Different From The Baby Blues
Postpartum depression is depression that occurs after having a baby. Feelings of postpartum depression are more intense and last longer than those of baby blues, a term used to describe the worry, sadness, and tiredness many women experience after having a baby.
The symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to symptoms of depression, but may also include:
- Crying more often than usual.
- Feelings of anger.
- Feeling distant from your baby.
- Worrying or feeling overly anxious.
- Thinking about hurting yourself or your baby.
- Doubting your ability to care for your baby.
If you think you have depression, seek treatment from your health care provider as soon as possible.
What Causes Pregnancy Depression And Who Is Most Vulnerable
The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can affect your brain chemistry, impacting mood. But there are additional risk factors that can slide you towards depression:
A prior history of depression or anxiety
Big life stresses and a lack of social support
Prior or ongoing abuse
Pregnancy depression can be tough to talk about, but getting help can make all difference in the worldfor your own health, as well as for your baby.
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What Are Some Causes Of Depression During Pregnancy
Some women who experience antepartum depression have a history of major depression prior to pregnancy. However, many women have their first experience of depression while they’re pregnant. Antepartum depression is thought to be caused by a combination of hormonal changes and psychological disturbances associated with pregnancy. Physical changes, such as changes in body and changes in sleep and eating habits, while normal aspects of pregnancy, can also contribute to the development of antepartum depression. Risk factors for antepartum depression include:
- Personal or family history of depression
- Stressful life events, like the death or illness of a loved one
- Lack of a partner or social support during pregnancy
- Relationship problems, including domestic violence
- History of abuse or trauma
- Financial stress, including poverty
- Unplanned pregnancy
Is Feeling Depressed During Pregnancy Normal
Feeling depressed during pregnancy is not uncommon, but that doesnt mean its normal. If left untreated, it can be harmful to both you and your growing baby.
Which is why its definitely something you want to discuss with your doctor.
But therein lies the problem. Many women dont bring up the topic of depression during pregnancy. Its almost a taboo topic.
Some women may feel guilt or shame about feeling depressed during pregnancy because this is supposed to be a happy time.
Young women today are 50 percent more likely to experience prenatal depression than their mothers were in the 1990s.
U.K. study conducted by University of Bristol
Other expecting moms might think they can power through their feelings without seeking depression treatment, which can make depression symptoms even worse.
Listen up, there is NO SHAME in talking to your healthcare provider about feeling depressed during pregnancy. Zero.
While it isnt normal per se, it certainly isnt rare.
In fact, 14-23% of expecting women will experience some form of depression during their pregnancies.
So you are NOT ALONE. Your doctor has helped many women going through similar experiences, and they can help you too.
Another reason women dont report feeling depressed during pregnancy is that they arent sure if theyre actually suffering from depression, or just normal anxiety during pregnancy caused by fluctuating hormones.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Depression During Pregnancy
Its often difficult to diagnose prenatal depression because some of its warning signs mirror so many “normal” pregnancy symptoms, including:
- Inability to concentrate
- Mood swings or general emotional instability
If youre not sure whether your feelings are within a healthy range, its best to discuss your symptoms with your doctor to be safe.
If you have five of the following more serious symptoms of depression for most of the day every day during the same two-week period, you should seek help:
- Sad, hopeless, restless, indifferent or depressed mood
- Crying a lot
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Weight loss
- Weight gain that exceeds your target pregnancy weight gain
- Wanting to eat all the time, or no appetite at all
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Having trouble thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of harming yourself, death or suicide
- Having headaches, stomach problems or other pains that dont go away
- Missing prenatal visits or not following medical instructions
- Using harmful substances like tobacco, alcohol or illegal drugs
How Can Depression During Pregnancy Be Treated
If you think you are struggling with antepartum depression, the first and most important step you can take is seeking help. Speak with your doctor about your symptoms and issues. He or she will be able to recommend treatment that would be best suited to you and your child. Treatment methods for depression during pregnancy may include:
Making changes at home may also help you manage your depression symptoms. Speak with your partner, family, or friends about your issues and ask for support. Allow yourself to relax, slow down, cut down on chores and tasks, and put your health and well-being first. Taking care of yourself is vital to taking care of your unborn baby. Some other changes that may help manage depression symptoms include:
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Frequently Asked Questions Expand All
- What is depression?
Depression is a common illness that can be mild or very serious. It is more than feeling sad or upset for a short time or feeling grief after a loss. Depression changes your thoughts, feelings, behavior, and physical health. It affects how you function in your daily life. It also can affect how you relate to your family, friends, and coworkers. Depression can occur at different times of life or in different situations.
- How common is depression during pregnancy?
Depression is common during pregnancy, affecting about 1 in 10 pregnant women. Some women have depression and anxiety for the first time in their lives during pregnancy or after delivery.
- What are the signs of depression during pregnancy?
The signs of depression can seem like the normal ups and downs of pregnancy. A blue mood now and then is normal. But its important to know the signs of depression. Talk with your obstetriciangynecologist if you have any of these signs for at least 2 weeks:
Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day
Loss of interest in work or other activities
Feeling guilty, hopeless, or worthless
Sleeping more than normal or having trouble sleeping
Loss of appetite, losing weight, or eating much more than normal and gaining weight
Feeling very tired or without energy
Having trouble paying attention, concentrating, or making decisions
Being restless or slowed down in a way that others notice
Thinking about death or suicide
How Can Family And Friends Help
It is important to understand that depression is a medical condition that impacts the mother, the child, and the family. Spouses, partners, family members, and friends may be the first to recognize symptoms of perinatal depression in a new mother. Treatment is central to recovery. Family members can encourage the mother to talk with a health care provider, offer emotional support, and assist with daily tasks such as caring for the baby or the home.
Support or advocacy groups can offer a good source of support and information. One example of this type of group is Postpartum Support International others can be found through online searches.
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What Are The Signs Of Depression
Depression can come on slowly. The symptoms are different for everyone. They can be mild, moderate or severe. Some of the more common signs are:
- changes in appetite, like eating too much or having little interest in food,
- changes in sleep, such as trouble sleeping or sleeping too much,
- lack of energy,
- feeling sad, hopeless or worthless,
- crying for no reason, and
- loss of interest or pleasure in activities you normally enjoy.
New moms with depression may have trouble caring for their baby. They might not want to spend time with their baby, which can lead to a baby who cries a lot.
Whats The Difference Between Baby Blues And Postpartum Depression
The baby blues is a mild form of postpartum depression that many new moms experience. It usually starts 1 to 3 days after the birth and can last for 10 days to a few weeks. With baby blues, many women have mood swingshappy one minute and crying the next. They may feel anxious, confused, or have trouble eating or sleeping. Up to 80% of new moms have the baby blues. Its common, and it will go away on its own.
About 13% of new mothers experience postpartum depression, which is more serious and lasts longer. You are at a greater risk if you have a family history of depression or have had depression before.
Some of the symptoms include:
- feeling like you cant care for your baby,
- extreme anxiety or panic attacks,
- trouble making decisions,
- hopelessness, and
- feeling out of control.
No one knows exactly what causes postpartum depression. If you think you have the symptoms, its important to get help right away. Postpartum depression needs to be treated. Talk to your doctor or call your local public health office.
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How Can I Help Myself
Depression can make you want to hide away from the world and you may feel like you dont want to do anything. But it is important to make sure you take care of yourself. Start with little activities, take things at your own pace and most importantly, ask for help if you need it. Here are a few ideas for what you can do.
- Talk to someone you trust about your feelings, such as your partner, family or a friend.
- Try not to feel guilty, ashamed or embarrassed. These feelings are not your fault.
- Try some of our top tips for looking after your emotional wellbeing.
- Exercise as much as you can. Keeping active will release some feel-good endorphins.
- Eat well even if you dont have much appetite.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking. This can harm your baby and make you feel worse.
- Dont take St Johns Wort .
Depression During Pregnancy: Know Your Risks
Postpartum depression awareness is on the rise, and with good reason — one in nine women deal with it after giving birth. But depression during pregnancy is often still overlooked, even though it happens just as frequently as the postpartum variety.
One of the biggest reasons for this, is that many of the physical symptoms of pregnancy and depression are the same, such as change in appetite, problems concentrating, feeling tired, insomnia, even aches and pains, says Veerle Bergink, MD, PhD, professor in the departments of psychiatry and obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive Science at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.
âThe complicated thing about depression during pregnancy is that your body is changing so much already,â she says. âYouâre already feeling atypical.â
Another complicating factor is that though some practitioners may make a point to ask questions about your mood, depression screening isnât a routine part of prenatal care. âThere has been much more attention to postpartum depression,â Bergink says. âIt’s much more common to screen for that than prenatal depression, even though it would actually it be more logical to start screening when women first come into the office during pregnancy.â
But, she says, depression isn’t something you choose to have, and you canât blame yourself for having it. The more women share their struggles, the less hidden prenatal depression will be.
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It Felt Like A Light Turned Off In My Brain
Its unlikely that a woman who has experienced depression during her pregnancy will magically feel different once her baby is born. In fact, the feelings can continue to compound. When her son was born, Saremi says it quickly became clear to her that she was in an unsustainable situation when it came to her mental health.
Almost immediately after his birth while I was still in the delivery room it felt like all the lights turned off in my brain. I felt like I was fully enveloped in a dark cloud and I could see outside it, but nothing I saw made sense. I didnt feel connected to myself, much less my baby.
Saremi had to cancel newborn pictures because she says she couldnt stop crying, and when she got home, she was overwhelmed by scary, intrusive thoughts.
Afraid to be alone with her son or leave the house with him by herself, Saremi confesses she felt hopeless and despondent. According to Farkas, these feelings are common among women with perinatal depression and its important to normalize them by encouraging women to seek help. Many of them feel guilty for not feeling 100 percent happy during this time, Farkas says.
Many struggle with the tremendous change having a baby means and the responsibility of what it means to care for another human being who is fully dependent on them, she adds.
How Are Problems Treated
Treatment for mental health problems may include:
- Prescription medicine. Always talk to a doctor before you start taking or stop taking any medicines during your pregnancy. If you take any kind of medicine for a mental health issue and are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, tell your doctor. Don’t stop taking it unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines may cause problems for a growing baby, but stopping your medicine may make things worse. Your doctor can make a treatment plan that is best for you and your baby.
- Talk therapy. Talking one-on-one with a therapist can be a great way to manage stress, deal with depression, and ease anxiety during pregnancy. Finding a support group where you can share your concerns with other mothers who know what you’re going through also can help. Talking with a social worker or counselor can help you deal with money issues, worries over raising a child, or other stresses in your life.
- Other approaches. Many women find comfort in activities like yoga, exercise, and meditation. If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, talking to a friend, family member, or faith leader can help you feel better.
Many moms feel anxious or depressed at some point in their pregnancy, and some may even need treatment for it. But a mental health problem doesn’t have to be a problem for you or your baby. Get the help you need to feel better, and you’ll be doing the best thing for you both.
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Can You Prevent Pregnancy Depression
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that moms-to-be seek out therapy or counseling to address pregnancy depression preemptively if they have one or more of the following risk factors:
- Youre currently experiencing signs or symptoms of depression.
- You have a history of depression or other mental health conditions.
- Youre partnerless or are a teenager.
- Youre dealing with major stressors like low income or unemployment.
- Youre a victim of domestic abuse.
That said, pregnancy depression can affect any woman not just those deemed high-risk. Your provider may opt to screen you for depression during your pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends screening women at least once for depression and anxiety either shortly before or after birth, so some providers might not screen during pregnancy.
That means that you should still let your provider know if you start to notice signs of possible depression whether they ask about your mood or not.
From the What to Expect editorial team and Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. What to Expect follows strict reporting guidelines and uses only credible sources, such as peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and highly respected health organizations. Learn how we keep our content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial policy.
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 youre pregnant.
Its 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 .
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What Is Depression In Pregnancy
Depression during pregnancy, or antepartum depression, is a mood disorder just like clinical depression. Mood disorders are biological illnesses that involve changes in brain chemistry.During pregnancy, hormone changes can affect the chemicals in your brain, which are directly related to depression and anxiety. These can be exacerbated by difficult life situations, which can result in depression during pregnancy.