As a mom-to-be you hear a lot about postpartum depression. You read about it in books, see it on the TV, and hear about it from friends and doctors. But what about depression that occurs while you are pregnant? Yes, pregnant woman have hormone fluctuations that cause some sadness and depression. But what if that depression lasts longer than a day or two? What if it is above and beyond what is expected based on hormones? If the sadness is lasting longer than expected it could be antepartum depression.
Antepartum Depression is a mood disorder that develops during the course of pregnancy. In most cases, symptoms were not present prior to pregnancy and resolve following childbirth (although depression during pregnancy does put you at higher risk for postpartum depression). There are also many woman who have had depression prior to pregnancy and have worsening symptoms during pregnancy. Chemical changes that occur during pregnancy effect the way the brain functions and responds to stress. The chemical changes effect mood and emotion control centers of the brain and that directly effects how women respond to events in their life. To be considered depression symptoms need to present for a minimum of two weeks, more days than not.
Signs and Symptoms
- persistent overwhelming sadness
- crying spells
- loss of interest in pleasurable activities
- sleeping too much or too little
- little to no energy or motivation
- inability to concentrate or focus
- feeling worthless or hopeless
- changes in eating habits
- thoughts of death or suicide
- headaches, stomach aches, or body aches that don’t seem to go away
Can you see why depression in pregnancy may be overlooked? How many of you have had several of those symptoms just as a result of being pregnant? I’m 36 weeks along and can tick off several of them. Antepartum Depression is high under diagnosed because many women assume that it’s a part of pregnancy. The difference is that with depression the symptoms persist beyond what is considered normal for pregnancy. It is expected that several of the symptoms above come and go throughout the course of pregnancy. Depression is more persistent. Certain risk factors can make some women more prone to depression during pregnancy. If you are aware of your risk factors you can help prepare yourself and arm yourself with coping strategies to help your through.
Risk Factors for Depression During Pregnancy
- personal or family history of depression or other mental illness
- relationship problems
- financial issues
- substance abuse
- young age
- previous pregnancy loss
- lack of support
- feelings of anxiety or ambivalence about the pregnancy
- infertility treatments
- pregnancy complications
If you or someone you know are experiencing any of these symptoms please consult your OB or a mental health professional. This information by no means takes the place of a discussion with your healthcare provider. Depression is an extremely serious but treatable mental health condition that can only be diagnosed by a medical or mental health professional. There is no shame in reaching out and asking for help. The number of people diagnosed with depression would astound you and it is not as uncommon as you would think anymore.
Stay tuned for part two which will discuss where to seek help, what kind of treatments are available, and some techniques that you can use at home to help with moments of sadness that occur during pregnancy
***This website and its contents are designed for educational purposes only. This website does not render medical advice or professional services. The information provided here should not be used for the purposes of diagnosing or treating a medical or psychiatric illness. Articles or information shared from other sources will be quoted and cited appropriately. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.***