Depression in Pregnancy

Why am I depressed?

Depression can be confusing for women when it occurs during pregnancy. They can't figure out why they feel bad during a time when they should feel good. However, up to 10% of women will experience depression during pregnancy. The most likely women to have depression during pregnancy have a personal or family history of depression. While it was once thought that the high levels of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy "protected" women from depression, more recent studies suggest that this is not the case.

What are the symptoms of depression during pregnancy?

The symptoms of depression during pregnancy are: two or more weeks of depressed mood, decreased interest or pleasure in activities, change in appetite, change in sleep patterns, fatigue or loss of energy, difficulty concentrating, excessive feeling of guilt or worthlessness, thoughts of suicide, extreme restlessness and irritability. Symptoms may be ignored or misdiagnosed because they are confused with symptoms of pregnancy. The more common ones include changes in appetite, sleep or energy. Many women suffer needlessly because they do not ask for help. When depression is severe, women may not eat properly, get adequate rest, or receive prenatal care. These factors may contribute to premature and low birth-weight infants.

What can I do about depression during pregnancy?

Fortunately, depression is treatable. Believing one's condition is "incurable" is part of the hopelessness that accompanies depression. This way of thinking is a symptom of depression and will improve with treatment.

Treating depression is just as important as treating any other health concern during pregnancy. Without treatment, the depression can get worse or be harmful to the baby or mother. Studies also show that postpartum depression is more likely to occur if depression during pregnancy goes untreated. Therefore, it is important to get help while you are pregnant. There are many treatment options available to help depression.

Adapted with permission from the University of Michigan Depression Center Web site.