Signs of Depression During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is often portrayed in the media as joyous time, and it certainly is for many women. But the reality is that while pregnancy puts physical demands on the body, for many women the experience can be troubling mentally as well. According to the March of Dimes, 10 to 20 percent of pregnant women show signs of major depression. And for women who have shown depressive symptoms before, the odds are even greater. But treatment is available, often without the use of drugs that could possibly compromise the pregnancy. The key is knowing the signs and symptoms of depression and seeking evaluation and possible treatment early on.

Time Frame
Changes in hormones during pregnancy can certainly contribute to days when a woman may feel a little blue. Typically those days pass, however, and her mood will brighten. But if a pregnant woman displays symptoms of depression for two weeks in a row, she should be screened for depression and begin talking with her doctor about treatment--even if it's talk therapy with a psychologist or mental health counselor.

Lack of Interest
The most obvious sign of depression is feeling low, but it is the presence of other symptoms that likely signals major depression. A lack of interest in activities that you previously enjoyed is an especially revealing sign. Those activities could include socializing with friends, hobbies, shopping, watching movies, reading, etc. If you are aware that you no longer have an interest in these things or you notice this change in a pregnant woman, it's time to address the situation.

Feelings of guilt, especially for no discernible reason, are common signs of depression. It can be helpful to talk with other women who either are pregnant or who have been pregnant, to understand that such feelings are common.

Sleep and Appetite Changes
Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than normal are typical signs of depression, though in pregnant women, such changes are expected, regardless of mental health. But they are still worth watching, especially if you are having trouble sleeping for reasons unrelated to finding a comfortable position lying down. Likewise, appetite changes are normal during pregnancy; foods you once loved may seem unappealing and vice versa. Still, it's worth noting if you have noticeable changes in your eating habits along with other depressive symptoms.

Thoughts of Suicide
If you experience any feelings of hopelessness or thoughts of suicide (or of harming the baby), you should seek help immediately. Sharing your feelings, good and bad, with your partner can help, as well as keeping your doctor informed of not just changes in your physical health (energy level, pain, etc.), but in your mental health, too. While it's not uncommon to have feelings of hopelessness, it's vital to your health and that of your baby to remember that those feelings can pass and be replaced with the more joyous rewards of motherhood.

Unhealthy Behaviors
Untreated depression can be dangerous for the mother and the unborn baby, because the condition is often accompanied by poor choices in nutrition and by unhealthy behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse, according to the American Pregnancy Association (APA). Such behaviors can lead to premature birth, low birth weight and developmental problems. Untreated depression during pregnancy can also carry over once the baby has been born, a time when feelings of depression and anxiety can be even more concentrated and the health of mother and child are especially vulnerable.

Addressing Symptoms
If you or someone you know is showing depressive symptoms during pregnancy, the first step should be a conversation about those feelings with her health care provider. He can then recommend a plan of action, perhaps starting with a support group, talk therapy, medications, light therapy or another approach. It's very important, though, that you consult with your doctor about medications, supplements or any treatment that could possibly affect negatively the health of you and the baby.