Lifting the Burden of Pregnancy Depression

Most people know about postpartum depression. But women are just as likely to have depression during pregnancy. Pregnancy does not protect against depression.

Women may have depression before they become pregnant. Plus, about 1 in 7 women have a new episode of depression within the year before and after pregnancy. The exact cause isn’t known. A combination of factors is thought to trigger depression in pregnancy. These may include changing hormone levels, chemical changes in your brain, and stressful life events. 

Feeling down?

You may have depression if you feel sad or hopeless for at least 2 weeks, with 1 or more of these symptoms:

  • Crying often

  • Loss of energy

  • Changes in your appetite

  • Sleeping too little or too much

  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

  • Loss of interest in normal activities

  • Withdrawal from loved ones

  • Headaches, fast heart rate, or faster breathing


Some women are more likely than others to have depression during pregnancy. These include women with the following:

  • A family or personal history of depression

  • Little support from family and friends

  • Problems during a past pregnancy

  • Health issues during this pregnancy

  • Relationship or money problems

Help for depression

If you’re being treated for depression and are thinking about becoming pregnant, talk with your healthcare provider. This is extra important if you’re taking medicine for depression.

Medicines for depression can help, but they come with risks. Having depression in pregnancy can increase a woman’s chance of having a low birthweight or premature baby. Experts don’t know if this is due to depression symptoms (low appetite or less sleep) or depression medicines, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

But stopping your depression medicines can pose a threat. It can increase the risk of depression coming back during pregnancy. Talk with your healthcare provider about the pros and cons of treatment. Your treatment will depend on how severe your depression is and how long you’ve had it.

These tips can also boost your mood:

  • Get help with household chores.

  • Talk with your loved ones about how you’re feeling.

  • Don’t make major life changes.

  • Exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week.

Online Medical Reviewer: Bowers, Nancy, RN, BSN, MPHFoley, Maryann, RN, BSN

Date Last Reviewed: 4/12/2016

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