Depression during pregnancy: what you need to know

Depression is more than just feeling sad. It’s a medical condition that affects your thoughts, can interfere with your daily life and even causes changes to your body. It needs treatment to get better.

The signs or symptoms of depression last for more than two weeks. These are the signs and symptoms to look for:

Changes in your feelings 

  • Feeling sad, hopeless or overwhelmed
  • Feeling restless or moody
  • Crying a lot
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Thinking about death or suicide

Changes in your everyday life 

  • Eating more or less than you usually do
  • Having trouble concentrating, remembering things or making decisions
  • Not being able to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Losing interest in things you used to do

Changes in your body 

  • Having no energy and feeling tired all the time
  • Having headaches, stomach problems or other aches and pains that don’t go away

If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your health care provider.

Depression during pregnancy

If you’ve had depression before, you’re more likely than other women to experience depression during pregnancy. Being pregnant can make depression worse or make it come back if you’ve been treated in the past and were feeling better.

If you have depression during pregnancy and don’t get treatment, you may not feel well enough to make sure you are eating healthy foods and you may not gain the right amount of weight. You may miss prenatal care appointments or have trouble remembering and following medical instructions. Or you may smoke, drink alcohol, use street drugs or misuse prescription drugs. All of these things can affect your baby before he’s born.

Depression that is not treated during pregnancy can increase the risk of:

  • Premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
  • A low-birthweight baby (a baby weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces)
  • A baby who is more irritable, less active, less attentive and has fewer facial expressions than babies born to moms who don’t have depression during pregnancy.
  • Postpartum depression.

Treatment for depression during pregnancy

It’s best if you work with a team of providers to treat your depression during pregnancy. These providers can work together to make sure you and your baby get the best care. They may include your prenatal care provider and a professional who treats your depression (such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, or counselor).

There are several treatment options available for depression during pregnancy including talk therapy, support groups and medicine, such as antidepressants. Make sure you talk to your provider about the best choice for you.

If you think you have depression during pregnancy, talk to your provider. You may need treatment to help you feel better.

For more information about depression, including resources and medication safety, visit marchofdimes.org 

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