You’ve probably heard of postpartum depression or the “baby blues”, but depression can play a role throughout pregnancy. Perinatal depression is depression that can occur any time during pregnancy or within the first 12 months after delivery. It is one of the most common medical complications during pregnancy and during the postpartum period and affects 1 in 7 women (ACOG, 2015). It can be difficult to recognize because some of the symptoms of depression are the same as those experienced during pregnancy such as changes in sleep.
Depression in pregnancy can occur because of hormone changes in the brain. Other stressors can make the depression worse. Those stressors may include family conflict, a previous pregnancy loss, or pregnancy complications.
Some common symptoms of depression include:
- Sadness that doesn’t go away
- Trouble concentrating
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Loss of interest in activities you normally enjoy
- Recurring thoughts of death, suicide or hopelessness
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Changes in eating habits (American Pregnancy Association, 2015)
Depression has the potential to negatively affect your baby. If you are suffering from depression symptoms, you may not sleep or eat well. You are also at higher risk of using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. If you are suffering from symptoms of depression, it’s important to talk with your provider about them. Depression can be treated and managed. Treatment may include medication, therapy, or support groups. Your provider can help you decide which treatments are best for you.
Other things you can do to manage your depression include doing all you can to take care of yourself and your health:
- Get regular exercise – this helps to increase the chemicals in your brain that make you feel happier
- Get enough rest – try to establish a regular sleep routine by going to bed and getting up at the same time each day
- Eat well – eat plenty of vegetables, fruits and lean meats. Foods high in sugar or caffeine aren’t the best choices for your physical or mental health.
- Do not – take herbal remedies without talking to your provider first. Some herbs can be harmful during pregnancy.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking with your provider about your depression, it’s important that you talk to someone. Here are some resources you may find helpful:
National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI)- 800-950-NAMI (6264)
National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 800-273-(TALK) (8255)