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The word “depression” can be misleading. While everyone has experienced sadness at some point in their lives, those feelings of depression are temporary. Clinical depression is longer-lasting and more serious, affecting over 18 million adults in the United States(2). Women are affected at twice the rate of men(1). But why?

An article published by the Mayo Clinic states: 

Some mood changes and depressed feelings occur with normal hormonal changes. But hormonal changes alone don't cause depression. Other biological factors, inherited traits, and personal life circumstances and experiences are associated with a higher risk of depression(3).”

If personal life circumstances potentially trigger depression, it’s no surprise that it can strike during a major life circumstance like pregnancy. Think about it. People typically consider pregnancy a time filled with excitement, joy, and anticipation. But for some women, pregnancy is a time of stress, fear, anxiety, and confusion. 

So what does depression during pregnancy look like, and what happens after the baby is born? What do you do when it’s more than the “baby blues?” 

Depression During Pregnancy

According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), between 14-23% of women will struggle with some symptoms of depression during pregnancy(4). The problem is that depression is not correctly diagnosed because it looks like a hormonal imbalance.

Signs and symptoms of depression during pregnancy usually last more than two weeks and may include:

  • Persistent sadness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Loss of interest in activities that you typically enjoy
  • Recurring thoughts of death, suicide, or hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Change in eating habits

Depression during pregnancy may be triggered by additional life circumstances like:

  • Relationship problems
  • Family or personal history of depression
  • Infertility treatments
  • Previous pregnancy loss
  • Stressful life events
  • Complications in pregnancy
  • History of abuse or trauma

If left untreated, depression may lead to unhealthy habits and suicidal behavior that can cause the baby developmental problems and premature birth. It’s a dangerous situation that requires help for both mom and child. 

* If you are having thoughts of harming yourself, please go to: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/, or contact A Woman’s Place Medical Clinic. Our trusted staff provides a safe place for you to be heard and get help.*

Postpartum Depression

When a woman gives birth, she is flooded with thousands of emotions. It may be overwhelming to the point where many new mothers may even feel sad, angry, or irritable. These feelings subside shortly after and are often referred to as the “baby blues.” 

But when those feelings intensify and do not go away, it may indicate something more serious. About 15% of new mothers will experience what is classified as postpartum depression(5)

Symptoms range from mild to severe starting days after birth or even up to one year later. Look for signs like:

  • Fatigue
  • Feeling sad, hopeless, and/or overwhelmed
  • Trouble sleeping and eating
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  • Losing interest in things that you used to enjoy
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • No interest in your baby
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby

Postpartum depression is a severe medical condition requiring immediate attention. 

What Can You Do?

If you begin to experience any signs of depression, you must take the following steps:

  • Talk openly about your feelings with your significant other, family, friends, and healthcare professionals
  • Ask for help with baby care
  • Eat a healthy, nutritious diet and exercise for more energy
  • Join a postpartum depression support group
  • Seek counseling

Depression during and after pregnancy are serious conditions that should not be ignored. At A Woman’s Place Medical Clinic, our trained and compassionate staff is ready to listen to any concerns you have regarding your pregnancy and health. Make yourself a priority, visit our website, and schedule an appointment. We will provide you with the resources you need to thrive.

 

Resources:
  1. What is Depression?
  2. Depression Facts
  3. Depression in Women: Understanding the Gender Gap
  4. Depression During Pregnancy
  5. How to Prevent Postpartum Depression