Depression during pregnancy (antepartum depression)
Material courtesy of March of Dimes (adapted for Kosovo)
Major depression is more than just feeling down for a few days. You may have depression if you have any of these signs that last for more than two weeks or:
- Changes in your feelings
- Feeling sad, hopeless or overwhelmed
- Feeling restless or moody
- Crying a lot
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Changes in your everyday life
- Eating more or less than you usually do
- Having trouble remembering things, concentrating or making decisions
- Not being able to sleep or sleeping too much
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Losing interest in things you usually like 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’re pregnant and you have any of these signs, or if the signs get worse, call your doctor or contact your local Beba-ks Center. There are things that can help you feel better. If you’re worried about hurting yourself, call your doctor immediately.
Can depression during pregnancy affect your baby?
Yes. If you’re pregnant and have depression that’s not treated, you’re more likely to have:
- Premature birth.
- A low-birthweight baby.
- A baby who is more irritable, less active, and less attentive.
Being pregnant can make depression worse or make it come back if you’ve been treated and feeling better. If you have depression that’s not treated, you may have trouble taking care of yourself during pregnancy. For example, you may not eat healthy foods and not gain enough weight. You may skip your prenatal care checkups or not follow instructions from your doctor. Or you may smoke, drink alcohol, use street drugs or abuse prescription drugs. All of these things can affect your baby before he’s born.
If you have depression during pregnancy that’s not treated, you’re more likely to have PPD after pregnancy. PPD can make it hard for you to care for and bond with your baby. Treatment for depression during pregnancy can help prevent these problems.
What causes major depression?
We’re not exactly sure what causes depression. It may be a combination of things, like changing chemicals in the brain or changing hormones. Hormones are chemicals made by the body. Some hormones can affect the parts of the brain that control emotions and mood.
Some things make you more likely than others to have depression. These are called risk factors. Having a risk factor doesn’t mean for sure that you’ll have depression. But it may increase your chances. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to help reduce your risk. Risk factors for major depression include:
- You’ve had major depression or another mental illness in the past, or you have a family history of depression or mental illness. This means that someone in your family has had the condition.
- You’ve had stressful events in your life, like the death of a loved one or an illness that affects you or a loved one.
- You have problems with your partner, including domestic violence.
- You have little support from family or friends.
- You have money problems.
- You smoke, drink alcohol, use street drugs or abuse prescription drugs.
How is depression treated during pregnancy?
Depression can be treated in several ways. You and your doctor may decide to use a combination of treatments instead of just one:
- Counseling (also called therapy or talk therapy). This is when you talk about your feelings and concerns with a counselor or therapist. This person helps you understand your feelings, solve problems and cope with things in your everyday life. Check with your doctor or contact your local Beba-ks Center for a referral.
- Support groups. These are groups of people who meet together or go online to share their feelings and experiences about certain topics. You might find our online community helpful or contact your local Beba-ks Center to find out about local in-person meetings.
- Medicine. Depression often is treated with medicines called antidepressants. You need a prescription from your doctor for these medicines. You may be on one medicine or a combination of medicines. Some research shows that taking an antidepressant during pregnancy may put your baby at risk for some health conditions. But if you’ve been taking an antidepressant, it may be harmful to you to stop taking it. So talk with all of your doctor about the benefits and risks of taking an antidepressant while you’re pregnant, and decide together what you want your treatment to be. If you’re taking an antidepressant and find out you’re pregnant, don’t stop taking the medicine without talking to your doctor first. Not taking your medicine may be harmful to your baby, and it may make your depression come back.