Depression and Pregnancy: What you need to know

Dr. Pamela Wright-Etter, Vice President of Medical Services — October 7, 2019 — 3 min read
Pregnancy is life-changing. While most soon-to-be-moms expect to have sleepless nights, many are surprised to have feelings of depression.
It’s actually more common than you might think, though: nearly 70% of mothers will experience “the baby blues.” It can happen with your first baby, last baby, or any child in between. There’s a good reason for it, too.
Intense hormone changes happen during pregnancy. A few weeks before the baby is born, huge hormone shifts start telling the body it’s time for labor and delivery. Here’s the thing: these changes can affect parts of the brain linked to depression. That’s why the few weeks before and after birth — when the hormones are strongest — is when you’re most likely to start feeling depressed or anxious.
This is called peripartum depression. It can happen to anyone, but you’re at greater risk for it if you had depression before pregnancy. It’s never something to be ashamed of, and never something you have to handle alone. Help is available to start feeling better again.
What to watch for
Waiting months to see if you’ll “get over it” can make depression harder to treat. Knowing the signs — and getting help early — can make all the difference for you, your baby, and your family.
Look for the following signs that it’s time to reach out for help, especially if they last more than a week or two after the baby is born: 
  • Trouble sleeping (outside of the baby waking you)
  • Intense frustration
  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Confusion
  • Lack of interest in the baby
Get help right away if you feel like you’re in such a fog that you’re detached from your own life — like you’re watching everything going on around you but not part of it. Also seek immediate help if you are thinking of harming yourself or your baby.
Where to get help
Your OB-GYN doctor can be a good source of support, information, and treatment. They might even recommend you visit a psychiatrist who specializes in treating these symptoms.
There are also some excellent websites about peripartum depression. For example:  
You can also reach out to the Cardinal Innovations crisis line, which is answered by trained professionals within 30 seconds any time of day or night. Call 1-800-939-5911 for a safe environment to talk, get referrals, or get immediate help.
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