Depression in pregnancy

Antenatal depression affects at least 1 in 10 women

At a glance

  • 1 in 10 women will suffer bouts of depression during pregnancy
  • Important to spot the signs and seek help if you feel depressed

Is antenatal depression common?

Pregnancy is assumed to be a time of happiness and joy for you, your partner and family. It might seem like an unlikely time to suffer from depression, but for at least one in 10 pregnant women this is exactly what happens.

It’s easy to assume that the feelings associated with depression are part and parcel of the changes your body is going through and see this as a reason to not seek help. But depression is serious and can have serious consequences if you don’t get the help and support that you need.

Am I more likely to be depressed in pregnancy?

Finding out that you’re pregnant signals a time of change both emotionally and physically. Your body will be going through a lot of hormonal changes and you will suddenly find yourself with a lot more to think about.

There can be financial worries, concerns about career as well as general worries about being pregnant and the health of your baby. Later on in pregnancy difficulty in sleeping can also contribute to feeling low. All of these things can increase your chances of having bouts of depression.

It’s a misconception that all mums-to-be will naturally fall back on ‘maternal instincts’ and be fine, but in reality plenty of pregnant woman are worried about what’s to come and not talking about these worries can lead to anxiety and depression.

You may also be more at risk of depression if any of the following factors apply:

  • Previous history of depression for you or your family members
  • Previous pregnancy loss
  • Problems with your pregnancy
  • Relationship difficulties

How can I tell if I’m suffering from depression during or after pregnancy?

Depression is a very personal experience and can vary from person to person but it’s important to be aware of the general signs.

It’s difficult to give you any one symptom that you may be experiencing that means you’re suffering from mild or even severe depression, but warning signs to look out for include:

  • Feeling unable to cope
  • Feeling irritable and angry
  • Being afraid of being alone with your baby
  • Sleeping problems - that can add to you feeling low
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Loss of pleasure in activities you usually enjoy
  • Uncontrollable feelings of panic
  • Feeling tired and lethargic
  • Gaining or losing large amounts of weight
  • Crying or feeling on the verge of tears often

If you’re displaying any of these feelings or signs it’s best to talk to your doctor or midwife as soon as possible.

How can I treat depression?

The best way to treat antenatal depression is with the help of a professional who will be able to discuss everything with you and provide you with the support that you need. There are additional steps you can take if you’re feeling low:

Engage in some exercise to help you unwind and focus your mind - There are a number of exercise activities that are safe during pregnancy including swimming and pregnancy yoga.

Take time out to treat yourself - Even if it’s just a morning off to visit your favourite coffee shop and read a book for a few hours; making time just for you will help a lot.

Talk to your partner, family or friends - Depression can often feel very lonely which makes the symptoms worse. It’s a good idea to talk to the people you feel comfortable with about how you’re feeling and to get support from them, even if you feel more inclined to not discuss how you feel.

Eating well - this may help with tiredness and energy levels and overall wellbeing.

Your doctor might also prescribe medication to take to help you with your depression and don’t worry, you doctor will know which medication is safe for you to take whilst pregnant.

At a glance

  • 1 in 10 women will suffer bouts of depression during pregnancy
  • Important to spot the signs and seek help if you feel depressed

Pregnancy conditions