Pregnancy Mood Disorders

Pregnancy mood disorders at a glance

  • Being pregnant is often a happy experience in a woman’s life. For some women, though, it can be a time of stress, confusion, sadness or depression.
  • Studies show that one in four women will suffer depression during their lifetime. Depression, anxiety and other mood disorders can occur during pregnancy or after giving birth.

PROMISE Perinatal Mood Disorders Clinic

Depression during and after pregnancy

Depression can occur during pregnancy or after pregnancy (post-partum depression). The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) found that between 14 percent and 23 percent of women display symptoms of depression during pregnancy.

Depression during pregnancy is sometimes misdiagnosed as a hormonal imbalance. Depression can be treated and managed during and after pregnancy. If a woman is struggling with feelings of uncontrolled sadness or depression, she should contact her doctor. The first step is finding help and support.

Like other forms of depression, antepartum depression (depression during pregnancy) and post-partum depression are biological illnesses that involve changes in brain chemistry. Sometimes, the hormone changes that occur during pregnancy can affect brain chemicals. This can cause anxiety or depression. Difficult life situations can exacerbate these feelings.

Symptoms of depression

A woman should contact her doctor if she has struggled with any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks:

  • Anxiety
  • Unrelenting sadness
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • No interest in activities that you usually enjoy
  • Change in eating habits
  • Persistent thoughts of death, suicide, or hopelessness

Treatment for depression

For women who think they might be struggling with depression, the first step is to talk with a health provider. A doctor can discuss treatment options to help, which may include:

  • Counseling or support groups
  • Private psychotherapy
  • Medication

Natural Remedies for Depression

A health provider may also suggest some natural remedies to help a woman cope with depression during or after pregnancy. Some helpful tips include:

  • Get adequate rest. A lack of sleep can affect the body’s ability to cope with stress. Try to establish a sleep routine that will allow you to get adequate rest.
  • Take time to exercise. Exercise will decreases cortisol levels and increase serotonin levels in your body, improving your mood.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and nutrition. Some foods can affect the body’s ability to handle stress. Diets that are high in sugar, caffeine, additives and processed carbohydrates can affect your physical and mental health. Try to feed your body healthy foods to fuel your body.
  • Acupuncture. Some women report that acupuncture is helpful in treating depression during pregnancy.

If you think you might be struggling with anxiety or depression, talk to your health provider, a counselor or even a friend. Never try to face depression alone. Do it for yourself and for your baby.