Most people know that postpartum depression can happen to moms after birth. But you can also have depression while you’re pregnant.
This kind of depression is called antepartum depression — and it happens to about 7 percent of pregnant people overall. This rate may be as high as 15 percent in some countries.
Pregnancy can be an exciting time, but it may also bring a lot of stress and anxiety, along with a roller coaster of hormones. All of these can cause or worsen depression.
And diagnosis can be tricky: Pregnancy symptoms can sometimes hide antepartum depression.
Here’s what to know about the symptoms and how antepartum depression is treated.
Depression is a common mood disorder that can happen to anyone. It causes feelings of sadness that you can’t shake. You might also not feel like doing things you used to enjoy.
Depression is more than just the blues — and you can’t just “snap” out of it, no matter how hard you try (or what others tell you).
Antepartum means “before childbirth.” Antepartum depression happens only during pregnancy. It’s also sometimes called maternal depression, prenatal depression, and perinatal depression.
You might not know you have antepartum depression. This is because some of the symptoms might just feel like pregnancy symptoms. These include:
- lower energy levels
- changes in appetite
- changes in sleep
- changes in libido
If you have antepartum depression, you may also:
- feel very anxious
- have low self-esteem
- feel dread
- feel like you’re not prepared
- lose interest in activities you used to enjoy
- feel unmotivated to take care of yourself
- feel unmotivated to follow a pregnancy health plan
- eat poorly
- not gain enough weight
- not sleep enough or sleep too much
- smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs
- have suicidal thoughts
Like many kinds of health conditions, you can get antepartum depression for no reason at all. It’s not known why some pregnant people have antepartum depression and others don’t.
There may be certain health conditions or risk factors that give some people a higher chance of getting antepartum depression.
Not having social support
A pregnancy support club, a Lamaze class, or a baby nutrition group are great ways to learn about pregnancy and having a baby. They might also help prevent antepartum depression.
One study found that having people around to support you during your pregnancy — whether it’s your partner, family, or other parents-to-be — can help reduce the risk of antepartum depression.
Pregnancy and having a baby are huge milestones in your life. It’s important to have social support so you don’t go through this exciting time by yourself.
Stress and other mood disorders
Medical research found that women who have other kinds of mood disorders like anxiety and depression might be more likely to have antepartum depression when they’re pregnant.
Sleep quality during pregnancy
You know how you feel when don’t get a good night’s sleep? Turns out quality, restful sleep is even more important when you’re pregnant.
One study showed a link between sleeping poorly or not getting enough sleep and antepartum depression symptoms like suicidal thoughts.
Researchers found that improving sleep quality in pregnant people might help improve some antepartum symptoms.
Not getting enough vitamin D has been linked to some kinds of depression in pregnant women and new mothers. Low levels of vitamin B and minerals like iron and zinc might also play a role.
More research is needed on whether poor nutrition is a risk factor for antepartum depression in pregnant women.
Tell your doctor right away if you think you might have antepartum depression or if you might be at risk for it. Getting treatment for depression can help prevent its side effects on your health and on your baby.
Your symptoms will be different from someone else’s. Your doctor will find the right treatment for you.
Depending on your symptoms, you might need counseling or therapy alone, or therapy with antidepressant medication. Getting plenty of exercise and eating a nutritious diet during pregnancy can also help.
Certain antidepressant medications are safer to take while you’re pregnant. Your doctor will prescribe the best one for you. These include:
- citalopram (Celexa)
- sertraline (Zoloft)
- duloxetine (Cymbalta)
- venlafaxine (Effexor XR)
- bupropion (Wellbutrin)
Antepartum depression can affect more than your mental and emotional health. It can also affect your physical health and your baby’s well-being.
Studies have found that antepartum depression can lead to serious health risks during and after pregnancy, like:
- low birth weight
- early (preterm) delivery
- C-section delivery
- postpartum depression
It can also affect your baby’s brain development. Babies born to mothers with untreated antepartum depression are at higher risk of learning difficulties and behavioral problems.
A decades-long study in Finland followed the children of women who had antepartum depression into adulthood. Researchers found that many of these adults, especially men, were diagnosed with mood disorders like antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).
If you’re pregnant, it’s important to get screened or tested for antepartum depression as soon as possible. Ask your doctor for a screening test. This involves a questionnaire about how you’re feeling emotionally.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that doctors and other healthcare providers screen all pregnant women for antepartum depression at least once during pregnancy. The standardized questionnaire is scored and used to diagnose antepartum depression.
Antepartum depression is a kind of depression that women can get during pregnancy.
You can’t always control whether or not you get this kind of depression. Just as with other health conditions, you may need medical treatment.
If you’re pregnant, talk to your doctor about getting screened for antepartum depression. Your doctor will determine the best plan to treat your depression during pregnancy.