Antenatal Depression

Whilst we all have good days and bad, if you have ongoing feelings of sadness, feeling down, and/or have lost interest or pleasure in everyday life, then you may be experiencing depression.

You can’t snap out of it when you are in that deep, deep spot – that black hole – that you get into.

Depression is the second most common mental health condition that can affect you at any time of life, but the likelihood increases during pregnancy with up to ten percent of women (one in ten) experiencing depression at this time. Like anxiety in pregnancy, signs of depression may be attributed to other things, like hormones, tiredness and feeling uncomfortable, and hence the opportunity to get on top of the depression early and before the baby arrives has passed.

With the benefit of hindsight I now understand I had signs of depression during my pregnancy, but didn’t know how to recognise them – I thought I was just hormonal.  There were several occasions that I found myself in my (unborn) son’s room, big belly, teary and sad, but unsure why.

Depression may develop gradually or within a short period of time, and may go on for weeks, months (or even years) if not treated.  If it develops during pregnancy it is likely to continue following the birth of your baby – so getting help before baby arrives is a good idea.

Symptoms of antenatal depression

  • feeling low or numb – some people describe feeling nothing at all
  • loss of confidence, feeling helpless, hopeless and worthless
  • feeling teary and emotional, angry, irritable or resentful towards others
  • changes in sleep – not being able to sleep even when you have the opportunity, or conversely, wanting to sleep all the time
  • changes in appetite – accompanied by weight loss or weight gain
  • lack of interest and/or energy
  • difficulties concentrating, thinking clearly or making decisions (which could also result from lack of sleep)
  • feeling isolated, alone and disconnected from others
  • having thoughts of harming yourself, baby and/or other children
  • finding it difficult to cope and get through the day.

You will be likely to experience changes in sleep patterns and appetite as the pregnancy progresses. However, if these changes are also accompanied by negative thinking and feelings about yourself, it is important to consider whether you may be experiencing antenatal depression, and discuss this with your health professional.

It is also very common for people to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression at the same time – in fact up to half of people do. Whilst this presents a very uncomfortable mix of feelings, the good news is that there are safe and effective treatments that can treat and manage both conditions at the same time.


See also…

Treatment of antenatal depression

Antenatal Depression: Consumer Fact Sheet