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  • Writer's pictureDiane Mesnier

Prenatal depression: pregnancy is not always a happy time…

Pregnancy, and especially the first trimester, is a time of physical et emotional changes in a woman’s life.

During pregnancy, the body goes through a massive external and internal change which come with its share of discomfort. The hormonal change itself can trigger mood swings which sometimes make it hard for a pregnant woman to recognize her own self and to feel in control of her emotions.

Depending of the future mother’s personal and environmental situation as well as her mental health history, pregnancy can be a not so happy time…

So let’s take a look at those three questions regarding prenatal depression:

  1. What is prenatal depression?

  2. What are the commun symptoms?

  3. What can one do about it?

Credit @Natalya Manycheva

What is prenatal depression?

We usually associate pregnancy with happiness, but pregnant women are not immune to depression. It can also be difficult for future mothers to express their negative feelings in the fear of being judged. This is precisely why when a pregnant woman says that her morale is low or that she feels depressed, those around her should pay attention and listen to her. If she also shows persistent sadness or a loss of interest in her usual activities, it could be depression.

In fact, studies have shown that 8% of pregnant women suffer from mild depression during their pregnancy and between 7 and 12% of women may experience moderate or severe depression.

A pregnant woman who has already suffered from depression in the past, who experiences a lot of anxiety or stress during her pregnancy, feels poorly surrounded or reports difficulties in her personal relationships is more likely to be depressed during pregnancy.

What are the commun symptoms?

Mood swings, fatigue, sleeping problems and appetite disorders are common during certain periods of pregnancy. However, they can also be symptoms of depression if they are more intense and last longer than average. Here are some symptoms of depression to watch out for:

  • Constant sadness, irritability or high anxiety

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities

  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt and worthlessness

  • Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem

  • Feeling of loneliness

  • Drop or loss of libido

  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions

  • Too much appetite or lack of appetite. The change in eating habits is more intense than the norm during pregnancy

  • Significant sleep disturbances

  • Intense fatigue

  • Reduced concentration, attention and memory

  • Recurring dark thoughts

These symptoms can cause significant discomfort in one or more areas of a pregnant women’s daily life and manifest themselves (almost) permanently for over two weeks.

What can one do about it?

Adopting a good diet, regular physical exercise, a sufficient amount of sleep, seeking social support and measures to reduce stress (relaxation exercises, yoga, mindfulness, acupuncture etc) can help reduce depressive symptoms. In addition, going to a support group can be a helpful way for a pregnant women to share her feelings with other women who know what she is going through.

Psychotherapy can be a great support to overcome prenatal depression and it sometimes is a necessity.

Even though prenatal depression is not uncommon, it is important to acknowledge and seek support as soon as possible. It is also crucial for future mothers and their surroundings to remember that pregnancy is a time of intense change and therefore not always a happy time.

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