Prenatal Depression - It's Time We Talk About It

Prenatal Depression – It’s Time We Talk About It

Prenatal Depression – It’s Time We Talk About It

Does Prenatal Depression Exist?

Did you know that in about 50% of the cases the depression started in pregnancy? So why are women not sharing about their prenatal depression more?

To be honest, the answer is complicated. Up until the last revision of the DSM (the holy grail of psychological diagnosis), depression during pregnancy (prenatal depression) or the postpartum period wasn’t even a diagnosis. But the new DSM revision now includes a diagnosis of Depression with a Peripartum Onset. Peripartum Onset means that at least one episode of depression occurred during pregnancy and during the first 4 weeks after delivery.

Now at least, the psychological community acknowledges that depression occurs during pregnancy and deserves a diagnostic code. But it’s still hard to diagnose depression in pregnancy. It doesn’t help that most OBs won’t use screening tests for depression despite ACOG recommendations.

And we can’t forget about PPD

By now you have no doubt heard about Post-Partum Depression (PPD). It’s a condition affecting a whopping 1 out of 7 mothers in the United States. But it’s only been getting a widespread acknowledgement in the recent years. Even though PPD has been studied since the 1980s, there are still many medical practitioners who will dismiss a mother’s complaints as “that’s just motherhood”. PPD still comes with so much shame and stigma attached, that many women don’t feel comfortable sharing their experiences. And thus they suffer in silence.

My Story with Prenatal Depression

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I suffered from PPD after the birth of my first child. But what I haven’t shared is that the depression started during pregnancy. However, I chose to ignore my symptoms. After-all, I am the queen of “I don’t need any help” and master excuse maker as to why I don’t have time to get treatment. Plus it’s easy to blame things on “pregnancy hormones”.

I also didn’t meet the risk factors for depression. My pregnancy was wanted, there was no abuse or neglect in my living situation, I gained proper amount of weight, went to all my prenatal appointments and had no suicidal ideations. The one red flag was the fact that as my pregnancy progressed, I felt less and less excited about it. And I’m not saying that you have to be excited every minute of your pregnancy. But having a pregnancy not accompanied by depression, I can tell you that it just felt different.

I often felt sad, cried and was not excited about baby related things. I lost interest in becoming a mother. It was a strange feeling. I didn’t expect the excitement to go away after a few months. These feelings were not normal.  

I didn’t share my feelings with any of my loved ones and my doctors did not screen for depression either. My midwives asked about my nutrition, my overall mood and spent a full 30-45 minutes talking to me. But there was never a formal test administered. I clearly managed to lie and say that I felt perfectly fine. After all, just like any woman, I grew up hearing about “pregnancy hormones” and thought that any sort of moodiness could just be attributed to that. But that’s what makes prenatal depression so tricky to diagnose. You can’t take the hormonal aspects out of it because pregnancy hormones do play tricks on you and make you weepy, irritable, angry but they don’t typically make you hopeless or disinterested in motherhood.

Risk Factors and Symptoms of Prenatal Depression

Prenatal Depression - It's Time We Talk About It

Here are some risk factors and symptoms that can help you identify if you are suffering from prenatal depression:

You may be at risk for depression if:

  1. You suffer from anxiety
  2. Living in an unsafe situation
  3. The pregnancy was accidental
  4. You have a lot of life stressors
  5. Living with a violent partner
  6. You lack support

You may exhibit these symptoms as well as other depression symptoms:

  1. Poor diet and weight gain
  2. Not going to prenatal appointments
  3. Fears of being an inadequate mother
  4. Anxiety about baby (i.e. worrying that baby may die, baby is not healthy (without having substantive reasons to think so))
  5. Feelings of hopelessness and lack of enjoyment in everyday activities

If you feel like any of the above apply to you, talk to your OB about this. Many of them may still not bring anything up about depression or administer a formal screen test but if you mention your symptoms, they will have to take you seriously and refer you to a therapist. And if for some reason your OB still ignores you, you can look for a therapist here (Resource Library). Also, switch to a different OB because if they don’t take your concerns seriously during pregnancy, they won’t take them seriously postpartum either.

Don’t Suffer Alone

Prenatal Depression - It's Time We Talk About It

I hope that if you are suffering from prenatal depression and come across my article, you realize that you are not alone. Your suffering is real and deserves treatment. The best treatment can only be determined by medical professionals. Any sort of pharmacological approach can come with serious contraindications. But the good news is that therapy and community support can be enough to help.

I’m here for you if you want to talk. Feel free to write in the comment section and I will be happy to talk with you.

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46 thoughts on “Prenatal Depression – It’s Time We Talk About It”

  1. It is so refreshing to see stigmas related to mental health being torn down. I’ve suffered from anxiety for such a long time, and hearing others talk about their own struggles openly is one of the best things for my own mental well-being. Knowing you’re not alone is key, and knowing when to ask for help is so important. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you for sharing, DC. Yes, we need to tear down the stigmas of mental health and treat it like all other health. We need to share about our struggles and support each other.

      1. Thank you for sharing, Steph. Yes, rage is something we don’t talk about, since it’s not part of the diagnostic criteria. But it’s real and it’s destructive.

  2. Thank you for sharing this helpful information. It is sad that so many women are affected by this and feel the need to remain silent. We need to lift each other up!

    1. Thank you for your comment, Tabatha. Yes, we need to break the silence and offer support to those who are struggling.

  3. This is so true, I have been through this and there were times when I could not discuss this with anyone about my depression symptoms. Glad to see now women are talking and sharing about this and trying to be normal to relieve from depressive thoughts.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Heena. Yes, I want to be part of the discussion of depression and motherhood. The stigma needs to leave.

  4. I was so neurotic while I was pregnant with our twins. I was so afraid something would happen that I feel like I didn’t really enjoy the pregnancy like I should have. You’re right. This NEEDS to be discussed.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Marta. Yes, we really need to start discussing the tough parts of pregnancies as well as the good. No one wants to feel like they are alone in their struggle.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Shayla. Yes, having support can absolutely play a role in depression. It’s not all hormonal. Our situations can definitely contribute as well.

  5. I’ve been reading more and more stories about depression during pregnancy. I’ve been blessed enough to not have had to experience either Pre-natal or Post-partum depression.

    1. Thank you for the comment, Kim. That is great that you didn’t have to personally experience either. It’s tough.

  6. Pregnancy changes your body in so many ways, including your mental health. Hormones are going wild, so it’s totally understandable for depression to happen. Not very many have the courage to talk about it, so thank you for sharing your story and spreading awareness. We need to normalize mental health.

      1. Thank you for the comment, Chelsae. Yes, not many people know about prenatal depression. And I think it’s time we started addressing it.

  7. You are so brave to want to share your journey to help others .So important for us to recognize we need help and be strong enough to ask for it.

  8. Yes! We need to start talking about this more so moms feel like it’s ok to talk about it and ask for help!
    Being a new mom is so tough and depression is more common that we realise, so their feelings are normal.

  9. Wow, you are so brave to share your experience with others. It was so important for me to learn how to accept help. One of my biggest challenges that I’m working on day by day.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Aliya. It is very hard for a lot of us to accept help, as we are taught that accepting help means we are weak or there is something wrong with us. I work on asking for help too. It doesn’t come easily.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Nicole. It is not something that everyone experiences but it’s common enough to warrant a discussion.

  10. I never knew this was such a thing until I experienced it. We did “all the things” like my other friends to conceive a girl after two boys. All of my friends were successful but me. I got in the deepest darkest place during my pregnancy. It was so sad. God sure had a plan though because that little boy is such a joy with the SWEETEST personality. Everyone who comes in contact with him says so too. My heart still hurts for that mother-daughter relationship I’ve never experienced as I was raised by my dad but I’m facing the facts that this is God’s plan and not mine and he uses it all for His glory.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Adriane. Depression during pregnancy is a dark and not often talked about experience. I’m very happy for you and your little boy. I feel you on the mother daughter experience. I have 2 boys and wanted a daughter so bad.

  11. Thank you for bringing awareness to this issue. This is how stigma is changed, putting it out there. Education. I didn’t know that this existed. I’m sure many women and doctors would put off symptoms as being related to pregnancy hormones. Thanks again.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Julie. Yes, that’s what makes it so tricky. The fact that it’s so hard to distinguish between what are actual depression symptoms and what’s simply caused by hormones.

  12. Yes, this is real and something serious and it is very brave of you to talk about it. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is very helpful to moms who are in the situation to feel that they are not alone.

  13. So important to spread awareness about mental health in all areas, but prenatal does seem to be lacking in awareness compared to postpartum. It’s possible to suffer from depression and anxiety at any point or stage in life.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Diana. Yes, prenatal isn’t talked about very much. PPD has only more recently gotten more awareness and this is definitely lacking.

  14. I had never heard of this term. But it totally makes sense. Moms are under so much pressure from the moment they find out they are pregnant. It is the most beautiful time, but also the most stressful.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Cyndi. This has just not gotten enough attention yet because it’s pretty hard to diagnose with all the changes that happen during pregnancy.

  15. The about us women is that we are very competitive with each other. So we try to hide whatever we are going through to feed our ego. However, when it comes to your health, I feel that when a line should be drawn. Instead of sitting in pain and silence, we should seek out and reach out to others who need our help.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Sonia. Yes, we really should be more supportive to those around us that are struggling. Motherhood should not be a competition but a supported time in our lives.

  16. Im so glad to see an article about this subject. I didn’t suffer from prenatal depression but I see so many who do as well as PPD and it breaks my heart. Especially that so many are scared to speak up. Articles like this are what makes all the difference.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Tierra. That is why I try hard to share my story because I have no stigma against mental health struggles. I hope it can help other moms feel more comfortable getting help and knowing they are not alone.

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