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Coping with Depression During Pregnancy: Understanding Causes, Symptoms, and Effective Treatments for Prenatal Depression

Mothers-to-be have to go through various things during their pregnancy, which might be linked to their physical or mental health. One of the most awful things that women suffer during their pregnancy could be prenatal depression. Prenatal depression is the depression that a pregnant woman could experience during her pregnancy. Depression during pregnancy is very much real and many pregnant women suffer from the same.

This article will guide you through the causes, symptoms, and treatments for prenatal depression. Let us read further to know more about depression during pregnancy.

An Overview of Prenatal Depression

Prenatal depression is depression experienced by women during pregnancy. Symptoms of depression include extreme sadness, fatigue, anxiety, and changes in sleeping and eating habits. Sometimes in severe cases, prenatal depression can cause the affected person to harm themselves. Someone experiencing prenatal depression will not have any interest in activities that they once enjoyed. Prenatal depression requires appropriate treatment at the right time.

Prevalence of Prenatal Depression

The prevalence of postpartum depression is around 17% among pregnant people. However, as stated by a 2021 review of literature, about 20% to 40% of pregnant people go through prenatal depression. (1) The same literature review also states that 7.4% of pregnant people can experience depression during their first trimester, while 12% to 12.8% of them might experience depression during their second and third trimester.

Causes of Prenatal Depression

There is no particular cause of prenatal depression. However, it is likely caused by a confluence of factors, a “perfect storm” of triggers that come to the head for some pregnant women.

Researchers think that depression during pregnancy could result from a mix of physical, emotional, and environmental factors.

Whatever the cause would be, it should be made clear to the to-be mothers who are suffering from prenatal depression that there is nothing wrong with them and it is not their fault.

The Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP) notes that depression and anxiety during pregnancy or after childbirth do not happen because of something you do or do not do, rather they are both medical conditions and need prompt treatments. (2)

Risk Factors for Experiencing Prenatal Depression

Women are more likely to struggle with a mood disorder such as prenatal depression if they have the following risk factors.

  • Those who live in a low-income household are more likely to struggle with prenatal depression than others.
  • Women having a history of mental health issues like depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or panic disorder, often suffer from prenatal depression during their pregnancy.
  • Women dealing with high-stress situations while they are pregnant, such as a conflict-ridden marriage, a health problem in the family, or loss of a job, can also suffer from prenatal depression.
  • Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy or any other chronic medical conditions can also put women at risk for prenatal depression during pregnancy.

Symptoms of Prenatal Depression

It is normal to feel anxious, sad, and worried occasionally during pregnancy. However, symptoms of prenatal depression do not go away after a few days. They would last for months and even worsen over time. Some of the symptoms of prenatal depression include:

  • Excessive worrying, anxiety, and irrational thoughts.
  • Reduced interest in activities that once you enjoyed.
  • Withdrawing from family, friends, and social interactions.
  • Changes in appetite, unexplained weight gain, or weight loss (not related to pregnancy)
  • Feelings of sadness, excessive crying, or other mood changes.
  • Fatigue, sleeping more than usual, difficulty getting to sleep, or insomnia.
  • Loss of interest in sex.
  • Finding it difficult to concentrate, remember things, or make decisions.
  • Some physical symptoms associated with prenatal depression could be headaches, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal issues.
  • In severe cases, women with prenatal depression can have thoughts about harming themselves or their yet-to-be-born baby.

Does Prenatal Depression Affect Your Baby?

Mild cases of prenatal depression will not directly affect your baby. However, it might have certain unintended consequences on your pregnancy, which in turn, can affect the growth and development of your baby inside the womb. For instance, if you are not eating healthy food or sleeping properly due to your depression, or if you follow healthy guidelines during your pregnancy, these can negatively impact your baby.

If left untreated, several cases of prenatal depression would affect your ability to gain weight during pregnancy, and this might lead you to give birth to babies with lower birth weights.

Evidence suggests that babies born to mothers who experience prenatal depression have lower birth weights and mothers also have increased chances of preterm deliveries. (3) 

Additionally, if mothers have moderate to severe prenatal depression, babies can be at risk of sleep problems in their first two years, and might also be diagnosed with a behavioral problem.

Apart from this, women experiencing prenatal depression are also more likely to experience postpartum depression after their babies are born.

Treatments for Prenatal Depression

Treatments for prenatal depression are based on your symptoms. Major treatments include medications and therapy. Additionally, lifestyle changes like exercising, healthy foods, and good sleeping habits would help in faster recovery from the condition.


Mental health counseling is extremely helpful for treating prenatal depression. It does not carry any physical risks for you or your baby. You can attend the counseling alone or with your partner.

Talk Therapy

Talk therapy is also an effective mode of treatment for prenatal depression. (4) Cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy are some of the options for talk therapy.


Antidepressants are a common treatment for prenatal depression. (5) Usually, doctors prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for the condition. You should consult with your doctor before taking antidepressants if you are pregnant, or after your child is born.

Alternative Therapies

Massage and acupuncture are some alternative therapies that could help parents with prenatal depression. (6, 7) However, these therapies should be used alongside medical treatment. These alternative therapies could help reduce symptoms of depression.

Lifestyle Changes

In addition to prescribed treatment, making specific lifestyle changes helps in reducing symptoms of prenatal depression. Some of these lifestyle changes include:

  • Exercising regularly helps lift your mood. However, confirm with your doctor before beginning a workout program during pregnancy.
  • Eating a wide variety of nutritious food.
  • Practicing meditation.
  • Getting at least eight hours of sleep every night.
  • Managing stress.

Does Prenatal Depression Go Away on its Own?

Depression can occur due to several factors, so it is impossible to say whether a woman’s prenatal depression will resolve spontaneously. If you find anything that feels off during pregnancy, make sure to consult with your doctor and take the necessary treatments.

Final Words

When we are expecting a baby, it is often that we are filled with excitement, love, and joy. However, it is not so easy for every pregnant mother. Some of the women have to go through prenatal depression during their pregnancy, and at times their depression could go extremely severe. However, appropriate treatment at the right time could help them cope with the condition and give birth to a happy and healthy child.


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 18, 2024

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