Depression and Pregnancy

Still seemingly taboo in our society today, discussions about antepartum depression (depression during pregnancy) and postpartum depression (depression after pregnancy) are rare. Many women conceal what they are really thinking and feeling because of the fear or guilt about what others will think.

While society often assumes that all expectant women and new moms should be brimming with joy and exuberance, the truth is that many women experience physical and emotional distress while pregnant and after a baby is born.

If you are experiencing antepartum or postpartum depression, it can be helpful to know that you are not the only one and that it’s important to talk about it so that you can get the support you need. Social support is a very important factor when recovering from depression. Both antepartum and postpartum disorders are temporary and can be successfully treated with professional help.

It’s normal for all women to experience mood fluctuations both during pregnancy and after pregnancy. Let’s face it – your hormones are undergoing a lot of changes! However, if any of the following symptoms are present to a significant degree for two weeks or more, it’s important that you let your health care provider know.

  • Significant hopelessness
  • Excessive feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Significant appetite changes (loss or increase)
  • Excessive sadness and crying
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Excessive irritability and anger/aggression
  • Agitation or inability to relax
  • Lack of motivation or pleasure
  • Lack of concentration or focus
  • Change in sleep patterns (sleeping much more or much less)
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Excessive anxiety or worry, especially about the baby (Note: this may be related to an anxiety disorder which can also affect women during and after pregnancy.)
  • More serious symptoms of postpartum depression include thoughts of hurting yourself or the baby, fear of being left alone with the baby or not wanting to care for the baby

There is a range of postpartum disorders that can develop anytime during the first year after your baby is born. These disorders can result from social stressors and biological factors. When many people think of postpartum depression, they often only consider what is sensationalized by the media: a severe and very rare form called postpartum psychosis. The more common forms often go unreported or are overlooked, leaving women and families to suffer needlessly.

At Virginia Women’s Center, we believe that a woman’s mental health is just as important as her physical health. In 2005, we integrated mental health care into our practice to make it accessible and convenient for our patients. To learn more about the psychological services available at Virginia Women’s Center, visit our Web site.

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