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Pregnant and Depressed: What to Do About It

by R. Carnavale | May 22nd, 2012 | Pregnancy

You’re pregnant, depressed, and those down-in-the-dumps feelings just won’t go away. Maybe you don’t understand what’s happening with your moods and mind anymore. Worse, maybe your spouse, family, and friends don’t understand what you’re experiencing. (Remember when Tom Cruise publicly criticizing Brooke Shields for taking medications for her pregnancy-related depression? Lots of people are ignorant about depression, so don’t let their callous remarks make you feel even sadder.) Take heart in knowing that you’re not alone: 10 to 15 percent of pregnant women suffer from depression. Fortunately, pregnancy-related depression IS treatable and better yet, if you seek help while pregnant, you can minimize or avoid postpartum depression.

Risk factors for depression during pregnancy:

  • depression or anxiety outside of pregnancy
  • a previous pregnancy-related depression
  • a family history of depression
  • relationship stress, including a lack of emotional support from the baby’s father
  • financial stress
  • pregnancy complications
  • anxiety about possible pregnancy complications, including miscarriage, birth defects, or other problems

Key signs of depression:

  • feeling sad or empty most of the time
  • feeling worthlessness or hopelessness
  • suicidal thoughts
  • decreased energy
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • not eating at all or eating all the time
  • losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • experiencing difficulties in making decisions, remembering details, and/or concentrating
  • experiencing aches and pains, headaches, or other stress-related symptoms that won’t go away with treatment


Depression is a real medical condition that you can’t just snap out of, so be sure to do the following as soon as you start experiencing symptoms:

  • Run, don’t walk, to your health practitioner!
  • Be sure to ask your obstetrician for a referral to a mental health practitioner because she or he will have more expertise in the latest treatment methods.
  • Do NOT self-medicate with over-the-counter dietary supplements such as St. John’s Wort. There is no conclusive scientific research about how such supplements affect the health of pregnant women or their babies.
  • Talk with another woman who has experienced depression during her pregnancy.
  • Lorazipam (originally marketed as Ativan), an anti-depressant, is commonly prescribed for pregnant women who suffer from depression.
  • If you have suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433), 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), or the deaf hotline at 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889).

Finally, remember to take care of yourself during your pregnancy. If you seek help for depression, you’ll not only help yourself, but you’ll help your baby, too!

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