Pregnancy is supposed to be one of the happiest times of a woman’s life, but for many women this is a time of confusion, fear, sadness, stress, and even depression. About 10-20% of women will struggle with some symptoms of depression during pregnancy, and a quarter to half of these will suffer from major depression. Depression is a mood disorder that affects 1 in 4 women at some point during their lifetime, so it should be no surprise that this illness would also touch women who are pregnant. But all too often, depression is not diagnosed properly during pregnancy because people think it is just another type of hormonal imbalance. This assumption can be dangerous for the mother and the unborn baby. Depression is an illness that can be treated and managed during pregnancy, but the first step, seeking out help and support, is the most important. What is depression during pregnancy? Depression during pregnancy, or antepartum depression, is a mood disorder just like clinical depression. Mood disorders are biological illnesses that involve changes in brain chemistry. During pregnancy, hormone changes can affect brain chemicals, which are directly related to depression and anxiety. These can be exacerbated by difficult life situations, which can result in depression during pregnancy. What are the signs of depression during pregnancy? Women with depression usually experience some of the following symptoms for 2 weeks or more: Persistent sadness Difficulty concentrating Sleeping too little or too much Loss of interest in activities that you usually enjoy Recurring thoughts of death, suicide, or hopelessness Anxiety Feelings of guilt or worthlessness Change in eating habits What are possible triggers of depression during pregnancy? Relationship problems Family or personal history of depression Infertility treatments Previous pregnancy loss Stressful life events Complications in pregnancy History of abuse or trauma Can depression during pregnancy cause harm to my baby? Depression that is not treated can have potential dangerous risks to the mother and baby. Untreated depression can lead to poor nutrition, drinking, smoking, and suicidal behavior, which can then cause premature birth, low birth weight, and developmental problems. A woman who is depressed often does not have the strength or desire to adequately care for herself or her developing baby. Your purchase supports the APA What is the treatment for depression during pregnancy? If you feel you may be struggling with depression, the most important thing is to seek help. Talk with your health care provider about your symptoms and struggles. Your health care provider wants the healthiest choice for you and your baby and may discuss options with you for treatment. Treatment options for women who are pregnant can include: Support groups Private psychotherapy Medication Light therapy If your symptoms are severe, your health care provider may want to prescribe medication immediately. There are medications that have been used during pregnancy without adverse affects. Discuss with your health care provider what he/she feels is safest for your baby but still beneficial to you. If you do not feel comfortable talking with your health care provider about your feelings of depression, find someone else to talk with. The most important thing is that someone knows what you are dealing with and can try to help you. Never try to face depression alone. Your baby needs you to seek help and get treatment.