You’re likely familiar with postpartum depression – a period of depression that the mother experiences after giving birth. Postpartum depression usually arises as a result of normal hormonal shifts, together with general fatigue as the mother transitions from pregnancy to full motherhood.

Even if you’re already familiar with postpartum depression, it might surprise you to learn that depression during pregnancy is also fairly common. A mood disorder that causes lasting feelings of sadness, loss and loneliness, depression can compromise your mood, productivity and overall quality of life. Some studies show that as many as 7% of women can experience some level of depression during pregnancy.

Here are a few things to know when it comes to depression during pregnancy.

1. Depression during pregnancy can often go unnoticed, or misdiagnosed.

Depression during pregnancy is sometimes unnoticed, and other times misdiagnosed. Especially since many of the symptoms of pregnancy depression can resemble some of the mood changes already common during pregnancy, it can be difficult to know where to attribute your symptoms.

There’s also a stigma associated with depression, despite the many positive changes in the mental and behavioral health spheres that the world has seen over the past few years. Especially since there’s naturally more of a focus on a woman’s physical health than her mental and behavioral health during pregnancy, it’s important that you’re honest with yourself if you’re experiencing symptoms related to depression.

2. You can usually recognize depression during pregnancy by its symptoms.

Depression during pregnancy is usually recognizable by its symptoms. Most common among expectant mothers experiencing depression during pregnancy are symptoms that include: 

  • Prolonged anxiety
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Decreased appetite
  • Unchecked drinking or smoking habits
  • Suicidal thoughts or tendencies

If you, or another expectant mother you know, is experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’s important that you reach out for help from professional health providers.

3. Certain risk factors make you more susceptible to depression during pregnancy.

Certain expectant mothers are more likely to develop depression during pregnancy. In particular, mothers with any of the following predispositions should know that they are at an increased risk for depression during pregnancy:

  • Mothers with heightened anxiety levels
  • Mothers with a history of depression, or mothers from families with a history of depression
  • Mothers who have experienced violence or abuse, especially violence or abuse directly related to the pregnancy
  • Mothers without the support systems they need to appropriately manage their pregnancy

It’s important that mothers who meet even one of the above risk factors take necessary steps to guard against depression during pregnancy. In particular, expectant mothers should surround themselves with the support they need for a healthy pregnancy and sufficient preparation to care for a baby after birth.

4. There are easy ways to improve your mood while pregnant, even with depression.

Even if you find that you’re experiencing symptoms of depression during your pregnancy, there are steps you can take to definitively improve your mood.

Here are three easy actions you can take to improve your daily mood during pregnancy:

1 – Make time for exercise.

Even if that exercise is as simple as a walk around the neighborhood or a jog to the mailbox and back, spending even a few minutes during your day exercising can impose huge benefits on your mental and emotional state.

2 – Spend time with others

Get outside of your own head and spend time with family members or friends during your pregnancy. During a period when a pregnant mother’s body (and schedule) are changing, it’s especially important for her to spend time with individuals who can lift her mood.

3 – Take naps.

Especially during her first and third trimesters, a pregnant mother’s energy is often sapped. If you’re finding yourself without your normal energy, and that lack of energy is contributing toward irritability or anxiety, allow yourself even a short nap to recharge. You’ll wake with a new sense of purpose, and the time you spent napping will only make you more productive for the rest of the day.

5. Treatment is important.

Fear of treatment should never be a reason why a pregnant mother forgoes seeking the help she needs. There are a wide variety of available treatment methods available, and no form of treatment is imposed without the expectant mother’s approval and full understanding. In addition, mothers are assured that the selected treatment method will not impose any negative effects on their developing child.

Studies find that in general, expectant mothers prefer psychotherapy over medication, given the fact that it is less invasive, and the full extent of the treatment’s effects on the body are more easily explained. Where medication is recommended, certified health professionals take the time to consult with pregnant mothers regarding dosage, side effects and expected outcomes.

Get the help you need to manage depression during pregnancy

When it comes to depression during pregnancy, one of the hardest steps you’ll ever take is the first one: admitting you need the help, and taking steps to find it. If you think you feel like you’re alone in your struggle against depression during pregnancy, make this the day you reach out for the treatment you need to thrive during this valuable time of your life.