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If you’re pregnant, your body is going through some major changes to prepare for your baby to arrive. People expect you to be overjoyed, but you’re just … not. In fact, you’re feeling really down. Are you supposed to feel this way

If you’re persistently in a low mood, you may be experiencing prenatal depression, also known as antenatal depression. Although not as well known as its postpartum counterpart, prenatal depression affects more than 1 in 10 pregnant women. If you have a personal or family history of mood disorders or other mental health issues, you’re at greater risk. In addition, you may be at increased risk if you:

  • Didn’t intend to become pregnant.
  • Have experienced trauma in the past.
  • Previously struggled with infertility.
  • Are currently dealing with stressful life events.
  • Don’t have a social support network.
  • Are expecting a child with special needs or health issues.
  • Are expecting multiples.
  • Have a substance use disorder.
  • Are of American Indian/Alaska and Hawaii Native heritage.

The good news? Prenatal depression is treatable if you seek help. Here are 10 signs of prenatal depression that you shouldn’t ignore.

1. You feel overwhelming sadness or anxiety that won’t go away.

It’s normal to be a bit anxious about a big life change like having a baby. Or frustrated if the timing wasn’t quite what you’d planned. Or even sad at times about the routines and opportunities you might be leaving behind. But if you persistently feel sad, anxious or empty during your pregnancy, it’s time to talk to your doctor. 

  1. You’re irritable.

Pregnancy mood swings are infamous — as is the irritability that can accompany hunger and cravings. But if you find yourself constantly losing your cool over things you used to be able to handle with ease, take note: This could be a sign of prenatal depression. 

  1. You aren’t sleeping well.

This one is a bit tricky, as up to 80% of women experience insomnia during pregnancy. Aside from dealing with hormone changes, it’s difficult to get comfortable when your body is going through changes. However, persistent sleep issues, particularly in combination with other symptoms, could indicate a deeper problem. Such issues include difficulty falling or staying asleep or even sleeping too much.

  1. You’re tired all the time.

Growing a baby is hard work! Fatigue is a normal consequence of that work, especially during the first trimester. However, if you just can’t escape the exhaustion, even in the second or third trimester, mentioning it to your doctor is a good idea.

  1. You can’t concentrate or sit still.

An inability to focus probably isn’t the first thing you think of when you hear the word “depression,” but it can be a symptom. If you can’t concentrate on various tasks and you feel restless all the time, don’t discount the feeling — speak up at your next appointment.

  1. You feel guilty and worthless.

It’s normal to wonder if you’re doing everything you should be to give your baby the greatest chance of success. But constantly feeling guilty, worthless, helpless or hopeless isn’t normal or healthy for you or your baby.

  1. Your favorite activities don’t interest you anymore.

Losing interest in previously enjoyable activities is common for people with depression. This includes sex (although it’s normal for libido to fluctuate in pregnancy). If you can’t find any pleasure in the things you used to love, don’t assume you’re just tired. You could be struggling with prenatal depression.

  1. You’re pulling away from your loved ones.

If you’re feeling “off,” irritable or sad, you may not wish to be around others, even those you love most. If you’re struggling with guilt or low self-esteem, you may also worry that others will judge you for your perceived shortcomings. If you or your loved ones have noticed that you’re isolating yourself, consider talking to your doctor.

  1. You have unexplained headaches or digestive problems.

Our bodies are complex and nuanced. Although depression is often considered a condition of the mind, physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, bowel problems, or other aches and pains are common. If you’re constantly feeling ill, there could be a mind-body connection at play.

  1. You have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.

If you are contemplating hurting yourself or your unborn child, seek help immediately. There are numerous treatments for prenatal depression that can help you feel better — and potentially save you and your child’s lives.

Treatments for prenatal depression

If you’re showing signs of prenatal depression, don’t ignore them. In addition to making you depressed, untreated prenatal depression can be harmful for your baby. It’s associated with preterm birth and low birth weight, both of which have many health complications. 

Fortunately, there are several effective ways to treat prenatal depression. The most common are psychotherapy (also called talk therapy) and antidepressant medications — or possibly combinations of the two. Your doctor can help you understand which medications are safest for pregnancy, though all medications carry some risk of side effects. Support groups are also an option. 

For harder-to-treat cases, an alternative method called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) may help you find relief. In TMS, pulses of magnetic energy are sent through the brain to help stimulate brain cells. This technique is safe for people experiencing pregnancy and avoids the possible side effects of medications.

Active Path Mental Health offers therapy and TMS

At Active Path Mental Health, we offer short-term cognitive behavioral therapy for patients who have been to therapy before. We also offer TMS for those who haven’t found relief with therapy or medication.

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

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