Depression During Pregnancy: It’s Real!

Depression During Pregnancy:  It’s Real!

We all know about postpartum depression, but did you know depression can strike during pregnancy as well? The American Psychological Association states that depression women experience during pregnancy can have lasting consequences for mothers and babies in the future. 

While postpartum depression gets a fair amount of attention, depression during pregnancy is often overlooked. And it may be becoming more common among expectant mothers.  

Along with an increase in depression among younger women, there are other factors that may contribute to the rise among expectant mothers. Depression in young mothers is 51 percent more common than it was 25 years ago, researchers claim in a study published in 2018 in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Network Open.

stressed pregnant woman experiencing depression

With the average age of motherhood now slightly older than in the 1990s – in 1994 the median age was 23, compared to 26 today, according to a 2018 report from the Pew Research Center – today's young moms-to-be may feel socially isolated.  

"Along with a previous history of depression, being isolated and feeling like you are being judged are certainly risk factors for depression,” comments Tiffani Williams, BA, BSN, RN CBC, Program Director, Nurse-Family Partnership, Acenda. “In addition, the number of young women who are working has increased, and today's moms-to-be may be dealing with inflexible work situations and challenges related to balancing work-home responsibilities that can contribute to depression.”  

When you add financial struggles, stress from everyday life, hormonal changes and sleeproblems to the picture, the impact of these changes may worsen when a woman becomes pregnant.  

Here are some signs of depression during pregnancy:

  • Change in eating habits 
  • Persistent guilt feelings 
  • Anxiousness
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Extreme changes in sleeping pattern like sleeping for very limited time or for a longer period of time 

To make the problem even worse, depression during pregnancy can have lasting consequences for mothers and babies alike. For one thing, prenatal depression is associated with an increased risk of postpartum depression and it can affect the baby's emotional and cognitive development.  

study in the July 19, 2018, issue of Psychoneuroendocrinology found that women who were diagnosed with major depressive disorder during pregnancy had elevated inflammatory biomarkers and cortisol levels in their third trimester and an eight-day shorter length of gestation on average. Moreover, babies born to depressed moms-to-be had hyperactive cortisol responses to stress when they were a year old.  

If you are pregnant and experiencing symptoms of depression, there is help. Clinicians in our Counseling & Wellness Centers can help. Call our main number at 844-4-ACENDA (844-422-3632) for more information. We also offer several maternal health programs, including a nurse-family partnership program, that supports new moms and their babies.