Depression and pregnancy

KEY POINTS

  • Depression is a medical condition with long-lasting feelings of sadness that needs treatment to get better.   

  • Depression during pregnancy increases the risk of certain health problems for your baby but treatment like counseling and medicine from your provider can help. 

  • Talk to your provider if you are feeling depressed. 

  • If you’re taking an antidepressant, decide with your provider if you should keep taking it or stop taking it.  

What is depression?

Depression is a medical condition in which strong feelings of sadness last for a long time and interfere with your daily life. It needs treatment to get better. Depression is the most common complication during pregnancy. If you’ve had depression before, it can come back (sometimes even worse) during pregnancy.

If you have signs or symptoms of depression, tell your provider.  These include:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless or overwhelmed
  • Crying a lot
  • Having no energy and feeling tired all the time
  • Eating or sleeping more or less than you usually do
  • Losing interest in things you usually like to do
  • Withdrawing from friends and family

Depression during pregnancy increases your baby’s risk for being born too small or too early (premature). It also increases risk for learning, behavior and development problems later in your baby’s life. It also can make it hard for you to get ready for and take care of yourself and your baby. And it increases your risk for postpartum depression after pregnancy.

How can I be treated for depression?

Your health care provider screens (checks) you for depression at your prenatal checkups. Screening means that your provider asks you questions about your risks, feelings and mood. If the screening shows that you may be depressed or that you’re at risk for depression, your provider can help you get treatment. Treatment can include counseling and medicine called antidepressants.

If you’re at increased risk for depression, getting treatment with certain kinds of counseling can help prevent it. You may be at increased risk for depression if:

  • You currently have signs or symptoms of depression.
  • You’ve had depression or another mental health condition in the past.
  • You’re a teenager.
  • You’re a single mom.
  • You have stresses in your life, like having low income.
  • You’ve been abused by your partner (also called intimate partner violence or IPV).

If you take an antidepressant, talk to your provider about the benefits and risks of taking it during pregnancy. Some antidepressants may be harmful to your baby. But if the medicine works really well for you, you may need to keep taking it. Decide with your provider what treatment is best.

If you’re taking an antidepressant and find out you’re pregnant, don’t stop taking it without talking to your provider first. Not taking your medicine may be harmful to your baby, and it may make your depression come back. Don’t start or stop taking any medicine without your provider’s OK. Take it exactly as your provider tells you to.

 

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