Posted by: brambledoula | August 6, 2007

Pre-partum depression

It happens in 10-15% of pregnant women. And it is far less likely to be properly diagnosed or treated than post-partum depression. Know that if you’re depressed during your pregnancy, it’s normal, and that you can get help for it. Talk to a friend, to your doctor or midwife, join a group, do what you need to do to help yourself and your baby. I’ve had this affliction with the first two pregnancies and it’s kicking in early with this one. Frustrating to say the least. At least I’m at a point where I can expect it, know what to look for, and can fight back.

Pre-partum blues
Depression symptoms pose risk to mother and fetus

One in five pregnant women may be experiencing symptoms of depression, but few are getting help for it, a new University of Michigan study finds.

And those with a history of depression any time before their pregnancy – about one in every four women – are about twice as likely as other women to show signs of depression while pregnant, the study results show.

A study of 3,472 pregnant women, conducted by researchers from the U-M Depression Center in the waiting rooms of 10 Michigan obstetrics clinics, was published last year in the Journal of Women’s Health.

And recently the U-M team presented new results at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting, showing that many pregnant women with depression aren’t being treated. And even if they are taking antidepressants, the doses are likely to be too low to help much.

Growing scientific evidence suggests that hormone imbalances associated with depression can affect the fetus or put a woman at higher risk of post-partum depression. Population-based evidence has also shown that babies of depressed mothers do worse at birth, and beyond, than other infants.

“A woman’s childbearing years are also her highest-risk time for depression. Doctors used to think of pregnancy as a ‘honeymoon’ away from depression risk, but this is turning out to be a myth,” says lead author Sheila Marcus, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the U-M Medical School. “We now know that the hormones and brain chemistry involved in depression are known to be affected by changes in other hormones related to pregnancy. And we know this may affect the fetus.”

Studies have shown that babies born to depressed mothers have lower birth weights, higher risk of premature birth and birth complications, delayed cognitive and language development, and more behavioral problems. Scientists are beginning to speculate that these effects may be due in part to the unbalanced sea of hormones and reduced blood flow that these fetuses are exposed to in the womb. Even minor depression, Marcus notes, may affect the fetus.

Fortunately, Marcus notes, recent studies have shown that some standard depression treatments – including some antidepressant drugs – do not appear to increase the risk of birth defects. A few longer-term studies suggest that infants exposed to some antidepressants in pregnancy look very similar to their siblings who are not exposed, both in terms of IQ and learning problems, when compared at age 5. But she notes that more work is necessary in this area.

She and her colleagues hope their study will help raise awareness among pregnant women, and their doctors and midwives, about the need to recognize depression symptoms and seek treatment.

Explains Marcus, “We need to educate women about the signs of depression, and encourage them to be open about how they’re feeling during pregnancy and after delivery, rather than feeling guilty and embarrassed.”

Medications and psychotherapy can regulate the stress hormones and other brain chemistry involved in depression, helping alleviate women’s symptoms, improve their quality of life, and reduce their chances of debilitating post-partum depression, self-harming acts, and suicide.

The U-M Depression Center, has launched a website about depression designed specifically for women, The site recognizes that one in four women will experience depression sometime in her life, and that hormone-related life transitions such as puberty, pregnancy and menopause are strongly associated with an increased risk.

Special note:
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of depression during pregnancy or after delivering a baby, it’s important to tell a medical professional such as your doctor or nurse midwife. Treatment, including talk therapy and medications, can help lessen symptoms for the mother and reduce the impact on the baby. Click here for a list of resources that might help.


U-M Depression Center

A woman’s guide to understanding depression

U-M Depression Center: Depression Related Resources



  1. Hi- I think you have a great post and blog. I, personally, think of depression as a very serious and dangerous condition. I can only suppose that it becomes even more dangerous when a woman experiences such symptoms during pregnancy. I understand that it is not uncommon for women to experience symptoms of depression during pregnancy and that many times they are prescribed antidpressants. I have an internet resource that provides information on Paxil birth defects, and I’ve read multiple reports about studies suggesting that antidepressants do not pose any serious risk of birth defects. However, I would think antidepressants should be used as a last resort, and would believe finding support in friends, family, or counselors to be a much more effective way of dealing with depression (as you suggest) rather than through the use of medications. Since you’ve had to deal with this condition during pregnancy, what would you say you found to be the most helpful? Thanks.

  2. Actually I use a lot of mind over matter, which I know doesn’t always work for some people. Journaling, meditation, and exercise are also helpful. I’ve also found that it gets worse when I’m a little anemic or zinc deficient so make sure your nutrition is up to par as well. I don’t like to medicate while pregnant either and luckily I’ve been able to avoid it so far. With my first I didn’t really recognize it as a problem. With my second when I started having the same thing again however, reg flags shot up.
    I definitely think support is the greatest option but it’s not always available to us. My husband was on deployment when I was pregnant with my first, we had just moved 3 days before he’d left, no one would hire me because I was pregnant, I was far from family and was no where near as adept at networking as I like to think I am today so I was pretty much all on my lonesome. I think I chalked up a lot of the depression to those factors alone and I’m sure they did factor in. Well, at least until it repeated itself and I was much happier the last time.
    This time around I’m fighting it with knitting and birth art. The knitting de-stresses me, and the birth art helps me focus on any fears or issues that may be coming up. I also meditate nightly (since I’m up anyhow lol) and I’m hoping to get my energy up enough to start some yoga soon.
    Thanks for the link, I’ve seen a lot of studies go both ways on the use of antidepressants (or most drugs) in pregnancy. It’s hard to make an informed choice. I think depending on who puts out the study a lot of them are skewed much like the great vaccine debate.

  3. manic depression

    It is tiring attempting to number the hours we have exhausted tracking down severe clinical depression webpages.

  4. […] Pre-Partum Depression: Discover ways to guard yourself against pre-partum depression so that your professional and personal lives don’t have to suffer. […]

  5. I am on my third pregnancy. I am 100% sure I have pre-partum depression. I was so happy with my 2 boys, I loved being pregnant. With this one, which I might add is a girl, I just don’t even want to deal with it. I don’t enjoy my other children like I used to. I used to take pride in being a great houswife and a mother above all. I am 6000miles away from my family and no friends here. I have no support system. My husband is far, far from being emotional and supportive(meaning he just doesn’t get that I feel this way at all). He will be leaving right after the baby is born on deployment. I think these things have a factor in it , but I need some advice. I need to be happy again, I want to feel normal again. I don’t have family or friends here, I am not strong right now, and dont’ want meds to harm my baby. HELP ME!!!!

  6. Please let me know your general location and I will try to help find you support groups and doctors for your area! There are safe medications as well as supplements that you can take while pregnant without harming your baby.

  7. I am in my 35th week of pregnancy and I was doing sooo well. I am not sure what may have trigger how I am feeling but I am more depressed than I have been in years.

    A little history, when I was 18 I was diagnoised with major depressive disorder and through the care of my doctor/therapist i have been doing well. (Ofcourse, I a have had a couple of set backs like I think most of us do, but primarily I was ok.)

    When I found out that I was pregnant in Sept. I got of the meds (prozac) cold turkey and I have been WONDERFUL. ( Again, a little moody from time to time but overall I have been fine)

    Now, just 5 weeks from my due date and here I am crying constantly for the past 4 days! Sadder than sad. I am notg sure what happened to me. I cannot even talk w/o crying. Has anyone ever felt like this?

    I luckily have a husband that “somewhat” gets it. He tells me silly jokes to try and make me cheer up. But, then he things that if I am ok for 5mins that means I am no longer sad. And I have to explain, no.. I am still not feeling well. I am just trying to be ok.

    My mom and Dad are very supportive and call me constantly to tell me it will be okay, that I should be so proud of myself for making it this long with out the meds.

    But none of this support makes me feel better.

    Anyone out there like this?

    I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow which I am actually so excited about. Finally, a light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully, she will wave a magic wand and make all of this all better.

  8. I don’t know about a magic wand but definitely a light at the enfd of the tunnel. definitely tell your dochow you feek there are supplements and meds thart are safe for your baby. ::hugs::

  9. I am glad that I stumbled upon this web page. I am on my third pregnancy, my first pregnancy went good for the complications that i had but I have a beautiful 21/2 yr old daughter from it. Over the summer of 2007 I had a miscarriage from an ectopic pregnancy and haven’t quite recovered fully from that not including still having depression problems from when my first was born. It is now May of 08 and I find myself to be 4 weeks pregnant, my husband is estatic and so am i and the doctor says everything is going fine but i can’t get that excited about any of it. I have problems walking because I have cramping and can’t even keep up with my daughter anymore.
    I don’t want to take any medicine but at the same time I want to be happy cause it’s such a beautiful thing to be pregnant, is there anything that i can do?

  10. I have a history of depression and I feel absolutely insane right now. I’m almost 19 weeks and had a freak out yesterday, it had been building for several days. I actually made an appt for an abortion, I feel so unstable. I realized today that something is wrong with me, I dont want to kill my baby I am just sooo all over the place emotionally. I switched Ob Gyn’s so I could deliver at a different hospital this time (my youngest is 14 mos old) and my new OB wants me to go see a phsychiatrist for meds because the lexapro makes me sick to my stomache. It takes several weeks just to get in to see a phsychiatrist…I dont know what to do.

  11. I am 21 weeks along and I’ve been back and forth over the past months between stress in my relationship and stress at work which has slowly been turning into depression. I don’t have the option to sleep all day even though I am often tired all day and can’t concentrate. My husband has recently been working on some long term abuse that he endured in his childhood and I want to be supportive. It seems that every time I try to talk about what I went through and how I got by in those times of my childhood he sees it as the attention being taken away from his problems and focused on mine so I end up feeling remorse for even sharing. He needs support but he believes that he will not benefit from counceling so we have been taking a lot of books out from the library to work on both our problems with stress and issues with past abuses. He has also started talking to friends and a few family members but I know it is still a long and difficult healing process.
    As far as other support in my life my best friend has been available but at the same time has issues of her own making me feel that I shouldn’t burden her with my problems on top of her own. My mom has been great but I often feel like I am just going to worry her further. I feel so vunerable and often am put down for not utilizing the stress relief methods that my husband feels will help me and he often “can’t take it” and “if I won’t use the methods we’ve been working on he can’t help me.” I need some positive reinforcement and some physical attention but how do I ask that of someone needs so much more attention than it seems I do. I often feel like crying but hold back a lot or cover up since I need to help customers and employees when I’m at my job. Then there’s my 6 year old son that wishes his mama wasn’t so sad and that I also need to give attention after working 10 hour days 5 days a week. There is so much more to all of this that I even feel like I am capable of overwhelming/burdening this board. I just keep crying the more I type so I have to stop and get back to work before I can’t stop crying even though people are already asking if I’m OK. I just want to go hide.

  12. I am sitting here with my daughter researching pre partum depression. She has been depressed for the last five months. She found out that she was pregnant, got married and has had all kinds of health issues such as kidney stones, upper respiratory infection, bladder infection, she can’t eat or drink anything without losing it all. Her husban feels that she just needs to cowboy up and get over it. He feels that she needs to be at work and not at home in bed. We attempted to locate an agency to help her with her depression. Her OB referred her to a rehab center that was mainly for alcoholics and druggies. She has been to her OB, PCP, hospital and all of these professionals act like they do not really know how to handle the situation. We are seriously considering creating some sort of non profit organization that would help women such as I have read tonight. Kinda like a community type setting out away from the big city. We feel that if we were able to provide a home environment that would be a place for pre partum depressed mothers so that they could have the home enviornment and receive support and medical treatment that is needed to make them healthy in mind and body. Would someone be able to tell me how we could get started or how to obtain a grant? We feel that we have something to offer that could help many expectant mothers. Another option is to set up some sort of educational seminar for fathers to be so that they can be of better support to their loving wife and understand what they are going through. Is there someone out there that can help us get started? Or provide sources that would help us? Your information would be very much appreciated. We want to make a difference to our fellow sisters. Thank you for your time and assistance.

  13. I am 36 and pregnant for the first time. 35 weeks now. I was excited but now see it all as my life is going to be over no more anything but about taking care of this baby and having my internal and external organs torn and ruined. I had hobbies, horses, great marriage, sex life and independence. Now its nothing just moving around being uncomfortable, constantly in the bathroom, thinking about every 2 hrs breast feeds, no sex because my husband is not into it anymore and after birth its really gonna be over because my body will be ripped apart. This sounds horrible and selfish and evil but I can’t help the way I feel. I can’t runaway or end the pregnancy. I will just continue on. I just had to write it all out instead of constantly thinking it in my brain. No meds or talk therapy could help unless I could go back in time and change it all. My friends say once you see the baby it will all change forever and you will fall in love with the baby. God I hope so with all my heart!

  14. this is my first pregnancy and i am always sick and sad. sometimes i won’t leave my room, i will just sleep. and at times i would start crying for o reason, i don’t know whats wrong with me.

  15. I am 39 weeks along now, and i cant help but to feel depressed. My 2 year old son is not adjusting well to having a sister, and with the economy like it is, my fiancee is working all the time. I feel so alone, and helpless. The pain is unbearable, and severly uncomfortable!!! I feel like i dont have anyone to talk to, and even the doctors are blowing me off. I wanna ask for someone to strip my membranes, but i dont wanna seem selfish. At the same time, i dont want my baby to be affected by my depression. Anybody got any advice?

  16. I am looking for help. I am 35 weeks pregnant with my first child, and I think i’m going crazy. I have been treated on and off for depression since I was 18 years old and i’m 27 now. I tell you this pregnancy has made me into a monster. Constant crying, temper tantrums, no suicidal ideations or anything, but I just worry and over think things way too often. I am constantly worried about my boyfriend leaving me and I get upset and depressed… I cry and almost hyperventilate all the time. I feel like i’m driving a wedge in between our relationship. I am due in 5 weeks and I am worried that I am going to get worse. I have read extensively on post partum depression but did not realize there was a peri or pre partum depression. Please help me.

  17. I am currently pregnant and I’m pretty sure am going Thru pre partum depression. I usually get it and post partum too. It really affects my life. It’s hard for me to get help cause it feels like it really doesn’t help. This pregnancy it feels worse than all put together. I feel like I’m going crazy. I’ve even looked up was to have at home abortions. I’m only 4 months along and I don’t think I can do this for another 5 months. We will see I guess.

  18. I am 8 weeks till my due date and getting more and more depressed. This is my first child at 28 thought this is what i always wanted but know im not so sure… I know its this post or pre pardom depression stuff i pretty much live on my own and it makes it worse but theres nothing i can do about it. Everyone says there here for me but in all reality no one is… I feel like i cant do it anymore… I dont have the means of money or transportation to find help right now or the will. Just wish it would all go away

  19. Reading through the posts, it makes me wonder what happened to all those people who posted here through the years.

    My wife had pretty serious depression for our first child 5 years ago. Through my work Employee Assistance Program we have access to free counselling, so it only took a phone call to set up a counsellor to speak to (though I’d happily have paid the cost – but sometimes just making that first call is the challenge). Between that and the midwife, things seemed to improve a bit. Of course we were concerned that if it was like this now, would there be postpartum depression as well. But everything was fine after the birth, and since. And now we’re expecting again … but the depression itself hasn’t returned.

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