Antenatal depression

Depression in pregnancy is surprisingly common so if you're feeling blue you're not alone - we share advice on the signs and symptoms of antenatal depression.
Pregnancy is meant to be a happy time full of excitement and hope, however for many women this isn't the case. Research has shown that as many as one in ten women experience antenatal depression at some point during their pregnancy and until recently there has been very little awareness or support for sufferers of this often debilitating condition.

What are the symptoms of antenatal depression?

Mood swings are part and parcel of pregnancy and it's not unusual to feel emotionally overwhelmed at things that wouldn't usually upset you, however antenatal depression goes beyond this to continually and severely affect your ability to deal with life.

As with regular depression symptoms vary widely from woman to woman however typical symptoms of antenatal depression include:
  • Feeling low all the time

  • Problems sleeping (either sleeping too much or too little)

  • A marked change in appetite (either eating too much or too little)

  • Feelings of isolation or loneliness

  • Constant sadness and crying

  • Loss of enjoyment and interest in anything

  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions

  • Severe feelings of anxiety or guilt

  • Agoraphobia - fear of open spaces/ difficulty leaving the house

  • OCD tendencies such as obsessive hand washing
Who is at risk of depression in pregnancy?

There is no one factor that will determine whether or a not a women will develop depression in pregnancy however research has shown that you're more likely to experience antenatal depression if:
  • You or a member of your close family have a history of depression

  • You have experienced problems with your pregnancy such as severe morning sickness, back ache, spd or bleeding

  • You experience a stressful major life event such as moving home, changing job or losing someone close to you

  • You are on a low income or are struggling financially

  • You have suffered abuse either as a child or as an adult

  • You had trouble conceiving, complications with a previous pregnancy or experienced a miscarriage

What causes antenatal depression?

Until recently it was thought that during pregnancy women were almost immune from depression both mentally (overwhelming joy at being an expectant mother was thought to cancel out the risk of developing depression) and physically (pregnancy hormones were thought to be protective against depression). However, contrary to these beliefs new research has found that women are potentially more susceptible to depression while they are pregnant than at any other time in their lives.

The root cause of antenatal depression is thought to be centred on a pregnancy related hormone imbalance however it's this combined with any number of life stressors that are likely to be responsible for determining the development of depression in pregnancy.

Although the stereotypical image of pregnancy is of a serene, happy, glowing mum-to-be, in reality it is actually a very stressful time not least as it is a very major life changing event. Many women experience anxiety over the health of their developing baby, feel overwhelmed at how their body is changing without their control, are tired from working hard yet concerned about what will happen to their career after maternity leave, worried whether they'll be able to juggle motherhood with work and even anxious about whether they will still be able to relate to their friends once they become a mother. All in all there are a lot of things going on and these feelings can lead to depression especially if friends, a partner or family are unsupportive.

Does antenatal depression mean post natal depression?

If you experience antenatal depression it doesn't necessarily follow that you will develop post natal depression, in fact research shows that many women recover completely as soon as their baby arrives. Additionally, if you experience depression during one pregnancy, you won't necessarily go on to develop it in your next.

Where to get help

If you think that you may be experiencing antenatal depression its important that you seek help from your healthcare provider and talk about how you're feeling. For those with severe antenatal depression counselling or therapy may be recommended and while in the UK there is a certain stigma attached to seeking help in this way, it can actually be an incredibly effective way of coping and relieving depression. In more extreme cases anti-depressants suitable for use in pregnancy may be suggested.

Outside of any medical help your doctor may recommend it is important that you have your own support network as talking through how you are feeling will help. Whether you confide in your partner, your friends, your family or find support on a forum (better still combine all four!), talking will help you to work through any anxieties you have and help your loved ones better understand what you're going through.

Exercise is also really important in warding off depression and taking part in gentle cardiovascular activities such as walking or swimming, or toning based exercises such as yoga or pilates several times a week will help you to relax, feel better about yourself and cope with any stressors you're exposed to during your pregnancy.

Whether you have experienced antenatal depression in a previous pregnancy and have advice that could help others, have some questions or fancy a chat, why not visit the AskBaby forums and meet other parents and parents to be.

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You know i thought i was going out of my brain but after reading about antenatal depression i finally dont feel alone anymore. I couldnt understand why i felt so low and stressed when im having my second child i should be happy. I think it started when i was really poorly for the first 14 weeks and i felt like i was neglecting my other child because i didnt have any engergy to play. It didnt help that my relationship was pretty terrible with the father. i am now 16 weeks and i am going to go see the GP which was another thing i was stressed about - my GP has been off now for a year so going to see a different doctor everytime is frustrating!! I think the is also a shame i feel having antenatal depression because i felt like i have failed which i know isnt true. Its just nice to read your stories and know im not alone!! x
by laurieloo 12th Sep 2011, 9:33am
I been crying and laughing at the same time and I don't know why but any one have a answer
by hoogirl 18th Jan 2011, 4:35pm
HI I'm a worried husband,

My wife is 22 weeks pregnant and possibly suffering from depression. She has had postnatal depression after our first child, we then lost our second at 11 weeks. We have had a lot on our plate recently, from moving house, job changes and my wife has lost her grandfather in the past 6 months.

I'm concerned that with her history and all the recent events she may be suffering from depression. I know she did not get the pregnancy and birth she hoped for with our first having to have an emergency caesarian followed by depression.

What can I do to help make this pregnancy better and improve her chances of enjoying the months after?
How do I know if she is depressed, we've spoken about it and she claims she just tired and will be fine but I know she won't admit it until it's too late. Mainly because she won't admit it to herself, possibly out of fear of going through it again. I can understand that, I just want to do what ever I can to make things perfect for her.

What can I do?
by Kev75 1st Nov 2010, 9:00am
no one has replied or given me any advise on my situtaion please can someone talk to me...i had a really bad night last night for the first time i couldnt sleep..kept moving and waking up loads in the night,think tonight will be the same, im normally in a deep sleep by that normal to have restless nights?? is that just pregnancy?? would really like some answers please.xx
by louisechamberlain19 29th Sep 2010, 4:13pm
i think im suffering from depression. im 36 weeks pregnant and had a still birth last year at 26 weeks. everything is fine with my baby this time but i have lost interest in everything. my fiance works away 3 or 4 days a week and i just feel so lonely all the time. i dont want to leave the house as i dont want to go into labour on my own. i cant eat very much as i get severe heartburn and i cant sleep most of the time. i usually get about 2 hours per night. is this normal?
by megbee 1st Sep 2010, 10:02am
Hi girls. I had severe morning sickness (hyperemesis) from 6-18 weeks with two stints in hospital on a drip. This is my 2nd pregnancy & although I was sick last time it was only 6 weeks & we got thru it. This time I have hated every day of my pregnancy & haven't bonded at all - even after scans. We nearly aborted at 16wks as I couldn't be sick anymore & had to be signed off for 3months but I realised I couldn't do it. I now think I have antenatal depression as I still don't feel well, I don't enjoy anything anymore, food & drink is a nightmare as i get such bad acid as well as having a tiny appetite...and I have to wait til dec for it all to be better again :( I don't think I will last much longer and my poor husband doesn't know what to do with me!!! Going docs again this morn so will discuss all this with them but can anyone really help or do I just have to pull myself together somehow? Some days I can but today I can't :(
by Bluebell0503 12th Aug 2010, 10:52am
Im 26 weeks pregnant and i feel anxious, not about the labour but about what happens afterwards, I feel like my husband is telling me how things will be about visitors etc, its like its ok for his family to come over whenever they want but not alright for mine or my friends. He has a bigger family than me and my friend is like my sister but im told no friend are allowed to see the baby until the family all have. I would have liked my mum to be my second birthing partner but it appears I am not allowed as not to offend his mother, she already has 3 grand children and mine has none. I want to just spend a couple of days with just the three of us getting to know each other but my husband says he wont be saying no when his family call up to come around and visit. I feel like its him going through the labour not me, constantly being told what can and cannt happen. I feel like im torn to not offend anyone. Im tearful all the time, want to sleep a lot (mainly so i dont have to continue dreading our new arrival). I just feel so anxious, i want to concentrate on getting to know our first child not worrying about who i may offend if i say no to a visitor! Does anyone else understand me or am i being silly?
by AliL 14th May 2010, 3:52pm
i think i may be sufferin from antenatal depression, when i first found out i was pregnant i was over the moon, but as i had suffered a miscarriage a few years ago i started worryin straight away, i couldnt believe that i was goin to have a baby, i constantly thought something was goin to happen to the baby, then at 6 weeks i started gettin really bad mornin sickness and ended up gettin admitted to hospital twice to be put on a drip. They scanned me early at 10 weeks which was great seeing my baby but i still worried that something would go wrong, eventually at 13 weeks y sickness wore off and i began to enjoy being pregnant a bit more, but i still has those worries at the back of my mind.

Every little twinge i would fret that something was wrong, then at 15 weeks we heard the babys' heartbeat for the 1st time which settled me a lot. However i still didnt buy any baby stuff till 16 weeks when i knew my chances of miscarriage are very low. The baby started kickin at 16 weeks which was great but me and my boyfriend we havin a few problems, i found out a lot of hurtful stuff and ever since then i have been down, i have had trouble at work cause of my pregnancy and i thought i would really enjoy being pregnant, i love my baby so much but i just feel down all the time, we found out we are having a girl in january but i still worry all the time, i dont want to feel like this, i want to enjoy being pregnant!! I am seeing the doctor on tuesday, i just dont know wot to do ?x
by xkatesx 19th Sep 2009, 5:45pm
i believe i may be suffering from depression, this is my second pregnancy and i suffered from severe sickness (was admitted to hospital on drip 3 time), once that finally calmed down at around 26 weeks, i developed SPD, which gradually has got worse as i have been getting bigger. to top all this off i was admitted to hospital last week with a suspected blood clot on my lung which was very frightening, luckily it turned out not to be a blood clot, but it seems the last couple months i have found it hard to cope, crying, feeling low, scared etc
i am now 39 weeks and due in a matter of days and so i am praying the labour goes without a hitch, and i can finally start to relax and let my body get back to normal and enjoy the new addition.
i have shared my experience to prove this can happen even tho it ment to be a great time in our lives sometimes it just isnt, and so support is out there and other women like myself know what its like. dont be afraid to ask for help and admit something isnt quite right, talking can really help.
by danni23 17th Sep 2009, 9:18am
i am constantly scared my husband will leave me because of my depression. im always thinking after i snap at him, thats it, hes going this time. i accuse him of fancying other women, im at my wits end.
by debbyG 7th Sep 2009, 12:25pm
Alexy your not the only 1 in world and im glad to see im not either. I suffered extreme anxiety 2yrs ago which caused me depression and was put on anti-depressants, after a while life turned good, the anxiety attacks went and i was taken off the tablets. Since getting pregnant ive gradually become anxious over the mths and now at 31 weeks pregnant im right back in that horrible place again, paniky, difficulty eating and sleeping, dizzy spells and a horrid feeling in open spaces. I suggest you go see your GP, i went this morning and he has referred me to the mental health team for antenatal counselling with immediate effect as we decided medication should be avoided if possible. But just goin to see him has helped me as i found i broke down and released some much needed tension that id been bottling up inside. He told me that antenatal anxiety/depression is more common than most people think and very treatable. Ive also been in touch with my midwife and informed her of everythig and between her, my GP, and counselling hopefully i can combat this without medication until my son is born. Dont suffer in silence, good luck.
by chellep 19th Aug 2009, 9:07am
im feelin like this at the moment im 29 wks pregant and have previously suffered with anxiety and depression but since being pregnant i was fine until a couple of days ago and now i feel stuck in a rutt! cant sleep, shaking, been sick from panicing and am struggling to eat. does any1 else having any similiar experiences as i feel like the only 1 in the world! and dont no wot to do for the best?!
by alexy 10th Aug 2009, 9:32am
Hello!im 15 weeks pregnant,i have two daughters who are 5 and 2,their pregnancys were fine and i was very happy and full of life when carrying them.However with this baby i had morning sickness till week 10(which ive never had before) and generally ive felf really naff......exhausted,teary almost daily,i analyze everything,couldnt care about much,ive been angry and anxtious.I moved in with my other half unknowingly pregnant and found out a few weeks later in march so i havent even settled in as a normal,standard human.....instead i moved in as a pregnant wreck! I went to see my doc today as i suspected antenatal depression,she confirmed it,offered me Prozack........ive asked for other help and so im being refered to hospital so they can assess me on whether councilling would be better or they may support the prozack option,i could have had the tablets given to me straight away today but the doc said that she coulnt tell me that the prozack would Or wouldnt affect the bubbs so im gonna wait.....precious cargo and all that lol.Im pleased to finally know whats up and i hope it doesnt come to tablets,but if needs must then fair doo's.Either way all i know is that I miss ME!!! and id love for ME to return,hopefully sooner rather than later.I just feel very lucky to have such a supportive partner,he's been great and i really feel for the poor bloke as he's told me he just wishes he knew what was up and how to help me,he's bore the brunt of me and it must be so fustrating for him too. If anyone is suffering with this,especially if they have no partner then i really hope you get though it and wish you the best of luck,i was a single mum until feb 09 and its a very tough world to live in,i dont know how id have coped if i was still on my own. :o)
by missypeters 22nd May 2009, 9:25am
I suffered with antenatal depression, probably triggered by a slightly complicated pregnancy and a tendancy to worry about things anyway. My midwife was less than helpful, but thankfully I had an amazing GP who helped me through. She prescribed me anti-depressants and councelling. Initially I panicked about going on the tablets as I was already taking a lot of tablets to stabalise my epilepsy, but she reassured me and was on the end of the phone whenever I had a panic about what they might be doing to the baby. I was signed off from work for 5 weeks which helped me focus on my gorwing baby and took away the feelings of guilt I had been having about not being able to concentrate either on the baby or my work. After a month or so the tablets took hold and seemed to be doing the trick. A combination of pills, councelling, exercise and rest seemed to be doing the trick. This was, sadly, a time when I found out who my "real" friends were. Some found it hard to understand why something I had wanted for so long had made me so sad and withdrawn. Thankfully I also discovered I had a few amazing friends who were there for me at all times of the day and calmed me down when I had irrational thoughts. I am now 39 weeks and waiting the arrival of my little bundle of joy! I am back to my old self and looking forward to building a future with my husband and new baby. Thanks to the amazing support of my GP I am not scared about having another child in the future and I am able to tell other mothers to be that there is help out there and you're not alone. xxx
by DebbyF 18th May 2009, 9:41am
I am currently 18 years old, and 28 weeks pregnant with my partners child. My GP thinks I may be gradually developing Antenatal Depression, as I get extremely emotional and upset, every other day. When my down moments started, it was only once a week or so, but now it's nearly every day. I am being monitored and see my GP regularly now, so she can make sure I'm not getting dangerously low. I have suffered from minor depression before, in my early teens, so that puts me further at risk. When my mood drops, everyone asks "What's the matter, something MUST be wrong". But the truth is, I have no idea why I'm crying or getting so upset and miserable. This confuses me, but hopefully, as long as my GP monitors me correctly, I should end up being ok. I hope everyone on here is having a lovely pregnancy, with or without antenatal depression. :) Emma xx
by emdete 27th Apr 2009, 9:39am
I am currently about 9 weeks pregnant and have my first midwife appointment next week. Ten months ago I had a missed miscarriage at 10 weeks and both myself and my partner were completely devastated. Following the miscarriage we decided that we would get married this year and have gone about planning our wedding for October of this year when lo and behold a couple of weeks ago we discovered that I was pregnant again. I am really feeling low and depressed and have been for about a week. I am 39 this year and this is my first baby and I am just so terrified. I have just started my own business which is going really really well although money is not really a concern for us. I had sort of, deep down, thought that I was never going to be a mum after what happened last year and had convinced myself of that so much that it was a total shock to discover that I was pregnant again. I am worried about everything. Even though I sometimes feel excited about the prospect of us being parents, mostly I am feeling really scared. I think because I am getting on really to be starting out on the parenthood and because my career has really taken off this year I am feeling scared that all my hard work is going to amount for nothing. I am scared that I am going to have another miscarriage and have to go through the devastation again. I am feeling really fat and even though I went out and spend a load of money on bigger clothes 2 weeks ago they are already starting to feel tight and I feel like I have nothing left in my wardrobe that fits me. I have always looked after my appearance and now I just feel fat frumpy unattractive and horrible and it is making me feel like I can't be bothered to make myself look nice anymore because I just don't look nice anyway regardless. I feel like my body has been taken over and that it doesn't belong to me anymore and it is starting to make me feel resentful. We have a really nice life and I really like the life we have and we generally go out once a week down to our local pub and have a few jars and I can't do it anymore because I can't have a drink and I am too tired and I feel resentful because I am missing out on my social life. I am snapping at my partner. I have spent most of the day in my dressing gown today because I just feel really low today and I can't seem to dig myself out of it. I had a row with my partner earlier over nothing so he (quite rightly because I was a right cow) went out to watch the rugby down the pub and I can't say I blame him. If things were different I would be there by his side. My partner is absolutely the best thing that has ever happened to me and I love him so much and I feel like I am being really unfair. I sent him a text earlier saying sorry and all my negative feelings came pouring out. He is so sensible and understanding and constantly reassures me that he loves me and that I am beautiful to him ALL the time. I felt really awful telling him that I felt resentful towards the baby because he is so excited and we went through so much last year. I just feel like a complete bitch and really guilty for feeling like this. I am so scared that if this pregnancy goes well that I will still resent the baby when it arrives. I am planning to speak to the midwife next week about how I am feeling but I am at my wits end. It is so unlike me to be such a horrible person. And I feel like I can't talk to any of my friends about it because I am ashamed of myself for feeling like it.
by WelshGirlInAberdeen 2nd Mar 2009, 9:33am
I am currently suffering with antenatal depression. Its so easy to put it down to 'hormones' but i can now finally admit i am depressed. After leaving my temporary job in december, no one will employ me because im pregnant. Of course they cant tell you that but who wants to train someone who will be leaving in three months or who cant lift heavy things that other people can. So im stuck at home whilst my partner works, feeling sad and lonely, and guilty that if i need anything i have to go to him for money. I was so used to my independence and freedom and slowly im becoming less like me. Not so much the outgoing person i was before and to add to it i have stretch marks all over and keep having to re-do my makeup every five minutes because when i look in the mirror i don't see me anymore. and then there's the worry that 'what if im not a good mum?' 'what if i leave the baby at the supermarket?' or worse ' what happens if i miscarry?' Then there's the fear of getting in the car in case you crash and its your fault if the baby's hurt, so you stay at home and never leave the house. Its a big spiral of feelings that i can only put down to depression.
by sicily1 6th Feb 2009, 12:51pm
I've just had my 20wk scan and had a panic attack before going in. We've been trying to get pregnant for 3 years and now I finally am I'm so scared of something going wrong that I find myself dreading the scans as much as I'm looking forward to them. I have epilepsy too so I'm scared that will have an effect on the baby. The scan nurse today was not at all helpful either, which didn't help!!
by witchgirl 6th Aug 2008, 9:09am
I have a large family and although this baby is a planned pregnancy i am overly concerned as to what other people will think of me. I know i shouldnt let it bother me but it does and i find myself wondering if i have done the right thing by having another child
by pixychick 18th Jul 2008, 10:03am
by KQ 24th Apr 2008, 3:49pm