Everything you need to know about depression during pregnancy

Pregnancy is not an easy thing to go through, and many experience depression as a result. Here's all you need to know on the subject.

 Pregnant woman suffers from depression (Illustrative) (photo credit: Israel Midwives Organization)
Pregnant woman suffers from depression (Illustrative)
(photo credit: Israel Midwives Organization)

Pregnancy is far from easy. Although it's a different experience for each person, overall the process is rewarding, yes, but also trying and complicated. That's why it comes as no surprise that, according to scientific estimates presented by the Israel Midwives Association, 18% of women who are pregnant report symptoms related to depression and between 4% and 7% even develop a typical depressive episode.

Although many people simply say to wait it out until the end of the pregnancy, depression during pregnancy doesn't always go away like this. In addition, it's particularly harmful during pregnancy so letting it go on is not recommended. For a lot of women, depression during pregnancy develops into postpartum depression, meaning that treatment is necessary already at that point to prevent further progression.

Depression during pregnancy has physical and mental effects on the mother and the baby, such as an increased risk of premature birth, lower-than-average fetal weight, as well as difficulty in establishing contact between the mother and the baby. These are all symptoms that, with the right treatment, can be avoided.

Some of the risk factors for developing depression during pregnancy include:

  • Pregnancy at a young age
  • Lack of a family support system
  • Unwanted/unplanned pregnancy
  • Exposure to violence
  • Lack of support from coworkers in work-life balance
  Pregnant woman scrolls on her computer (Illustrative) (credit: Israel Midwives Organization) Pregnant woman scrolls on her computer (Illustrative) (credit: Israel Midwives Organization)

Depression: Not to be confused with regular pregnancy ailments

Strangely enough, depression during pregnancy has several of the same symptoms that come along with pregnancy on its own. These include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased fatigue

There are also, of course, independent symptoms that may indicate that someone pregnant is depressed, such as:

  • Anxiety surrounding pregnancy-related medical tests 
  • Emotional crash
  • Lack of pleasure
  • Decreased appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Constant sadness
  • Inexplicable crying
  • Pessimism
  • Severe sleep disturbances
  • Inability to get out of bed

Wintertime is also quite a difficult time to be pregnant, as sunshine is a contributing factor to one's positive mood, both during pregnancy and without pregnancy. When it's winter and the days are shorter, seasonal depression ties in with the feelings of depression that may come during pregnancy.

So what can be done about depression during pregnancy?

The number one thing to remember is that you are not alone. Beyond a family, a partner, friends and so on, there are systems set in place, especially in Israel, to provide you with consistent support throughout the whole process.

There is continuous pregnancy support in Israel through the Health Ministry and individual health funds, in cooperation with the Israeli Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Israel Midwives Association. This means that those who are pregnant receive continuous medical support throughout the entire process, with a personalized program tailored to each patient.

The Israel Midwives Association explains that the implementation of constant support by a midwife will include, among other things, early detection of depression during pregnancy, which will lead to a referral to receive a professional diagnosis and treatment.

Speaking to other people going through the same, or at least similar, things is also a way to find peace within a sense of community. There are multiple support groups as well as Facebook groups that one could join within which there are open discussions about such struggles.