What you should know about depression during pregnancy

by Kaiser Permanente |
Pregnant woman drinking coffee at home.

It’s no secret that hormone levels change while you’re pregnant. This can cause your mood and energy levels to shift. It’s normal to feel a little blue now and then, but a condition called depression needs to be treated. Depression is common during pregnancy, affecting about 1 in 10 pregnant women.

What are the symptoms of depression?

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little
  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or anger
  • Having little to no energy
  • Withdrawing from friends and family

It’s possible for depression symptoms to be mild and only last a short time. But they could last throughout your pregnancy.

What to do if you think you’re depressed

If you have symptoms of depression, let your clinician know. There’s no need to be embarrassed—depression needs to be treated just like any other medical condition. Also, share with your clinician if you or a family member has a history of depression. Tell your clinician if your symptoms last longer than 2 to 3 weeks.

Treatments for depression

Fortunately, there are several ways to treat depression during pregnancy. Your clinician may recommend talk therapy with a counselor or pregnancy-safe medications.

Self-care is also important. Try to eat healthy, nutritious foods, exercise every day, and rest when you can.

How you can manage mental health

Taking care of your own mental health helps you prevent or recover from depression. Things to try:

  • Breathing exercises. Consider belly breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, or morning breathing. These exercises can help you feel more relaxed, relieve stress, and reduce tension.
  • Calming activities. Relaxing for 5 to 10 minutes every day can help boost your mood. Listening to music, sitting quietly, taking a walk, or taking a bath can all help.
  • Massage. Gentle prenatal massage can help relieve symptoms like pain and muscle tension.
  • Progressive relaxation. Your clinician can teach you this way of tightening and releasing certain muscle groups to relax them.
  • Seek support from your partner, friends, and family members. Ask about social support groups in your community
  • Time management. It can feel like you don’t have time to do anything while you’re pregnant. Try making commitments without overloading yourself and prioritizing completing daily tasks. It’s also a good idea to let go of the mindset that you have to do it all.

If you think you might have postpartum depression, don’t wait to ask for help. Reach out to your care team so they can help you get the help you need. If you are having any thoughts of hurting yourself, hurting someone else, or suicide, call 911.

This article has been created by a national group of Kaiser Permanente ob-gyns, certified nurse-midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants and other specialists who came together to provide you with the best pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn information.

Some of the content is used and adapted with permission of The Permanente Medical Group.