While it’s true that becoming a mother can bring plenty of joy, this elation is only one part of the path to motherhood. From the first time you try to conceive, all the way to delivering and taking care of the infant, there are many triggers that can cause stress, anxiety, and depression throughout your pregnancy.
Emotions During Conceiving & Family Planning
Many women may have high expectations of how easily they will conceive. Having these high expectations can cause stress and anxiety, as well as depression, when trying to get pregnant.
There are many reasons behind the troubles to conceive. Infertility is defined by the CDC as being unable to become pregnant after one year of trying, or six months if the woman is above 35. STDs can also cause trouble conceiving; 40% of women with untreated gonorrhea and chlamydia will develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can cause infertility or ectopic pregnancies.
It’s no wonder, then, why pregnancy is such a mix of emotions. With so many potential outcomes, ranging from an easy pregnancy to a diagnosis of infertility, it’s only natural for excitement, nervousness, and depression to surface all at once.
Your Health During Pregnancy
Every woman experiences pregnancy differently, and there is no such thing as a “perfect pregnancy.” Some may gain a lot of weight, while others develop food aversions and may lose weight. Many women have discomfort, nausea, and in some cases have persistent vomiting. As your hormones are changing, you may also have mood swings. And though painful to discuss, miscarriage can also occur. This is a major loss, and it can cause a great deal of emotional pain and trigger depression.
Depression During Pregnancy
Depression during pregnancy is extremely common, though not often talked about – with expectations of a newborn, most mothers-to-be are assumed to feel only positive emotions. However, this is not the case.
Research shows that one in ten women experience depression during their pregnancy. Dreading or feeling excessively anxious about the birth, low self-esteem, and changes in sleep and diet are all common symptoms of depression.
Depression when pregnant is not to be taken lightly, as it can affect the unborn baby; premature birth, low birth weight, and developmental challenges can all result from a depressed soon-to-be mother.
Treating Depression During Pregnancy
The pros and cons of prescribing medication are widely debated in depressed pregnant women, as some data shows potential birth defects from specific medications. Often, women are advised to attend therapy, visit support groups, get regular exercise, eat a balanced diet, sleep as much as needed, and even try acupuncture.
The most important thing to do: discuss your depression with your doctor. They’ll have the most knowledgeable advice and will take all health concerns into consideration before deciding whether or not to prescribe medication for your depression.
Delivery and Postpartum
When you’re pregnant, the levels of your progesterone and estrogen are at their highest. Once you deliver a baby, there is a sudden drop in the hormones. This drastic change in hormone levels can affect your overall mood, as many women with PMS experience prior to their menstrual periods.
Postpartum depression is extremely common following both positive and negative pregnancies. One in eight women will develop postpartum depression (PPD); women who deal with other issues such as severe PMS, illegal drug use, and bipolar disorder are more likely to experience it.
PPD can come with a slew of symptoms, many of which mimic depression during pregnancy. However, there are other symptoms that can arise, such as a failure to bond with your baby. If you have PPD, speak to your doctor; they’ll likely recommend therapy and/or medication to combat the blues.
Aside from physiological changes that can cause PPD, a new baby is a major change in your life and is emotionally and physically draining. You will likely feel sleep deprived and exhausted, which makes day-to-day life feel overwhelming.
Make sure to take care of your mental and emotional wellbeing throughout conception, pregnancy, and postpartum in order to avoid depression, anxiety, and stress, and always be open to the possibility that things may be different than you expected.
These are some of the challenges many women may encounter at every step toward motherhood. Though you may face difficulties, having a baby can be one of the most rewarding parts of life.
For more information on finding the best care for your depression or anxiety, please visit Doctor On Demand by Included Health.
About the author
Dr. Judith Thorne
is a Doctor On Demand clinical psychologist with over 25 years of experience working with children and adults on a wide range of topics, including depression, anxiety, grief and loss, learning difficulties, and other life adjustments. Dr. Thorne is also an expert in women’s mental health, dealing with various issues such as hormonal sensitivities due to pregnancy, loss in the form of infertility and miscarriage, and menopause. She possesses an MA in Applied Behavioral Psychology, an MS in Applied Psychology, and a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology.