Mental Health During Pregnancy: What You Should Know

There is no uniform experience when it comes to pregnancy. Just like every baby is unique, so is every pregnancy. For some people, it’s a time filled with hope, joy, and excitement and for others, it can be a distressing time. There is copious amounts of information on the impact that pregnancy has on your body and more discussion is needed about the impact on one’s mental health.

Many women struggle with their mental health during pregnancy. If this is or was your experience, don’t worry, you are far from alone. Even in pregnancies that were desired and planned for, you can experience mental health struggles. During a time when your body is going through so many changes, it would be unwise to ignore your mental health during pregnancy.

I advocated for all pregnant women to arm themselves with knowledge as they prepare for a new baby. While it’s important to plan for the monumental shifts that will take place physically, financially, and even relationally, it’s important to also plan for and be aware of your mental health needs during this time and beyond.

Risk factors
Risk factors are not a guarantee however there are certain risk factors that put you at
greater risk of developing mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety
during pregnancy. Risk factors include:

  • Personal history or family history of mental health struggles
  • Relationship problems
  • Stress and isolation
  • Insufficient support
  • Prior pregnancy loss
  • Birth trauma
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Difficult pregnancy or medical condition such as hyperemesis gravidarum

While it is common to experience mild changes in mood during or after pregnancy, up to 20% of women experience more significant symptoms that warrant treatment. The most important thing is to know that it’s highly treatable.

Signs and symptoms
Postpartum depression appears to be a common umbrella term that’s used and something that many people believe only occurs after birth. You should know that it can develop before you give birth. In fact, symptoms can appear at any time during pregnancy and the first 12 months after having a baby.

Symptoms can include:

  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Exhaustion
  • Numbness
  • Anger
  • Physical symptoms
  • Insomnia
  • Disturbing thoughts or fears

There are in fact several types of mental health problems that can occur, not just postpartum depression. Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) is the term used to describe a range of distressing symptoms that can occur during pregnancy and throughout the first year after pregnancy. They include depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress, and psychosis.

Pay close attention to how you’re feeling during pregnancy, not just after.

Depression and “baby blues” are not the same
About 80% of new moms experience mood swings and tearfulness during the first 2 weeks after having a baby. This is referred to as “the baby blues” which is a normal adjustment period requiring no intervention. If beyond a 2-3 week time period, these symptoms persist and include other symptoms, a perinatal mental health screening is helpful.

Available resources
Postpartum Support International is a phenomenal resource for perinatal mental health and they also have a directory of mental health professionals with specialized training in this area as well as a helpline.

Another helpful resource is the maternal mental health hotline which provides free, confidential support, resources, and referrals. The hotline is available 24/7 and can be reached at 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262).

Your mental health matters and if you’re having difficulty during pregnancy or after, it does not mean you are failing. It’s easy to assume that problems with your mood are due to feeling tired, overwhelmed or simply adjusting to being pregnant or life with a new baby. Being informed of risk factors, signs and symptoms, and resources can prevent symptoms from getting worse.

Kerri-Anne Brown

Kerri-Anne Brown

Hi, I'm Kerri-Anne and I'm a licensed mental health counselor in Orlando, FL. I help individuals and couples who are living with fertility challenges, perinatal loss, birth trauma and difficulties with postpartum adjustments. Please feel free to reach out anytime.

Leave a Comment