Postpartum depression generally has its own chapter in pregnancy books — and rightfully so. Prenatal depression can be just as isolating, debilitating and sometimes more difficult to diagnose, so watch for these signs and look into depression resources if you're worried your pregnancy anxiety may be a concern.

Helene Laurenti, Ph.D. and licensed psychologist, offers a wealth of information about why women are hesitant to seek out information about prenatal depression, the problems that can arise in diagnosing antenatal depression and the ways women can alleviate the symptoms of their depression.

Hesitation to discuss prenatal depression

Dr. Laurenti finds that women have three major reasons for not seeking treatment or advice for their prenatal depression.

  1. Women aren't aware that prenatal depression exists. At first glance, even many doctors may misconstrue prenatal depression as the typical pregnancy symptoms of hormonal mood changes, crying and extreme fatigue.

  2. Mothers-to-be feel guilty and ashamed to admit any feelings that may be construed as "not wanting the baby."

  3. Women feel like nothing can be done because of concerns about the safety of medications during pregnancy.

Warning signs of antenatal depression

  • A depressed mood that seems deeper and lingers longer than typical pregnancy mood shifts
  • A loss of interest in food or inability to taste food
  • Less interest and follow-up in self-care like bathing, washing hair and brushing teeth
  • Reduced interest in seeing friends or doing things you once loved doing
  • Crying that lasts over hours or days
  • Feelings of hopelessness and being overwhelmed or trapped
  • Thoughts that it would be a relief if you didn't wake up the next day

Isolated pill bottle

Treatment and resources for prenatal depression

Like any medical condition, treatment for prenatal depression should be personalized between a woman and her medical team. Dr. Laurenti shares a range of treatments that women suffering from prenatal depression may consider, including: cognitive behavioral therapy, physical exercise, maintaining good sleep patterns and talking to a doctor about certain medications that are safe to take at various stages of pregnancy. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance is an amazing resource for anyone suffering from depression. Their website offers both online and local support options.

The bottom line^

If you find yourself experiencing the warning signs of prenatal depression, be sure to talk with your loved ones and your doctors about your concerns that your symptoms are not related to minor pregnancy mood swings. Dr. Laurenti assures concerned parents-to-be, "Prenatal depression does not at all indicate that the woman is not happy about the pregnancy itself, nor is it correlated to how she'll be as a mother once the baby is born. It is a biologically-influenced medical condition that can occur with the onset of pregnancy, and can be treated."

More about depression

Feeling SAD: Seasonal affective disorder
When to seek treatment for postpartum depression
Signs of depression in kids and tweens

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