Care for Your Mental Health Throughout Your Pregnancy

Care for Your Mental Health Throughout Your Pregnancy

Care for Your Mental Health Throughout Your Pregnancy

Health care is important before, during and after pregnancy. And that means caring for your mind as well as your body. 

A healthy pregnancy starts before you’re even pregnant. You might need mental health support if you face issues getting pregnant and have the stress that comes with treatment for infertility.

And while you’re pregnant, you might face challenges caring for yourself and your baby.

After the baby comes, women face a range of new feelings and challenges. Your family may also be struggling with all the changes. Through it all, it’s vital to reach out for professional help if you need it.

Depression Is Common

Depression is common during pregnancy. It affects about 1 in 10 pregnant women. When not treated, it puts women at risk for early delivery, severe depression and suicide. Some women have depression and anxiety for the first time in their lives during pregnancy or after delivery, says the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologistsleaving site icon

Women who experience perinatal depression during pregnancy may struggle to care for themselves. They may not eat healthy foods or get enough rest. They may skip their prenatal checkups. Women who took antidepressants before pregnancy may become depressed again if they stop taking them. And having untreated depression during pregnancy also raises the risk of postpartum depression.

After your baby is born, there will be new challenges. You’ll face hormonal changes that can hit you hard. Then there are physical changes in your body, common new parent concerns and some sleepless nights.

Many women experience postpartum depression, leaving site icon sometimes called the “baby blues.” They may feel anxious or sad often or all the time. They may have crying spells and not want to do activities. They may be upset or angry with their new baby or with family members. They may have trouble eating, sleeping and making decisions, and they may even wonder if they can care for their baby.

It's important for women to know they are not alone, are not to blame and don’t need to continue to suffer, says Postpartum Support International, leaving site icon which offers support and resources. Many parents go through some mild mood changes after the birth of a child. But between 15 and 20 percent of women have more severe signs of depression or anxiety.

Know the Signs

Depression is more than just feeling sad. It is a group of symptoms that last for weeks or longer that get in the way of your ability to handle your day-to-day activities. Some of the signs of depression include feeling anxious or sad often or all the time, tearfulness or crying spells, not wanting to do activities, sleeping troubles, or thinking about suicide or hurting yourself.

If you're having thoughts of harming yourself or suicide, please get help right away. You can call or text 988 or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline site at suicidepreventionlifeline.orgleaving site icon 

Get Help

If you think you might have depression, it’s important to get help. The first step is a depression screening. Your doctor can give you a screening or recommend a mental health care provider. When you’re answering screening questions, be sure to be honest about everything you’re experiencing.  

After your screening, your doctor will talk with you about next steps. You may need follow-up care with a mental health care provider. You may also have a physical exam to rule out other health issues.

The good news is depression can be treated. The most common ways are with counseling, medicine or both. Your doctor may suggest that you see a mental health professional who can help you find the treatment that works best for you.

Getting mental health care can keep the symptoms from getting worse and help you recover. And be sure to get the follow-up care you need.

Sources: Depression During Pregnancy, leaving site icon American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2023; Postpartum Depressionleaving site icon American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2021; Help for Moms, leaving site icon Postpartum Support International; Depression Screening, leaving site icon U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2022; 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, leaving site icon  U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 

Originally published 4/25/2023; Revised 2024