Guide To Antepartum Depression

Written by Tidewater Physicians For Women on .

Pregnancy is typically a time of joy and excitement for new moms. For some women though, the months before childbirth are filled with feelings of sadness and anxiety. The condition is called antepartum depression, and about 18% of pregnant women will experience it. Fortunately, the health care team at Tidewater Physicians for Women offers treatment so you and your baby enjoy a happy, healthy pregnancy.

What is Antepartum Depression?

Also called antenatal or prenatal depression, antepartum depression is a mood disorder that occurs before childbirth. It is less well known than postpartum depression, which occurs in the year after the baby is born. The condition causes feelings of sadness, worthlessness, anxiety, and fatigue that make it challenging to perform daily tasks or care for yourself or family members. It can also put the health of your unborn baby at risk, so seeking antepartum care quickly is vital.

Perinatal depression is quite common. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), 7.4% of women will experience depression during the first trimester of gestation, while 12-12.8% of women experience it during their second or third trimesters.

What are the Causes and Symptoms of Antepartum Depression?

While there is no single cause for depression during pregnancy, doctors believe the condition results from the combination of pregnancy-induced hormonal changes and emotional disturbances associated with pregnancy. Women with a personal or family history of depression or those who have had perinatal depression previously may be at greater risk. Women facing high-risk pregnancies may also be at increased risk. Other risk factors include:

  • Lack of social support
  • Poor relationship quality
  • Domestic violence
  • Poor nutrition, specifically low levels of vitamins D and B 
  • Unintended pregnancy
  • Lack of health insurance/financial concerns

Many pregnant women do not realize they have the condition. That is because symptoms can mimic normal pregnancy symptoms, making it difficult to determine when to seek treatment. Similar symptoms include:

  • Fatigue and an overall lack of energy
  • Changes in appetite, including no appetite or overeating
  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping too much or not enough
  • Lack of sex drive

More significant symptoms may include:

  • Feelings of extreme anxiety
  • Feelings of dread
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Loss of activities you usually enjoy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Aches, pains, headaches, or cramps that do not have a clear physical cause
  • Feelings that you are not prepared for parenthood
  • Lack of self-care and/or unwillingness to follow a prenatal care plan
  • Use of tobacco products, alcohol, or drugs
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideations

Not everyone will experience the same symptoms. You may only have a few symptoms while others experience many of these.

What are the Common Concerns of Women with Antenatal Depression?

Women have many medical conditions to worry about during pregnancy including fetal growth and abnormalities, placenta rupture, and preterm labor. Unfortunately, depression gives them more causes for concern.

Women with antenatal depression are more likely to experience complications such as preeclampsia or high blood pressure that occur during pregnancy. This is a serious condition that often requires inpatient care in an antepartum unit at a medical center.

Additionally, women with depression are more likely to deliver a preterm baby. A study published in the May 2016 journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found women who have depression while pregnant are 1.82 times more likely to have a preterm baby and 1.28 times more likely to have a low-birth weight baby. When babies are born early or underweight, they may spend time in a NICU where neonatologists treat them until they are healthy enough to go home.

How Do Obstetric Professionals Treat Antepartum Depression?

Just like postpartum depression, you can not just snap out of antepartum depression. Treatment by a health care provider is required to ensure your well-being and your baby’s health.

Doctors have several ways to treat antenatal depression. First, your doctor may prescribe antidepressant medications. There are many types that are safe to take during pregnancy, including Zoloft, Cymbalta, Celexa, and Wellbutrin. However, some women may feel more comfortable with non-pharmaceutical options.

Research has shown that counseling or therapy can help reduce symptoms and improve your well-being. Support groups where women experiencing similar conditions discuss their feelings and emotions may also help.

Self-care is another great way to improve your wellness during pregnancy. While you should speak to your healthcare provider as soon as you realize you are having symptoms of antenatal depression, you can also take steps on your own to feel better.

Get enough exercise. Physical activity helps boost endorphins, which are brain chemicals that help you deal with pain or stress. Therefore, doing gentle, regular exercise can improve your mood. Your obstetrician can help if you are not sure what types of activities are safe during pregnancy.

Improve sleep habits. Sleeping during pregnancy, especially during the last trimester, can be difficult. However, poor sleep quality has been linked to an increased risk of suicidal thoughts (1). Supportive pillows can increase your comfort while sleeping.

Eat nutritious meals. Eating healthy foods is not only important for your baby’s development, but it also gives your body the nutrients it needs to be healthy. Always follow a diet appropriate for antepartum care to ensure your good health.

Can Antepartum Depression Lead To Postpartum Depression?

While there is some clinical evidence to suggest depression during pregnancy carries over after the baby is born, that is not always the case. Many women who experience depression during pregnancy cope well and experience no difficulties after childbirth.

During pregnancy, it is essential to recognize that feelings of sadness, worthlessness, or extreme anxiety are more than just the “baby blues.” These feelings can be symptoms of a serious medical condition that requires treatment. Call us today at 757-461-3890 or reach us through our contact page to learn how we can help.

Tidewater Physicians For Women

Written By Tidewater Physicians For Women

Tidewater Physicians For Women
Tidewater Physicians for Women is a division of Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care with offices in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, Virginia. Our practice takes comprehensive care to a higher level with a large team of experienced and qualified physicians, nurse practitioners, and two licensed counselors.
Tidewater Physicians for Women
a division of Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care
VA Beach

828 Healthy Way Unit 330
Virginia Beach, VA 23462

Fax: 757-467-0301


844 Kempsville Road #208
Norfolk, VA 23502

Fax: 757-461-0836

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