Antepartum depression is a common mental health condition that may occur during pregnancy. Healthcare professionals also call it perinatal depression. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Depression is a common mood disorder that can cause feelings of sadness or hopelessness that a person cannot get rid of.
Antepartum depression is a type of depression that may occur during pregnancy. In severe cases, it can lead to potential health risks for both the pregnant person and the developing fetus.
This article reviews what antepartum depression is, its symptoms and causes, and more.
Antepartum depression is a form of mood disorder that may occur while a person is pregnant. “Antepartum” means “before birth.”
The condition can cause feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and depressed mood. It can range in severity from mild to severe.
- persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- fatigue, or unusual lack of energy
- unusual changes in appetite, weight, or both
- feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, guilt, or helplessness
- loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- trouble falling sleep
- restlessness or difficulty sitting still
- difficulty concentrating, remembering things, or making decisions
- persistent thoughts of doubt
- aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems with no clear cause
- thoughts of suicide, death, or harming oneself or the unborn baby
A person should talk with a healthcare professional if they suspect they may have depression.
If a person has thoughts of suicide or self-harm or is worried about someone else who may be having these thoughts, they should call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline immediately at 988.
Why might symptoms go unnoticed during pregnancy?
Some symptoms of depression are physical. A person may experience symptoms such as fatigue, trouble sleeping, and difficulty concentrating but assume that these symptoms are related to pregnancy instead of depression.
A person may also feel pressure to feel happy during pregnancy due to societal or family expectations. This could lead a pregnant person not to seek help due to fear of the stigma around depression.
Often, there is no clear reason why a person may develop antepartum depression. It
In a 2019 study, researchers found that a strong social support system can help improve a person’s mental health during pregnancy. This suggests that the lack of a strong social network may increase a person’s risk of developing antepartum depression.
Other possible risk factors include:
- Lack of sleep: One study suggests a link between poor sleep, antepartum depression, and suicidal thoughts.
- Stress: Stress during pregnancy
may increasethe chances of antepartum depression.
- Nutritional deficiencies: A lack of nutrients such as vitamin D may also
increasethe risk of antepartum depression.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all healthcare professionals screen people for depression and anxiety symptoms at least once during pregnancy.
Scores from the screening can help them diagnose antepartum depression.
Treatment for antepartum depression
Antidepressants for antepartum depression may include:
Antepartum depression can affect the pregnant person’s mental, emotional, and physical health, as well as the health of the fetus.
Antepartum depression can lead to complications such as:
If a person experiences symptoms of depression, they should consider speaking with a healthcare professional or a licensed mental health professional such as a psychiatrist.
A healthcare professional will typically review a person’s symptoms and provide an assessment screening to find out whether they have antepartum depression. They can then refer the person for treatment, if necessary.
If a person is having thoughts of suicide or self-harm or is worried that someone else may be having these thoughts, they should call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline immediately at 988. This helpline’s workers can offer support.
Antepartum depression is a type of depression that can occur during pregnancy. It can affect mental and emotional well-being and cause physical issues for the pregnant person and complications in the developing fetus.
Healthcare professionals typically screen for depression at least once during pregnancy, but a person can ask for a screening if they notice symptoms. Previous mental health issues, sleep problems, and nutritional deficiencies can be risk factors for antepartum depression.
Once a person receives a diagnosis, they may find psychotherapy and medication helpful. A person should work with a healthcare professional to determine which medications are safe for them to take during pregnancy.