At what point should you call the doctor about depression?

If you have a personal or family history of depression, the hormone fluctuation that goes along with pregnancy and the postpartum period can be the kind of uncertainty that makes you nervous. Many people who have, or have had, depression, report that they’ve never felt better in their lives than during pregnancy and early parenting, but others report intense or deepening depression, during a time that is often culturally expected to be one of the happiest periods of one’s life.

Your healthcare provider is here to support you during your pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum period. Sometimes, it can be hard to reach out and ask for help. Having a baby and transitioning to parenthood is challenging, even if you’ve done it before. Calling a provider or asking for help does not make you a bad parent – it means you are making smart choices for yourself and your family!

Really, the best time to get in touch with your healthcare provider, or with a medical professional you trust, is to ask about support for depression during pregnancy or any time you feel you need support. If you think you may be experiencing depression, many providers like to start with talk therapy, either as a treatment in and of itself or as a vehicle for evaluating how their patients are doing, and what other support they might need, so starting to look at treatment options can be fairly low-impact.

An exception to this may be women who already have a history of treated depression, and so already an idea of what works best for them in terms of treatment. And if you have an idea about a course of antidepressants that might work best for you, and you reach out to a healthcare provider who is familiar with your history, they may be quicker to put you on the path to the treatment plan that has worked well for you in the past. If you’re breastfeeding, your healthcare provider will also be able to point you in the direction of the antidepressant medication that’s safest for breastfeeding. 

Don’t hesitate to call your healthcare provider if symptoms start to have an impact on your day-to-day life. Symptoms can include:

  • Feeling sad, miserable, unhappy, or “blue” persistently or for long periods of time
  • Feeling anxious, scared, or panicked persistently or for long periods of time
  • Feeling guilty, insecure or worthless, or dealing with low esteem persistently or for long periods of time
  • Struggling to complete usual, everyday tasks or feeling like everything is piling up on you
  • Struggling to care for your baby or yourself. This includes having trouble sleeping, eating, feeding the baby, showering, etc.
  • Crying more frequently
  • Seeing or hearing things that other people cannot see or hear
  • Noticing that any of these feelings or behaviors are getting “worse”

Suicidal or violent thoughts should be treated as a medical emergency. If you are feeling like you or a loved one are in danger of hurting yourself or someone else, you should call 911 or the toll-free 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889).

Remember: If you have concerns about your health or your baby’s health, trust your gut and make the call.

Read more
  • Julie A. Lamppa. “Talking about postpartum depression.” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Aug 11 2015. Web.
  • “How do I talk to my healthcare provider?” PostpartumStress. The Postpartum Stress Center, LLC., 2017. Web.
  • “Postpartum depression facts.” NIMH. NIH Publication No. 13-8000 from National Institute of Mental Health, NIH, HHS, Jun 2016. Web.
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