While it’s common to experience mental health challenges during pregnancy, many still suffer in silence. According to the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Women’s Health, recent studies suggest that up to 20% of women experience mood or anxiety disorders during pregnancy.
From general stress and mood swings to anxiety and depression, pregnancy can increase the risk for mental illness. This is particularly true for those with a history of mental health challenges who discontinue their medication throughout pregnancy. For others, new experiences of anxiety or depression can be attributed to changing hormones and the anticipation of a life changing event, the birth of a baby.
How’re you feeling?
You may be worried about being a good mother or feel particularly emotional about traumatic experiences with your own mother. Whatever the reason you’re not feeling like yourself, you are not alone in your struggle and there are professionals who are trained to help. Ahead, learn more about common mental health issues during pregnancy and how to manage your symptoms.
It’s important to know that while experiencing complicated emotions during pregnancy is expected, prolonged or severe feelings of sadness, extreme worry, or hopelessness are not and could be signs of prenatal depression. If you think you might be experiencing prenatal depression, anxiety, OCD, or PTSD, you should seek out professional support. It is also possible for your partner to develop prenatal depression.
Common mental health concerns
Pregnant women may experience various mental health issues, depending on their history of mental illness. Below are the most common concerns.
There’s a difference between feeling sad and feeling depressed. Everyone feels sad from time to time, but if your sadness is persistent and affects your day-to-day functioning, you may be grappling with depression.
According to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), between 14-23% of women will struggle with some symptoms of depression during pregnancy. If you’re experiencing depression, you may have trouble sleeping, low energy, and/or a decreased appetite.
ACOG suggests that depression during pregnancy can be triggered by relationship problems, previous pregnancy loss, stressful life events, complications in pregnancy, and family or personal history of depression. Of course, a change in hormones can also bring about feelings of sadness.
Many women experience anxiety during pregnancy, especially when it comes to their health and their baby’s health. The rates of generalized anxiety disorder appear to be highest in the first trimester, which is likely due to hormonal changes, according to Harvard Health Publishing. When these worries become debilitating, you may experience panic attacks, feelings of dread, sleep issues, and irritability.
At first, you’re feeling excited about having a baby, then you’re feeling anxious. You’re feeling lots of highs, then you’re feeling lots of lows. Does this sound familiar? Well, that’s because mood swings during pregnancy are extremely common.
These shifting emotions have a lot to do with changing hormones, stress, sleep deprivation, and even morning sickness. Physical changes can also trigger body image issues among women who aren’t comfortable with their growing bodies.
Mental health treatments
There are many ways to mitigate your mental health concerns. But first things first: Tell your provider how you’re feeling to get the proper treatment you need.
- Prioritize sleep
- Try prenatal exercises like yoga and pilates
- Talk to a therapist, friends, and family
- Try calming breathing techniques
- Fuel your body with food
Being open about how you’re feeling during pregnancy will bring you one step closer to finding the treatment you deserve.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- “Psychiatric Disorders during Pregnancy.” MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health, 29 May 2018, https://womensmentalhealth.org/specialty-clinics/psychiatric-disorders-during-pregnancy/.
- “Depression during Pregnancy.” American Pregnancy Association, 16 July 2021, https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/depression-during-pregnancy/.
- Stephanie Collier, MD. “How Can You Manage Anxiety during Pregnancy?” Harvard Health, 25 June 2021, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-can-you-manage-anxiety-during-pregnancy-202106252512.
- “Relaxing Breathing Techniques for Pregnancy: Coolest Mom on the Block.” Ovia Health,https://www.oviahealth.com/guide/10136/pregnancy-relaxation-breathing-techniques/.