Coping with depression during pregnancy in the Mid-Atlantic States
Expecting a baby can be a very happy time. But for many moms-to-be, concerns about pregnancy, labor, and having a healthy baby can trigger anxiety, depression, or both. Determining whether you’re experiencing symptoms is the first step to taking control.
How to recognize signs of depression
Feeling tired or having trouble sleeping are normal during pregnancy but can also be symptoms of depression or anxiety. The same is true for changes in your appetite. Symptoms can include:
- Loss of interest in regular activities
- Sleeping more or less than usual
- Lack of energy or frequent exhaustion
- Loss of or increase in normal appetite
- Feelings of hopelessness or despair
And if you’ve had depression or anxiety in the past, you may be more likely to experience it during or after pregnancy.
How to treat depression when you’re pregnant
During your first prenatal visit, your health care team will screen you for depression or anxiety by having you complete a brief survey. If the results show you might be at risk, your doctor can refer you to specialists who can help. Common types of counseling include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of counseling helps you focus in on your thoughts and feelings, provides emotional support, and offers guidance and tools to help you address or change your thoughts and actions.
- Interpersonal counseling. This method targets your relationships and how you’re managing the changes that come with pregnancy and the anticipation of new motherhood.
If your symptoms are more severe, you can explore the option of medication. Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking medication during pregnancy and whether it’s the right choice for you.
There are other things you can do on your own to help improve your mood during pregnancy:
- Get regular physical activity. Walking is a great activity during pregnancy. Try to get in 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
- Eat a balanced diet to keep up your energy. Include fresh vegetables and fruits, lean meats, and whole grains in your meals.
- Seek out sunlight. Exposure to sunlight is thought to release “feel-good” hormones in the brain, so keep your shades and curtains open and get outside as often as you can.*
- Follow a sleep schedule and take short naps if necessary. Being tired can make you feel more depressed.
- Reach out. Tell others if you’re struggling and connect with other moms. You are not alone.
Learn more about managing depression during pregnancy.
*“Sunbathing may boost endorphins in the body and brain,” ScienceNews, June 19, 2014, sciencenews.org/article/sunbathing-may-boost-endorphins-body-and-brain.
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