Coping With Depression During Pregnancy

Written by: Lisa O’Connor, Contributing Writer

Pregnancy can be a daunting time for any woman, but especially when you are trying to finish your college education and cope with your pregnancy at the same time. Although several campuses have resources to support pregnant students, it is likely that you will be contending with deadlines and morning sickness at the same time. Your mind is probably swirling with questions: How will you cope financially? Will you be able to finish your classes and look after your baby at the same time? How much bigger is your stomach going to get? (There’s no more room!) These questions will probably leave you feeling confused and frightened- but don’t worry. Almost all women, whatever their age and situation, find pregnancy overwhelming and frightening. It’s important to acknowledge these thoughts and arm yourself with all the information on what you should do if you think your thoughts of sadness and fear have turned into depression

How do You Know if it’s Depression?

Depression is a common disease among women of reproductive age. No doubt because of this, according to statistics from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, between 14 and 23 percent of women suffer from some form of depression during pregnancy. These figures are increased if the pregnant woman is of collage age, and has no spousal or family support. So how do you know if any negative thoughts you’re feeling are really depression? Often symptoms of depression are dismissed as simply ‘pregnancy hormones’.  It’s normal to occasionally feel frightened and ‘blue’ during pregnancy, especially if you are facing your pregnancy alone or trying to cope with keeping on top of your school work at the same time. Your body is going through some dramatic changes and your new arrival is about to turn your world completely upside down – pregnancy is an emotional roller coaster! However, if your mood stays down and you find this last for more than two weeks rather than mood swings that go up and down, you feel persistent sadness (and you aren’t able to feel any joy at the thought of your impending arrival), then it could be that you are suffering from depression.

Ask if You Need Support!

So what can you do if you think you might be suffering from depression during your pregnancy? The first thing you need to do is visit your doctor. Don’t worry that you will be judged for describing the way you feel. It’s common to suffer from depression during pregnancy. It doesn’t mean you will be a bad mom or that you will suffer from postpartum depression, and you need to talk about your symptoms so you can get the support you need. Your doctor will ask you questions to test for depression. He will then decide how best to treat you. This could be by referring you to a mental health professional who specializes in treating depression or by prescribing medication (in more severe cases). Talking about how you feel with your family or a trusted friend may also help you feel better. Describing your feelings will help you to work through them and start to overcome any negative feelings you’re having about your pregnancy.

Look Out For the Signs of Post-Partum Depression Too

Once your pregnancy is over, you still need to be alert and look out for any signs of depression because this is when the more widely reported postpartum depression becomes a risk factor. 10-15% of women suffer from postpartum mood disorders; that’s more people per year suffering with depression after pregnancy than the number of people who sprain their ankles every year! Due to this, there is a wide variety of free counselling resources available to college students who become moms, and who are struggling to cope. Some common signs of postpartum depression are similar to those of depression during pregnancy. These signs include:

  • Feeling guilty and overwhelmed, like your baby deserves better and you should never have become a mom in the first place.
  • Not feeling bonded with your baby.
  • Feeling irritated and angry.
  • And finally, feeling so sad that you can’t stop crying, even though you have no reason to keep crying all the time.

Don’t worry – although this may sound scary, depression is treatable, and those negative feelings will pass. Get the help that you need. Then you can focus on being a good mom, finishing your studies, and creating the great life that you and your baby both deserve!

You Are Not Alone

*Do you have an article or story to contribute? Please contact Beth O’Malley at bomalley@studentsforlife.org.