Pregnancy and Depression

Although many people consider pregnancy a time of happiness, about 10% to 20% of moms-to-be struggle with symptoms of depression.

Risk Factors

  • Having a history of depression or PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a severe type of PMS)
  • Age at time of pregnancy; the younger you are, the higher the risk.
  • Living alone or having limited familial support
  • Limited social support
  • Marital conflict or domestic violence
  • Uncertainty about the pregnancy


Stress related to pregnancy can contribute to the return or worsening of depression symptoms.

Depression can get in the way of being able to care for yourself during your pregnancy. You may be less able to follow medical recommendations, as well as sleep and eat properly.

The condition can also make you more likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs that can harm you and your developing baby.

Some studies suggest that depression during pregnancy may increase the risk for pre-term delivery and low infant birth weight. However, there are experts who debate the connection between these outcomes and untreated depression.

Depression may interfere with your ability to bond with your growing baby, too. Being depressed during pregnancy can place you at greater risk for having an episode of depression after delivery (postpartum depression).

Take Care of Yourself

Preparing for a new baby is a lot of hard work, but your health should come first. So resist the urge to get everything done: Cut down on your chores, and do things that will help you to relax. Taking care of yourself is a key part of taking care of your unborn child.

Open up to your partner, your family, or your friends about what concerns you. If you ask for support, you'll find that you often get it.

If you're still feeling down and anxious, consider therapy with a mental health specialist.

Medication and Treatment

Studies on the effect of antidepressant medicines on your growing baby suggest they are safe for treating depression during pregnancy. However, there may be a very small risk of birth defects that include fetal heart and skull abnormalities with the use of SSRI antidepressants, which include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft) early in a pregnancy.

Talk to your doctor about the possible risks and benefits of antidepressants. They can work with you to manage your symptoms and develop a treatment plan. They can also to refer you to a mental health specialist, if you need it.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on May 29, 2020




American Pregnancy Association.


“Recommendations for Screening Depression in Adults.”The Journal of the American Medical Association, January 26, 2016.

Reefhuis, J. BMJ, 2015.



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