PREpartum Depression

Thanks to people like Brooke Shields, the world is coming to a wider and more helpful acknowledgment of postpartum depression. This was needed in a culture where women feel so pressured to be perfect so quickly, as soon as they deliver a baby. But is there such thing as PRE-partum depression? A close friend of mine, who was about eight weeks away from delivery, seemed to be struggling with it and my husband (who is close friends with her husband) asked me why.

(Now, just to be safe, if your depression is severe, you need to seek professional help immediately.  Severe symptoms include: inability to eat, insomnia, inability to get out of bed, suicidal thoughts, self-destructive behaviors, desires to run away, or desires to harm the baby. If you have any of these, you need to tell someone and get immediate attention.)

But for those pregnant women like my friend who are not quite so close to the line, you may be wondering why this amazing time could have such a gray cloud over it.  Why?  Well, why not? There are lots of reasons for the blues.

First of all, as any pain-management professional will tell you, if you have a source of constant pain, this can bring on depression.  My friend had pregnancy-induced sciatica. She was already thin and slight to begin with, which was putting extra strain on her back. But then to make it worse, her baby seemed to be lodged SIDEWAYS. It was enormously uncomfortable and every time the baby kicked, it was painful. She couldn’t lay down very well because of shooting pain down her leg, which, on top of customary No Sleeping Disease in the last months of pregnancy, made it pretty much impossible to stay asleep.  Many moms acquire some sort of constant ailment late in pregnancy just like her, such as chronic heartburn or nausea, which is not only a joy-stopper but a roadblock to the comfort and rest we all need daily.

No Sleeping Disease itself also cannot be overlooked.  For all the husbands out there who might be wondering what this has to do with depression, I’ll just suggest an experiment: Every night for about two or three weeks, have your wife wake you up every couple hours. Have her use a variety of techniques—it doesn’t really matter: twisting your leg, pushing or gently moving your belly, crunching your foot until it goes asleep, etc. And eat a lot of peppery-onion dinners just before bed so you can wake yourself up about every hour or two with heartburn. Also tie yourself down to the bed so you can’t shift during the night. You will soon discover that while you can go a couple days without sleep and still be happy in life, after about a week it will start to affect your mood. You’ll get upset, annoyed, a little angry, and then eventually depressed. Once your wife stops the experiment and you get a couple straight nights of good sleep, you’ll feel fine again!

This is part of the reason why I assured my friend that even though the baby will introduce new waking problems, nothing is quite like the sleeping challenges of the end of a pregnancy. The specific troubles will go away immediately after the baby comes. You’ll be waking up all the time, but at least you will be FALLING ASLEEP and able to MOVE. I actually felt that the eighth to fourth weeks before delivery were harder than the last four weeks. I am not sure why, but my own patience and peace about Boat Woman Stage surprisingly kicked in around the last weeks… because of nesting hormones? Pre-birth serenity? Not sure =) If you can grab naps in this last stage, do it, any time you can.

Other physical pressures can leak over into emotional blues because they simply won’t go away.  Lots of moms feel down around the eighth month, when your skin starts to stretch and burn, your belly starts anchoring you to one position all night, your stomach/bladder are getting super-scrunched, and the baby is starting to get lodged usually under your ribs. You start to feel like this will NEVER END! You know that it will, but you feel like it won’t. And even if it does, it is still two months away! It seems like an eternity. You love this little life you are making, and are probably dreaming about what s/he looks like, what it will be like, but you are so bogged down with the physical strain of each day (or even hour, while you’re trying to sleep) that it is difficult to dwell on what real life could be like on the other side of pregnancy. It causes a tension in your thinking… would you rather be pregnant and deal with the pains, or have the baby and be up all night with it? Neither seems a good option and you start realizing, sadly, that it will be a long time before things go back to normal… maybe it never will!

This type of thinking, mixed emotions, etc., puts you more at risk. Then add into the fact that your husband is probably not understanding the super strain of these last weeks. He might even seem to be “forgetting” that you are pregnant. While you are never ceasing to think about it, he is probably forgetting you can’t get up to answer the phone, forgetting you can’t bend over to fill the dishwasher, forgetting that you are still super sensitive to the disgusting smell in the trash, forgetting that you aren’t sleeping at night, and on top of that, he is still asking for sex! It can drive a heavy mom-to-be mad!

As I told my friend, you have to gently remind your husband that you can’t do these things… (not the sex part, find a solution to that ;-)) You aren’t the spry little person you were before and you need extra special care now that you are huge. Whereas most people tend to treat the newly pregnant mom very delicately, which is sweet, the reality is that the bigger pregnant mom needs as much or more care… her balance is off, her muscles are more likely to be strained, her joints are softer, her senses still delicate, her mind less awake, and her movements less agile/quick. All the things that were easy when you could still see your toes, are no longer! But your husband, God bless him, doesn’t know this. He knows rationally because he can see you, but not intuitively because he can’t really imagine what it’s like. So don’t get mad at him right away when he forgets or insensitively asks for something you can’t do… just speak up.

Other things can encourage prepartum depression.  Fears, anxieties, stress, and loneliness can also make an already emotional season worse. Big life incidents such as moving, problems with a family member, or losing one, job problems, career changes, spiritual issues, trouble with existing children, help not being available, loss of a friendship, marital difficulty, even sexual difficulty, cannot be underestimated. Neither can fears about being a mom, fear of losing the baby, fear of staying at home alone, fear of alienating your husband, fear of possible job loss, anxiety over finances, anxiety over health, image, or bodily changes, or other personal angst. This is just not the time to be facing big life issues, and yet who can put them on hold, just to have a baby? Pregnancy and family-building puts strain on most people in most contexts, but there are some that are harder than others.  And some moms-to-be receive things more penetratingly than others. We don’t all have the wherewithal for everything all the time. Especially if this is the first baby and you are launching out into The Great Unknown.

The best thing to do, as with postpartum depression, is to get help. Like I said initially, if the symptoms are unreasonable, then seek professional counseling.  Otherwise, connect with others. If you can’t connect to your husband (i.e. he’s part of the problem), then go out on a limb to try a close friend. Or your mom. Get someone to come over, gab with you on the phone, or whatever else you don’t want to do…EVERY DAY if possible. Try to take care of the most pressing thing (no pun intended) first… Get a body pillow if it’s your body. Get a pregnancy massage. Take multiple baths a day, or go to an indoor heated pool. Get heating pads, ice packs, belly belts, whatever. If it’s your emotions, get some books, some trash reading, some blogs, some places you can draw comfort. Get your friends and moms who are older to encourage you, reassure you, and give you all the silly tips you feel you need to know in order to make it. Use a journal, listen to music, go shopping (if you can walk). But don’t sit around and be sad by yourself. Don’t be scared to reach out. Don’t dismiss that you’re fine and everyone feels this way or you’ll just feel stupid if you start talking. That reluctance is the big green light that says, “Start talking!” Remember that this too shall pass, but it doesn’t have to be miserable until it does.


27 thoughts on “PREpartum Depression

  1. Wow, that is exactly how I have been feeling. I finally told my mom and a friend and my husband yesterday. It was nice to finally air it out at least someone knows and now reading this article I know I am not crazy.

  2. I experienced this when I was pregnant with my now one year old. It’s also known as ante-partum depression. For me it was the stress of being pregnant and uncomfortable, keeping up with a 3 year old, financial issues and fatigue. At first I thought it was the pregnancy hormones that were making me so emotional, but eventually I told my doctor. He gave me a script for some anti-depressants, which I only took for a month (just didn’t want to take any drugs while pregnant), but I ended up going back on the antidepression after my son was born.
    One thing to stress – if you have ante-partum depression, it is VERY likely that you will have post-partum – so seek some help!

  3. Thank you so much for this! I wish I’d seen it when I was pregnant. I was absolutely miserable my last two months of pregnancy (and I didn’t like pregnancy much before that), and when I’d say something to someone about being exhausted, they’d always give me the “oh it’ll be sooo much worse once the baby is born.” So helpful.

    In any case, they were wrong. After the baby was born, the depression disappeared, I could sleep well again– yes, I had to wake up, but the sleep I did get was good quality sleep! Hang in there, and get help if you need it!

  4. I am pregnant and I feel this way. All I do is cry and I really don’t feel like I can do this. The feelings of loneliness are magnified due to the fact that I am not married. I would be helpful for someone to write some of these articles from single moms prospective. The article was informative and echoed a lot of what I was feeling. However, it made me feel worse in some aspects due to the fact that you “kept” making reference to a husband. It’s not your fault that I am not married, nor am I the only single mom that has this issue.

  5. I am 37 weeks along and a ball of hormones… I can’t help but be angry about the plans my husband is making for friends’ bachelor trips, baseball games, and man-dates in the upcoming weeks and months. Being that this is our first child I can’t help but feel like my life is about to be turned upside down and he’s going to get a cigar, count out the 10 seconds I should push during contractions and then go back to work for a couple high-fives and a drink at happy hour. It’s a crock if you ask me and I feel mad and guilty for not being more excited about the amazing life that’s coming to join us. I’ve brought this up to him but he makes me feel like I’m crazy and can make plans to get out too when all I want is for him to stop planning without US – what do I do?!?!?!?!?

  6. Wow! Thank you for this article. I am just 6 weeks pregnant and as my husband and I were planning to start “trying” in the future, this happened very unexpectedly. I know they say you are never ready, but I am really not ready. Like “short end of the stick”, I feel my husband can still go out and hang with the boys… and my life is going to drastically change.
    I feel like I was at a place in my life where I am free and happy in life and now I fear I am going to completely lose that freedom and independence. I know it will work out and I will love this child. But right now, I am having a very difficult time accepting this and am praying for a new attitude.

  7. I thought it only happened to me when I was pregnant 6 yrs ago. I felt that my husband was not very helpful to me emotionally when I was pregnant. Sadly, my baby died a month after birth. Until now we have not gotten pregnant again, but we are still trying and hoping. I have talked with my husband about emotions women go through during and after pregnancy, and that when we do get pregnant again, I wish that he would be more supportive emotionally. Thankfully he understands.

  8. I am at this point about 6 weeks pregnant and I am also feeling very depressed. My husband and I are going to be married 1 year next month and I had planned on waiting a few more years to get pregnant. I am feeling very confused about the whole situation and at times very depressed and sad. I know that this is a beautiful thing but I really do feel as if I am just not ready. It’s a lot to take in all at once and from the moment I found out I was pregnant I had to stop taking my paxil, which, I take for anxiety and panic attacks and I also had to stop smoking. Our families are very excited and so is my husband but I am afraid that these feelings will not go away.

  9. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!! I was sitting here on my bed dealing with heartburn, a 13 month old cranky with another tooth, a husband tired of putting up with my unjustified outbursts playing video games and not helping, two teenagers, one 8 year old, and a grandma that I also take care of all day… and it hit me ~ I wonder if there`s such a thing as PRE partum depression? ~ I am always on the verge of either tears or an angry outburst and am feeling pretty helpless, alone, and FAT…so I googled and VOILA!!
    I am going to the doc next week and see what he may be able to do to help me through these last 10 weeks.
    THANK YOU!!!

  10. Speaking for myself. I feel miserable through out my whole pregnancy. It was interesting to see myself with my second full term pregnancy vs my first. The second time I recognized the change in myself as more than just being pregnant (not to mentioned it worsened the second time too).

    And it is nice to know that my body and many others change differently with pregnancy than others. I used to think that other women were just better at being pregnant than I was because they slept fine for most of it, didn’t have such gray days. I really thought it was just me needing to be stronger.

    So, for me I hate being pregnant. I love my children, but When I think of pregnancy I think of not sleeping for almost a year and feeling just awful.

    Something I would have told my younger self with my first little boy “You aren’t crazy, its not because you aren’t strong enough your body just works differently right now” And I would have probably warned myself about the wet tea bag boobs…another aftermath of a baby 🙂

  11. thanks for writing this article it helps when you realize that these feelings are common among many women. i took maternity leave 3 wks before my EDD and im alone at home im used to going to work intreacting with people and taking my pregnancy one day at a time. this is my second week at home and yesterday i thought i was going insane i thought about hurting myself, my baby, i was so angry then i started to cry every half hour i prayed for my husband to come home.i was so scared. today after reading this article im not doing so bad i trying to relax. i hope i have this baby very soon. thanks again.

  12. i’m the same way, but it seems like all my friends doesnt want anything to do with me anymore because im pregnant which doesnt make any since to me. i can walk i still want to go out, go shopping, swim, all the stuff i used to do, that pregnancy hasnt stopped but nobody has the time to anymore, or so they say. i was taken off of work at around 7 months because of prelabor so i am already on maternity leave and stuck home all the time. my family has never been here for me or close, and i have always depended on friends to keep my spirts high. my boyfriend is staying gone more doing his hobbies and i go with him alot just to get out of the house and see people but its not ever anything i want to do. my dr has said the past 3 weeks my baby can come any day now but he still isnt here, and im getting so fed up with my doctor and everything else. all i want to do is lay in bed and cry all the time. i have a few close friends i can still talk to but i never see them like i want to. i keep saying as soon as my baby is born and gets a few weeks old to where i can take him out i will start going out places again because i will have someone to go with me so i wnt have to go out by myself. and sleeping, forget all about that. i can sleep easly in the day time. but at night i cant ever get confortable, and stay up most of the night crying because i hurt so bad. i feel miserable now, not physically, but emotionally. i cant take feeling so down. i have always been the most happiest person that everyone knows, and the life of every party but now….

  13. Am 7months pregnant n its harder each day!my husband and i seem to be quarelling all the time.he doesnt seem 2b supportive at all unless i force him to do things for me.he prefers hanging out with his friends than with me.things r worse now that we work n stay in different totally stressed n fear 4my child n the future!

  14. Wow, this is such a great post. I just called my doc and left a nervous voicemail asking what the procedure is for “handling the blues”. I’ve been a total disaster and I’m only 24 weeks. Thanks for writing this, I’m bookmarking it and coming back for regular doses of “don’t worry, this is normal”.

  15. Thankyou for such comforting words! I have been trying to keep my head held high for weeks – I am 31 weeks pregnant. My body has failed me recently with a flu that kept me in bed twice in a month and now my constant companion has been headaches which started a week ago and have never stopped. Of course I worry that an overdose of panadol will hurt the baby and I worry that my depression will too. It is hard to admit you are depressed when seemingly there is so much to look forward to, and being pregnant again is all I ever wanted! i feel guilty as hell and it is very reassuring that so many women out there are going through the same thing – I just can’t talk with the same frankness with the family and friends around me. So thankyou 🙂

  16. Thank you so much for this article. And your blog! I am a mommy of two beautiful little girls that are 13 months apart and i am due to give birth in October(he will be 13 months apart from the youngest girl.) I’m glad to know that there is another mom out there who has little ones so close together. I have been suffering from depression since I found out I was pregnant again. I am 32 weeks and not a day goes by that I don’t cry about it. I am so overwhelmed because my two children are soyoung and require so much of my attention. My husband is disabled and can’t work so we barely survive on what income we get from the state. My husband cannot lend me a lot of help during the day beause of his severe backpain. I’m just glad to know that I am not the only woman who isn’t thrilled to be having a baby. I am happy to a degree, but for the most part I am depressed. I suffer from daily anxiety attacks.

  17. Thank you so much for this! It seems that through the years, some woman has googled this phrase, and has read (and left comments on!) your blog entry. And reading some of the comments made me realize I never had the words for what has been so frustrating for me!

    This is EXACTLY what I have been feeling, and your list of possible reasons for feeling this way ARE EXACTLY what have been so upsetting! Seeing it written out like this, so methodically explained, and so simply understood, makes me feel less irrational for being so depressed. Anchored to my left side at night, not being able to do the dishes, my body just not being very strong/versatile to hold a growing baby, and not having my husband understand (did he forget I was pregnant?) all the ‘joys’ of pregnancy you listed had really been getting me down recently! But reading this made me feel …. understood, and heard!

    I plan on printing it out and giving it the hubby for him to read, remind him that this is what I have been trying to say – but could not find the words to list them so perfectly! So thank you for these wonderful words, which today (Dec 13 2010) are still touching pregnant women who needed to read this!!!

  18. i am only 12 weeks and i am feeling very detached from this pregnancy i found my self hoping the baby was passed when i had an ultrasound as i feel my recent issue of breaking up with the babys daddy has something to do with it and also the fact that i have had two kids taken from me by doc’s as well i am finding not even buying clothes and stuff is getting me excited and i have become very lazy and not wanting to do my house work or anything

  19. I was afraid it was just me being oversensitive while pregnant. I’m 35 weeks along, in the process of a divorce from the father, and struggling to provide for myself let alone trying to get everything I need for the baby. I’m feeling overwhelmed with everything. Haven’t really talked to anyone since I’m afraid of sounding like a bad mom or worse, something I say could somehow be twisted around in court causing me to lose custody. So I’ve just held it in hoping that I will feel better after the baby comes. It’s a shame that so many of us struggle with depression when we are told this should be the happiest part of our life but it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

  20. I was googling “pre-partum depression” and like others came across this post. Thank you so much for writing this. My husband and I have had some difficult things happen in the last few months (with family, friends, and our home being under renovation), and while that would be a lot to handle while not pregnant, pregnant me is losing it. I feel like a weak, weepy mess half the time. I really hope it gets better….

  21. At this point I am 21wks pregnant with my 3rd child. I am finding myself very anxious an paranoid.My my husband leaves the house i am like where is he going. I check the postion of the car seats also today was the icing on the cake i checked the gas mileage. Can someone please tell me what is going on???

  22. This has been the worst pregnancy for my wife and I to date. We are expecting our 3rd child in late May and the past 3-4 months have been very stressful. We are both teachers and definitley feeling the national crisis. However, we both have independent projects going on, as well as trying to keep two busy children healthy, happy and safe. Its seems I cannot do anything right. My wife is always yelling at me , and when I answer or “defend” myself she tells me I need therapy. Reading this blog made a lot of sense and I found it very helpful. How can I help my wife without getting in her way and show her I want to be supportive.

  23. I’m half way through my second pregnancy, my kids will be 20 months apart. My husband and I both work full time, though I am the primary breadwinner and I work longer hours. My son is a very active toddler, and is extremely mommy-focused. He wakes at 5am and goes to bed around 7pm. My husband and I have argued in the past about division of labor in our marriage. I’ve tried to explain that all the little things involved in having a kid — making medical appointments, social calendars, keeping the house stocked with diapers and wipes and medicine and clothes that fit and food he’ll eat — can take several hours each week. All of this has devolved to me as the “mom.” Plus, I work for my firm remotely from a home office, so I also have all the house maintenance stuff assigned to me — arranging for repairs, etc. Since we just moved, this too can take several hours a week. This was exhausting before I was pregnant, but now I’m finding that I’m so exhausted and overwhelmed that I can barely function. Meanwhile, my husband, though wanting to be helpful, doesn’t understand that by offering to do specific tasks I set him (if I nag enough), he’s really just making my to-do list longer. Not only do I have to figure out what needs to get done in the house, then I have to figure out what I can assign to him, then bug him about it til it’s done. Having me assign tasks still indicates that we see all of this as MY responsibility. It’s not — we’re supposed to be partners. I want recognition that this is both of our responsibilities, and that maybe he could be in charge of getting new pajamas for our kid, or cooking dinner, or making doctor appointments, or coming home when we need to meet with a repair guy. With the current arrangement, I’m just so tired, and so resentful and exhausted. I can’t be the breadwinner AND the SAHM! It was very helpful to find this site and see that other people go through similar feelings of exhaustion and resentment in their pregnancies.

  24. Reading this article was like a breath of fresh air for me! I was in the bathroom taking a shower and just burst into tears. All I ever feel like doing is being angry and crying these past few months. I have a 5 yr old from a previous relationship and I was already having anxiety about how to keep things between me and her the way they’ve always been for the benefit of both of us. It’s been just me and her for some time and now the anxiety has gotten worse because I have started to feel like I resent my husband for putting me in the position I’m in now even though I know it’s not entirely him. It took two people for this. I didn’t want to know what we were having up until a few weeks ago and that was just for the benefit of my husband because he said he felt like an outsider being the only one who knew. I’ve wanted to have a little boy forever and when I found out that’s exactly what we’re having, I surprised myself big time by not being excited about it. I’m content with just my daughter I’ve realized and don’t know how to be anything other than a single mom. Even since getting married last year I still felt like a single mom since I didn’t marry her dad and my husband tries to not to overstep in his parenting role. This has been such a trying and stressful year on top of being pregnant. We’re moving far away from my family, I’m going to have to share custody of my daughter now with her father more so than before and I’m going to have to be a SAHM which I’m not good with. I like being a financial family contributor. My husband started a new job and he’s gone Monday through Thursday every week and like another poster said about her husband, he still makes plans to do stuff with friends and stuff and even talks about what all he wants to get to do in the coming months that doesn’t include me and takes time away from the kids. I just feel myself grow more and more resentful each day and wonder if it really won’t get worse after the baby comes. He doesn’t talk to the baby anymore and tries to blame me for that and one minute he doesn’t want me doing something that could over exert me and the next he doesn’t even seem to notice. It drives me crazy. Then on top of everything he tells me I need to write lists of stuff he needs to buy or do and I didn’t really realize it until I read another poster’s message but it’s still like all the responsibility is still on me. My husband won’t take the time to try and figure out things on his own. I have a dr.’s appointment this coming Thursday and I’m definitely going to talk to my dr. about what her thoughts are. I don’t want to wait until I’m feeling so hopeless that I start to think about doing harm to myself or the baby. I want help now and hopefully spare myself POSTpartum depression especially since I’ll be at home on my own with an infant far away from any friends or family to help out.

  25. I really appreciate this article. I’m struggling with a very difficult pregancy, similar to the one you described for your friend, as well as a clinically depressed husband who is often away on business, a 2 year who may be autistic, a dying father, a new house, renovations, and a difficult full time job. I feel completely overwhelmed and every day I cry. I haven’t done anything for myself and myself alone in more than a year…not even an errand that wasn’t for my son or the family or the greater good. And I feel like when I talk to people about what I’m dealing with they either don’t understand or don’t take any of it particularly seriously. Especially anything related to the actual pregnancy. My boss is practically rolling her eyes at me. Lucky for her that she had an easy time, but that isn’t the case for everyone. All she cares about is how the pregnancy effects her, as I”ll be away on leave. I don’t know who to talk to or what to do.

  26. I’m so sad and angry all the time. This is my third pregnancy and I noticed that it just gets worse and comes earlier with each pregnancy. I tried talking ot my boyfriend last night but he actually blamed me for it. Texted his mother that I was crazy. I was already so scared to talk to him about it and now I regret telling him. I don’t know what I am going to do. I can’t do this by myself and I have noone here.

  27. wow… so many moms at different stages of pregnancy,feeling the same way I do… I just finished the official (although we suspect it might be a couple weeks more than) 37 weeks of my third pregnancy, have experienced the easiest of these three pregnancies; I have a three year and a five/almost six year old. My husband has been more attentive this go-round and I have been so happy, I did not expect this crash until after I had this child. For three weeks now, I have felt so close to birth and been so hopeful but now I don’t feel like going anywhere or talking to anyone and it seems all I can do is blubber about how upset I am- it dawned on me that perhaps this crash before delivery might be normal so like the rest of you, here I am. It is a little easier to know that I’m not really going crazy and there is a term to use for the way I feel. I asked my hubby today that when we have to go to my appointment later, if we could just do something fun for once… having to travel two hours to the doc’s office to be told it might yet be another week after days of false-starts in a row and the pain that goes with needs to be countered, even if it is just watching the kids have fun. I wish all the best to all of us suffering mommies out there, and the safest and happiest of deliveries to us all…

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