Content Map Terms

Depression & Anxiety During Pregnancy


man and woman standing together looking off into distance

Pregnancy should be a joyful and exciting time, but body and hormonal changes can create feelings of stress for moms-to-be. The people around you can forget that these sudden changes may leave you feeling sad, overwhelmed and confused. For many women, these feelings are temporary, but for others, negative feelings may persist or worsen. If you experience this, you may have depression.

Depression During Pregnancy

Depression during pregnancy is common - about 10 to 15 per cent of women will develop it. This form of depression can affect your health, the health of your developing baby, and your ability to take care of yourself and your baby after birth. Women who experience depression during pregnancy are more likely to use substances - including alcohol and tobacco - to cope with these feelings. If you experience depression while you're pregnant, it's important to seek help as early as possible so you can enjoy a healthy pregnancy and reduce the likelihood of postpartum depression.

Signs of Depression During Pregnancy

  • Lack of concentration
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Constant feelings of anxiety or worry
  • Lack of enjoyment in activities
  • Irritation and sadness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Not feeling connected to your pregnancy

Perinatal Depression

Women who have perinatal depression, especially untreated, may experience the following:

  • Unhealthy eating habits and poor weight gain
  • Using tobacco and alcohol to cope, leading to potential harm to the unborn baby
  • Premature and low birth weight babies
  • Difficulty bonding or caring for baby
  • Suicide

Depression affects your body, mind, thinking, emotions, behaviours, and habits but it is important to realize that depression is not your fault. There are a number of key steps you can take to find relief and feel better:

  • Talk to someone about how you're feeling. Staying in close connection with your partner, family and friends will help you to recover quickly and reduce your likelihood of experiencing postpartum depression.
  • Understand that untreated depression during pregnancy can lead to postpartum depression. Depression will not only affect you but also your partner, your family and your friends. Getting treatment early on is the best thing you can do for yourself and your baby.
  • Seek professional help. It's important to get support sooner rather than later. There are many treatment options available including support groups, psychotherapy, medications or a combination of treatments. Your health care provider can help you understand and choose the management and treatment options that will work best for you.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet, be physically active, get enough sleep, manage your stress, and learn relaxation techniques.
  • Get prenatal care. Attend regular prenatal care visits with your doctor or midwife to support your healthy pregnancy.

Help for Perinatal Depression

If you are thinking of hurting yourself, your baby, or others, contact HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 or your healthcare provider right away. Do not try to deal with depression by yourself. There are people who help women in this situation. Remember - this is common and can be treated.

Anxiety During Pregnancy

Worry is a natural part of parenting - many women start to worry from the moment the stick turns blue! Some women, however, can develop an anxiety disorder during pregnancy. Sometimes anxiety and depression are experienced together, but that’s not always the case. Often, determining which feelings are related to pregnancy and which feelings might be related to an anxiety disorder can be challenging. If you're experiencing signs of anxiety, be sure to speak with your health care provider.

Signs of Anxiety During Pregnancy

  • Depression or extreme sadness
  • Unrealistic or excessive worry
  • Trembling, twitching or feeling shaky
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath or smothering sensations
  • Racing heart
  • Sweating or cold, clammy hands
  • Dizziness or light headedness
  • Feeling agitated or on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Gas, constipation or diarrhea
  • Irritability
  • Being easily startled

Resources & Links:

Get Help for Perinatal Depression
HealthLink BC: Depression during Pregnancy
HealthLink BC: Anxiety: Stop Negative Thoughts

Last Updated: August 5, 2013