Are you pregnant and feeling confused, afraid, sad, stressed or depressed? According to the American Pregnancy Association, 10 to 20 percent of women will struggle with some symptoms of depression during pregnancy. And of those women, a quarter to half will suffer from severe depression. But there’s good news: it can be treated.

The Symptoms
Some normal changes during and after pregnancy can cause symptoms similar to those of depression. But if you have any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, call your doctor:

  • Feeling restless or moody

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, or overwhelmed

  • Crying a lot

  • Having no energy or motivation

  • Eating too little or too much

  • Sleeping too little or too much

  • Having trouble focusing or making decisions

  • Having memory problems

  • Feeling worthless and guilty

  • Losing interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed

  • Withdrawing from friends and family

  • Having headaches, aches and pains, or stomach problems that don’t go away

Often, symptoms of depression in pregnant women are dismissed as a hormonal imbalance. Yes, research has shown that hormonal imbalances, such as those caused during pregnancy, can trigger symptoms of depression--but this should by no means be a universal assumption or grounds for ignoring the problem.

Complications if Left Untreated
If left untreated, depression during pregnancy can cause secondary issues that pose a risk to both you and your baby. Depression can lead to a lack of regard for personal well being—and when you’re pregnant, your well being has a huge effect on your baby’s well-being. According to the National Women's Health Information Center, smoking or drinking alcohol while pregnant can put your baby at risk for premature birth, low birth weight, and developmental problems.

Reaching Out
Be sure to discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider to determine what he/she thinks is best for you and your baby. Studies have shown that medications for depression are safe to take during pregnancy, but be sure to inquire about any side effects you should expect. Therapy is another option. Talk to your doctor about finding a therapist who specializes in depression during or after pregnancy. And remember, you are not alone. You have a treatable condition, and resources are available to help you through this time.