When the Bow Breaks: Depression During Pregnancy

Pregnancy blues? You’re not alone. Factors like family history, stress, and lifestyle contribute. But there’s hope: simple changes can help

Feeling more blue than pink? If so, you’re not alone. Depression during pregnancy is a common experience for most pregnant women, even if this is not your first pregnancy. The hormones alone are not the cause for pregnancy depression, although they may be the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. Other contributing factors include a history of depression in your family, relationship or family conflict, a stressful job or a history of trauma or abuse. Pregnant women with depression are also more likely to have poor nutrition or practice unsafe behaviors, which can lead to risks for the baby. Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate pregnancy depression, and some are as easy as changing your daily routine.

Baby-Proof Treatments

Most pregnant women are told that exercise and diet are the keys to a safe, happy pregnancy, but this is not the case for all women. Even if you eat properly and work out regularly, depression affects 1 in 5 pregnant women. In addition to these tried-and-true doctrines, try a few out-of-the-box treatments, like acupuncture, pregnant massage and herbal remedies, such as magnesium, vitamin B6, flower extracts, St John’s Wort, 5-HTP or SAM-e. Most natural spas and massage clinics offer specially-made massage tables for pregnant women, which can be a pleasant experience for a stomach-sleeping woman in the second or third trimester. Acupuncture has been proven not only safe for pregnant women, but effective in treating hormone-induced depression.

The Depression/Anxiety Coin

Whether pregnant or not, depression is the flip side of the anxiety coin. Stress causes depression and vice versa, and when you’re pregnant, the hormonal changes going on with your body exacerbate the problem even more. To calm your nerves and alleviate pregnancy depression, try taking a hot shower with lavender soap before bed, which will ease you into sleep. Instead of setting a noisy, chirping alarm, wake in the morning to soft music or have a family member wake you gently. Learn to identify the stressors in your life and eliminate them one by one. You’ll find that when stress is softened, depression during pregnancy will, too.

Outside Help

In most cases, a loving support system of friends and family is all you need to get through the pangs of pregnancy depression. However, if the depression is more serious, talk to your OB/GYN as soon as possible to discuss a treatment plan. Your doctor will set up a myriad of helpful programs, such as group or private therapy or a safe, alternative medication. If cost is an issue, visit your local community health department for tips on free support groups, hotlines or pregnancy crisis centers. You can also check out, which provides free social meetups for pregnant women in most urban cities in the United States. While family plays an important role in your pregnancy, finding a few new friends may be just what you need to get a little perspective, and it will make a big difference in your battle against pregnancy depression.

Eliminating depression during pregnancy takes time, patience and a support system, but these tips will help you find the right balance between pink and blue.