What I Wish I’d Known About Antepartum Depression
Every woman has heard of postpartum depression, but few have heard of a more dangerous condition: antepartum depression, which is depression during pregnancy.
Hey y’all, Tiffany here.
I’m about to start sharing something extremely personal with you. This was a difficult post to write, but I felt like it was important.
For most women, pregnancy is a wonderful, joyous time. They feel the wonder and awe of a new life growing inside of them.
For some women, pregnancy is great, but it is also full of morning sickness, fatigue, and kinship with an elephant (especially around the ankles!).
For 20% of women, however, pregnancy is a time of anxiety, fear, and depression that far outweighs what should be expected from these hormone changes.
Pregnancy is not a happy time for them.
So often we hear of postpartum depression, but we rarely hear of another equally-severe diagnosis: antepartum depression.
The Beginning of Antepartum Depression
When I became pregnant with my first child, I started feeling some anxiety. I would envision myself on a walk after she was born, and then someone would come steal the stroller from me. Or I would be driving down the road, and suddenly I could clearly “see” myself in a horrific car accident that would cause too much damage to my abdomen for the pregnancy to be saved.
It’s typical for first-time moms to be nervous about when the babe comes, so I thought I was just normal. I mentioned it once or twice to friends (and even my mom), and they all assured me that they had the same thing happen to them.
But then the nightmares began.
Living a Nightmare
When I was pregnant with my first child, I started having nightmares from antepartum depression. These weren’t regular nightmares; these were real. Starting at about 5 months, I would have extremely realistic dreams that my husband was having an affair because I was getting too fat.
While I knew in my head this was ludicrous, I couldn’t shake the feeling.
I would wake up each morning, dreading when my husband would leave for the day because it meant I could no longer reassure myself that he wasn’t cheating since he wasn’t in my sight.
I had these nightmares every single night. For weeks. They got more and more real, and after a few months, I couldn’t really distinguish between my dreams and reality. I tripled my exercise and cut my calorie intake in half because I kept hearing my husband’s voice from my dreams mocking me for being fat, asking, “How could I ever still love you when you look like that?”
When the Nightmare Became Real
Probably the most terrifying part of motherhood is the fear that something you do will harm your child.
That worst-nightmare came to life for me one day when my baby stopped moving. For almost the entire day, I felt nothing from the 31 week old baby in my stomach.
My very loving, caring husband rushed me to the hospital, where they monitored fetal heartbeat and movements. They pumped me full of IV fluids, and they gave me lunch when I admitted the last time I had eaten anything had been the morning before. My poor, clueless husband was horrified when I confessed everything.
Finally, an Answer: Antepartum Depression
Thankfully, I had a kind and understanding OB/GYN who explained to me that almost 20% of women experience antepartum depression, which is depression during pregnancy.
I’d always heard of postpartum depression, but I hadn’t realized it could also happen before my baby was even born!
In fact, antepartum depression is almost more dangerous because it is often chalked up to pregnancy hormones. We assume that we’re just having “pregnancy brain,” we’re overly tired, etc. But since our baby is still 100% dependent on our body for its nutritional needs, our baby directly suffers when our health does, and that includes mental health.
If left untreated, antepartum depression can lead to premature birth, low birth weight, and developmental problems.
Just knowing what was happening and where these thoughts were coming from made a tremendous difference. Then with proper counseling and medication, I was able to control them for the rest of the pregnancy.
Even with proper treatment through the remainder of the pregnancy, what I went through still took a toll. My daughter (my first child) was born full-term at 37 weeks, weighing only 4 lbs 8 oz.
Thankfully, I did not have postpartum depression with my first pregnancy. Most women who experience antepartum depression will then go on to have postpartum depression.
Rounds 2 and 3 with Antepartum Depression
When my second pregnancy hit and I began having vivid, disturbing dreams of my innocent husband molesting our now two-year-old daughter, I was able to recognize antepartum depression right away.
I spoke frequently with my husband and OB/GYN, and it made the pregnancy go much more smoothly. By taking action sooner, I was able to carry our little boy for 38.5 weeks, and he was born with a healthy weight of 6 lbs, 15 oz.
After this pregnancy, I did go on to have mild postpartum depression So often, husbands and friends are counseled to keep an eye out for symptoms of postpartum depression after a child is born. What we aren’t told to look for is what may be going on during pregnancy, too!
Baby #3 was born in May 2020 and it was the easiest pregnancy; I was already on an antidepressant from the postpartum depression caused by Baby #2. It’s amazing how much of a difference it made
Also, exercising regularly, like with a prenatal yoga class, helped tremendously. I pushed the other two kids in a double stroller for 3 miles the day before my c-section, and it felt amazing.
Symptoms of Antepartum Depression
Some of the symptoms of antepartum depression include (but are not limited to):
- Persistent sadness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Loss of interest in activities you typically enjoy
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Change in eating habits
- Recurring thoughts of death, suicide, or hopelessness
As you go through your pregnancy, or as you watch the pregnancy of someone else, please keep an eye out for these symptoms!
Sometimes, yes, you’ll encounter these while pregnant (especially sleeping too much or a change in eating!). However, they could be a sign of something more serious, like antepartum depression.
An earlier version of this post was written by Tiffany on Matriarc
Please spread the word about antepartum depression – share this post on Pinterest. And you may also find comfort in these Bible verses for a difficult pregnancy.
Also check out our antepartum depression webstory.
This is such a true and honest post. I love it. I too had some of the same thoughts you had, but I always talked myself down by saying I was just being crazy. Thank you for sharing!!
It’s so hard when you know that it’s normal to feel this way a little bit about things. The line between normal and depression isn’t very clear cut.
Thanks for sharing your story. I got deeply depressed during my third pregnancy (with my third boy) and it was dark and hard. I told noone and yet there were definitely signs. Love that you shared what those are so friends and family can spot it to help.
So sorry you had to go through that. <3
Aaawwww…she is so cute! I am so glad you made it through.
This was so brave of you to write this. My wife is 8 months along and her anxiety has just been overwhelming. I assumed it was because we miscarried on our first pregnancy, But after reading this, she checks all the boxes for antepartum depression. I was completely unfamiliar with this condition before. Thanks for sharing!
Mine was the same way – just so much anxiety, but I had no idea. Hopefully the last month of your wife’s pregnancy goes smoothly!
Wow I had no idea you could get it during pregnancy. Thank you so much for this post. I feel like it will definitely help me be prepared as I try to get pregnant.
Good luck with your growing family!
Thank you for sharing this very important and personal topic…I’m sure it took a lot of courage from you to post this. It will definitely be helpful for many though – well written.
Congratulations on your two healthy children!!!
Thank you, they have been a tremendous blessing! And thank you for your kind words.
Wow! I am 28 weeks pregnant with my fifth child and I’m surprised I’ve never heard of this! I will be sure to pass this on.
Thank you for sharing your story. I have been going through depression my entire pregnancy. It has been extremely hard. My OB prescribed me medication for my anxiety and warned that there is a risk for heart issues for my baby so I declined to take them. Everyday is a battle but I try my best to think positive and be happy for my baby. I don’t have anyone to talk to about it really. I cried reading your story because it just hit home. I hate that is women have to endure depression, especially during such a delicate state we’re in being pregnant. Overall, I am thankful for each day and a healthy baby. Thanks again!
YOU SAID YOU HAVE NO ONE TO TALK TO: Can you talk to your husband about it please or just talk them out to God in prayer. I will be praying for you
Thank you for this post not even my phychiatrist told me about this I am already medicated for depression and anxiety and he just prescribed another seditive incase of extreme anxiety attacks I get them so bad I struggle. To breath and get cramps in my stomach. The strange thing is none of my children where planned but this pregnancy I am now married and should be the baby that’s wanted my family is supportive as best as they can be but I’v for this constant fear of miscarriage iv never had one and I completely hate my husband I want to Divorce him I want him out of my space him and my son I’m moody and I can’t seem to focus or finish any thing I start my husband has started to become defensive about the way iv been treating him and its making things worse he won’t see it for what it is I tried to take pills once and threw them up i wrote a note and everything I think about cutting my wrists but then realize that I’m afraid of losing the baby so I can’t kill myself if the baby is inside of me iv had the worst morning sickness so I don’t eat much or I can’t eat many things I just want to lay in bed and sleep and be left alone. This is my fourth pregnancy and it’s the worst I want to enjoy bringing life into this world but I hate it im starting to hate this baby too I’m alone and I want to run away but I have no where to go. Sometimes I think I should admit myself but I don’t know how and I don’t know what that means.
We strongly urge you to reach out to your OB about this. It sounds like your case is severe, and it’s not something you can do on your own.