Depression during Pregnancy
Management, Treatment and Supports
It is important for you to understand that depression is not your fault. There are important steps that you can take to help you feel better:
- Talk to someone about how you are feeling. Staying in close connection with your partner, family and friends will help you to recover quickly and reduce your chance 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 is the best thing you can do.
- Seek professional help. It is important to get support early on. There are many treatment options available that include support groups, psychotherapy with a mental health practitioner, medications, or a combination of treatments. It's important to talk to your health care provider to help you understand and choose management and treatment options that will work best for you.
- Take care of yourself by eating a healthy diet, being physically active, getting enough sleep, managing your stress, and using relaxation techniques. For more information about healthy living, click here.
- Attend regular prenatal care visits with your physician or midwife to support you to have a healthy pregnancy.
Depression affects your body, mind, thinking, emotions, behaviours, and habits. A combination of self help strategies, counselling, group support and medicine, is often the best way to treat a depression.
Women who have depression during pregnancy report that having a strong circle of supportive people helped them recover. If possible, talk to your partner about how you are feeling. Talk with someone you trust and who you think will understand your feelings. It is also a good idea to find a support network, such as a prenatal class.
Treatment Choices for Depression:
As a first step in treating your depression, there are some simple, basic changes that you can make that are all important ways to care for your health and mental well‑being:
- Eat a healthy diet
- Be physically active every day. Find a new mom’s exercise or walking group to join.
- Try to get enough sleep. Getting into a regular bed time routine is important.
- Manage stress. Have a friend over, and keep contact with friends
- Use relaxation techniques. Take deep slow breaths and relax your body.
- Talk to someone about how you are feeling.
- If you have other children, take regular breaks. Ask your partner, family members, or a babysitter to care for your children so that you can take regular breaks.
Setting a personal goal of how you are going to take care of yourself will help you make a commitment to yourself.
You may see an improvement in how you feel by trying the steps above. You may also require more help to be able to start taking even the basic steps towards better sleep or emotional health.
For those with mild depression, there are different types of therapy, counselling and support available to you. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT), Supportive Counselling, Group Therapy, and Couple Therapy can be very helpful. These techniques may be used with medications in moderate or severe depression.
Talking with your family doctor or other health care provider will help you to decide what approach will work best for you. If you are employed, check to see if you have an employee assistance program that offers a number of free counselling services.
Peer Support Groups
A peer support group can help you connect with other women who are experiencing similar feelings. These groups are usually led by a trained facilitator. A peer support group can provide a safe place for you to make new friends, get emotional support, and learn strategies to help you cope during this challenging time in your life. To find a peer support group near you, visit the Pacific Postpartum Support Society website.
Some women with depression have experienced an improvement in their symptoms after exposure to bright, artificial light (10,000 lux or the equivalent of being outside on the beach on a sunny day). These are non‑tanning lights! It is important to check with your health care provider before trying this especially if you are taking any medications. Some medications can make your skin and eyes sensitive.
Medication (with Self‑Help Strategies and Psychotherapy/Counselling)
Many women benefit from a combination of medications and other therapy. It is important to remember that using medications affects both you and the fetus. Talk with your health care provider about whether using medication is right for you. He or she will discuss the risks and benefits of using various types of medications, and the risks of untreated depression. If you are already on medication, you should not stop taking your medication without consulting your healthcare provider.
Alternative or Complementary Therapies
There has been little research on the use of alternative or complementary therapies. Alternative or complementary therapies can include herbal products, large doses of vitamin and mineral supplements, and therapies such as acupuncture, massage or aromatherapy. Caution is recommended before choosing to use any alternative or complementary therapies. It is strongly recommended to speak with your health care provider before trying any so you can make the decision together.
It is also important to speak with your health care provider about using or switching alternative or complementary therapies especially if you have been taking medications. Many medications require a slow withdrawal.
Where to Get Help?
If you are experiencing any of the above signs, seek help. There are many resources and supports available to help you.
- Your health care provider or public health nurse
- Community family services or resource centre
- HealthLink BC (8‑1‑1) or toll free for deaf/hearing‑impaired at 7‑1‑1
- Pacific Postpartum Support Society (604‑255‑7999)
- Your Psychiatrist
- Your workplace “Employee Assistance Program”
- Registered Psychologist (Referral line 1‑800‑730‑0522)
- Registered Clinical Counsellor (Referral line 1‑800‑909‑6303)
- Local support groups
- Reproductive Mental Health Program (604‑875‑2025 or 604‑806‑8589)
- BC Mental Health Information Line (604‑669‑7600 or 1‑800‑661‑2121)
- Mood Disorders Association (604‑873‑0103)
If you are thinking of hurting yourself, your baby, or others, contact HealthLink BC at 8‑1‑1 or your health care 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.