Oh mama, depression in pregnancy is such a challenge. When I feel depressed, I feel like Tinkerbelle without her fairy dust. I feel unable to appreciate life, dull, sad, I can see life, but I don’t feel a part of it.
It’s a strange separation. Depression in pregnancy is extra challenging when many people believe this era of life should be nothing but joyfully blissful. It’s not. And it doesn’t have to be.
Depression robs individuals of the feeling of being able to fly and dance through life. If you are struggling to cope, you are not alone.
This post is to help answer common questions about depression in pregnancy and help you know what your options are. Only you know what the next right step for you is. I hope this helps you tune into it.
Can Depression During Pregnancy Harm My Baby?
One of the most asked questions pregnant moms have about depression is if it will affect their baby. The answer is unclear, and as a mother, I want to approach this question carefully. You did not ask for depression. It is not your fault. Worrying about outcomes you have little control over is not healthy for you or your baby.
However, if you can give yourself grace, and can find hope, you may want to know these things.
Your Actions Are What Matters
The majority of babies born to moms suffering from depression are happy and healthy. Please, please focus on this. You have every reason to expect that your baby will be happy and healthy despite how you are feeling at this moment.
Crying and being sad or even feeling shut off to life will not directly harm your baby.
Depression is most likely to affect your baby if it prevents you from making other healthy decisions during pregnancy. Not going to prenatal appointments, not preparing for birth or life after a baby, not being able to buy things like a car seat or safe bedding, and not having the energy to eat healthy foods can put you and your baby at risk. If you need help with these things, that is okay, ask.
A review of the data shows that there are mixed results in studies looking at the birthweight and prematurity when it comes to depression in pregnancy. And that is because depression in pregnancy changes how each woman can function differently.
Antidepressants can have negative risks for your baby as well. Risks should be carefully weighed against the risks of not using antidepressants if you truly need them. And NEVER let anyone shame you for making the decision that is right for you.
I hope as you read this you will hold yourself in absolute compassion. You didn’t ask for depression. Yet you are the warrior who is overcoming it and surviving through it.
If you are dealing with depression and struggling moving forward on any healing path, please read the article Dear mother, you matter too.
Are You Looking For A Fun Activity To Help You Find Your Power During Pregnancy?
check out my book Divine Birth: A Collection of Birth Wisdom and Coloring Pages to Empower the Pregnant Mother.
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Things You Can Control When You are Feeling Depressed
There are things that are in your control when you are depressed and things that are out of your control when you are depressed. Focus on these things because they are the things you actually have control over.
- When you ask for help
- Saying you need a break
- Getting enough sleep
- What food you put in your body
- Saying what you need
- Getting exercise
- Setting boundaries
- Trying to get enough sleep
- Tending your thoughts like a garden
- Whether you look for the negatives or positives
- Finding something you are interested in to do
Things You Cannot Control
- Other people
- Predicting what will happen
- Of other people like you or dislike you
- Other people’s feelings
- The weather
- The fact that you have physical needs
- The past
- That change is inevitable
- The future
- The exact outcome of anything
Letting go of control of these things may feel scary. I best learned about letting go from the teacher Deepak Chopra when he discusses the principle of detachment. Detachment is not about not being actively involved in your own life. It is about making the decisions you can and putting forth the effort for what you want and then releasing the results with a sense of trust and acceptance.
Where to begin looking for healing when you are suffering from depression in pregnancy:
Depression has many causes and many cures. Finding healing often means engaging the problem and pulling many solutions together. When you ignore the root causes of your depression and only medicate the symptoms away, you deny yourself the opportunity to heal from it.
That is not to say that there is no room for medication when you suffer from depression. It does mean that there are many ways you can begin healing at levels physically, emotionally and spiritually which can allow you to no longer need medication.
Can I guarantee you will heal during your pregnancy using these steps? Unfortunately, there are no guarantees. All of these suggestions are evidence-based, backed by science and can be very effective.
However, if your depression persists, remember, your depression is not a reflection or judgment of you. Living with depression in pregnancy can be challenging. Recognize yourself for the warrior you are and never give up hope.
6 Approaches to Healing Depression In Pregnancy
One of the trickiest things about depression is that it can be rooted in the body, mind or spirit or tangled through all three. Depression can manifest because of a physical or nutritional imbalance. Depression can be rooted in the mind as a general negative outlook on life and a lack of awareness of your true needs and how to meet those needs. Or it can be rooted in the soul, in unhealed trauma.
One woman may benefit most from speaking with a therapist, one person may benefit most from taking a supplement, and another person may truly need an antidepressant.
Here is a brief summary of the 6 levels of medicine that you can tune into depending on your true needs. The first ones are less invasive and have fewer risks and side effects. The last ones have more side effects but are more targeted and fast-acting for severe or pressing needs. Ask yourself, Where do you feel comfortable starting? Who do you need to reach out to for support?
- The medicine of rest, relaxation, meditation and space to feel/process your world.
- The medicine of journaling, exploring, feeling into your needs.
- the medicine of energy, prayer and minding your thought garden.
- The medicine of nourishment by healthy foods and teas.
- the medicine of supplements.
- The medicine of pharmaceuticals.
Often when we spend a lot of time in the first four steps, we don’t really need supplements and drugs. But, that is not to say there isn’t a time and place for supplements and drugs. It’s all about what is best for you right now. What is the next best step you can take?
Work with your maternity care provider and keep them updated on your symptoms at all times. They will want to know you are facing the challenge and they will be equipped to offer you support.
7 Natural Remedies For Depression You Can Use Even If You Are Pregnant
The 6 steps to healing give you a good idea of what types of things can help with depression in pregnancy. However, it is possible to wonder how exactly you apply the principals in those steps.
Here are 7 concrete easy ways to approach your depression symptoms that are safe to use even in pregnancy.
1. Get your magnesium levels up by taking an Epsom salt bath.
Epsom salt is one of the best tools you can use for your pregnancy health. Not only does an Epsom salt bath check off the luxurious self-care box, but it delivers a huge health benefit by delivering the essential mineral, magnesium. It is insanely inexpensive as well, clocking in at less than $10.
Magnesium is a mineral we need to be healthy and function, yet 80 percent of people are deficient in it. 80 percent!!! One of the side effects of being deficient in magnesium happens to be depression and anxiety.
Our friends over at the bulletproof blog explain it this way:
Turns out, the availability and balance of magnesium determines how much energy your mitochondria make. The available energy in your brain determines how clearly you think, how intensely you can focus, how calm or anxious you feel, how happy you feel, and how you respond to stress. Having adequate amounts of magnesium will help regulate all of these issues.
One really easy way to solve a lack of magnesium is to take Epsom salt baths. You sit and relax and read a good book while your body absorbs all the wonderful minerals, including magnesium, that Epsom salt delivers. It is a time-honored healing tradition that is also backed by science.
Bonus points for adding essential oils and spending the time in the bath to nourish your soul with a good book, chocolate or meditation!
How do you exactly prepare an Epsom bath? Buy a bag of Epsom salt at the grocery store. It is about $5 for a decent-sized bag. Add 1/3 cup Epsom salt with 3-5 drops of your favorite essential oil to your bath and soak for at least half an hour.
2. Focus on eating a plant-based diet.
Diet changes are the number one way you can change everything about your pregnancy.
During pregnancy, it is important to eat at least 5 servings of fruit or vegetables (combined) every single day. It is better to eat 9. Vitamins are not a true replacement of real fruit and vegetables.
If you are struggling to get enough nutrients from food, you can try using prenatal teas and herbs such as turmeric to balance your moods.
Also, take a look at how your food was grown, especially your meat. Thich Nhat Hanh, a leading spiritual teacher from France, teaches that if you eat meat that was raised inhumanely, you will absorb the negative energy from that. Take extra care that in addition to eating nourishing foods, the sources of your food are humane and loving. Also, try to eat vegetables that are in season.
3. Take a walk in the sunlight.
Lack of vitamin D has been found in many chronic illnesses, including depression. Unfortunately, the synthetic version found in a supplement is not the same thing you get when you spend time outdoors. Do what you can to spend time in the sunshine every day. Start a small garden, go for a daily walk, enjoy a picnic. Studies show simply being outside can be an effective treatment for depression for some people.
4. Begin a simple practice of daily exercise.
Sometimes starting a daily exercise routine feels overwhelming. What clothes do you need? how will you make time?
These little challenges can feel extra overwhelming when you are dealing with depression.
Try this instead. Instead of making it into a big thing, just aim to do short 5-minute bursts a couple of times during the day.
Or, if you enjoy following an exercise program, I highly recommend looking into the MUTU system. It is an exercise program tailored to pregnant and postpartum moms that helps prevent and heal diastasis recti symptoms such as leaking pee.
5. Have your thyroid and progesterone levels checked.
If you have an imbalance with either of these, you may experience signs of depression. The good news is that both of these are pretty simple to balance once you know they are off.
6. Begin to meditate!
There are so many benefits of meditation for pregnant mothers. Among them are reduced incidence of depression, shorter labors, more satisfaction with labor, less pain during birth and healthier babies! The science is very clear, see this study , this study, and this study, to learn bout the benefits of meditating while you are pregnant.
I have created free pregnancy meditations that are available on the Insight Timer App. You simply download the app and signup and you have access to thousands of free meditations, including the mediations I made for pregnant moms.
7. Embrace the power of aromatherapy.
Many studies have shown huge benefits of using aromatherapy to help with mood disorders. This one found that aromatherapy and massage were MORE effective than most anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications. If you are looking to ease off of your prescription, definitely consider trying aromatherapy.
This study published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice reported that using lavender not only could help alleviate anxiety and depression but found no adverse side effects.
This pilot study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice found that women at high risk for postpartum depression found that simply diffusing lavender in their home, participants had a significant reduction in postnatal depression.
What oils can you use for depression?
The oils I personally use to help with depression are:
To use, simply diffuse in your house, or mix 3-5 drops with 1/3 cup Epsom salts and dissolve in your nightly bath. Fun fact: all four of these oils blend together to make fun and surprising scents. You will never get bored with these in your arsenal.
Living with depression in pregnancy is difficult. Remember you are not alone.
You are not alone on your journey dealing with depression before, during or after pregnancy. It really is quite common.
Please know that you are not going insane. This is not your fault. You did not ask for it.
Accept that your brain is telling you that something isn’t right. Seek out the counseling, dietitians, energy workers and any other help you feel you might need. There are many people who can help you work through this experience.
If you are living with depression in pregnancy and looking for help with how to cope with it, we recommend reading this article about how to live in survival mode.
Living in survival mode at some point becomes a rite of passage for mothers. It will not last forever. As you grow, your experience will change.
Overall I hope you will be kind and gentle with yourself when you are dealing with depression in pregnancy.
Depression is not easy and there is no one answer that is right for everyone. I trust that as you read these tips, you will try the ideas that speak to you personally the most.
If you remain on your antidepressants, have compassion for yourself and hold yourself in immense grace. It may not be ideal, but the best you have to give is enough.
Every day you will grow and change and more resources will come your way. Day by day you will grow. Allow yourself to recognize that the journey matters, not just where you are in the moment. This too will pass.