Pregnancy depression: what you can do about it

Schwangerschaftsdepressionen: Was du dagegen tun kannst

Pregnancy can be a wonderful time for many women. For some women, however, these 9 months are challenging, stressful, and they feel empty and lonely. The phenomenon of pregnancy depression is incomprehensible to many women, but it occurs in around 15% of all pregnant women.

Pregnancy depression should be taken seriously and understood by every pregnant woman. That is why we have summarized all the important information about pregnancy depression for you in our article and explain what you can do about depression during pregnancy.

the essentials in brief

  • Pregnancy depression occurs in around 15% of pregnant women, but many people underestimate it and only perceive it as severe mood swings. But severe depression can have serious consequences, which is why every pregnant woman should take care of herself.
  • Severe pregnancy depression can also develop into postpartum depression after pregnancy.
  • Many women do not want to admit depression during pregnancy because they feel guilty about it. However, it is important to treat pregnancy depression so that it does not have a serious impact on the baby.

Definition: What is pregnancy depression?

Pregnancy can be a beautiful thing. Most women are overjoyed and can't wait for their baby to be born. At the same time, there are also many women who suffer from depression during their pregnancy. Around 15% of all expectant mothers suffer from pregnancy depression during this time and feel lonely and unmotivated. (6)

Background: What you should know about pregnancy depression

Recognizing depression during pregnancy is not always easy. It is actually difficult for an outsider to recognize depression in pregnant women, since the signs of depression during pregnancy are similar to normal mood swings. (6)

It is therefore all the more important that every pregnant woman takes good care of her body and listens to it. Many women and their husbands underestimate pregnancy depression and think "it's just the hormones". However, depression during pregnancy can have serious consequences.

When does pregnancy depression occur?

Especially in the first and last trimester of pregnancy, women are particularly susceptible to strong mood swings, which can worsen to pregnancy depression.

Pregnancy depression is not untypical. Signs should be recognized and treated early.

Mood swings usually occur right at the beginning of pregnancy. From this point on, one should pay attention to how these mood swings develop and intensify. If pregnant women experience severe mood swings early on, it would be beneficial to take steps to prevent pregnancy depression from then on. (1)

What are symptoms of pregnancy depression?

Depression during pregnancy is not always recognizable and in some cases can even be very difficult as the signs can also easily be mistaken for normal mood swings. However, pregnant women should pay particular attention to these symptoms:

  • Negative thoughts about pregnancy and baby
  • Fears you can't deal with
  • You feel listless, powerless and unmotivated
  • constant fatigue and trouble sleeping
  • you feel empty and sad
  • you have lost your appetite and interest in many things

Whether an expectant mother suffers from pregnancy depression is not so easy for outsiders to recognize. Pregnant women should therefore take good care of themselves and honestly assess their feelings and thoughts in order to get help at an early stage. (10)

Why does pregnancy depression occur?

A very simple reason would be hormonal changes. During pregnancy, the body releases many hormones in varying strengths. For some women, these hormones are more intense than others. (5)

External factors can also be a major reason for pregnancy depression. Stressful events such as trouble at work, accidents or illnesses in the family can cause more stress for expectant mothers. Worries about the pregnancy and fears also lead to mental stress in pregnant women.

How long can pregnancy depression last?

How long pregnancy depression lasts varies from woman to woman. The depressive mood can last for days, weeks or even months.

pregnant woman in the room of unborn child

Pregnancy brings many changes. This can make many parents feel insecure and anxious. (Image source: Ömürden Cengiz / Unsplash)

In some cases, pregnancy depression can develop into postpartum depression even after the birth. (10) Because most depression is caused by severe mental stress, it tends to be long-lasting and difficult to overcome without treatment.

What are the effects of pregnancy depression?

Pregnancy depression can be quite dangerous as it affects not only the mother but also the unborn child. Any stress that pregnant women feel affects their child's prenatal psychology. (2)

If left untreated, pregnancy depression can endanger the baby's physical and mental health. If the pregnancy depression lasts for a longer period of time, the risk of a premature birth is higher.

Babies could also suffer growth problems and psychological damage. The reason for this is the hormone cortisol produced by stress , which is very dangerous for the development of unborn children. (2)

Can pregnancy depression be prevented?

To prevent pregnancy depression from having a serious impact on babies, it should be treated quickly. Especially in the interest of her own baby, every pregnant woman should take pregnancy depression seriously and watch out for possible symptoms.

First of all, every woman should be honest about her feelings and her thoughts. Many pregnant women feel guilty when they have negative thoughts about their pregnancy. That's why many women hide it and don't say it.

Meanwhile, pregnant women are advised to get screened for depression or anxiety during pregnancy.

That's why expectant mothers should definitely open up and talk about it with their partner or someone close to them. In serious cases, help should also be sought from a doctor, therapist or midwife. (7)

In some cases, psychotherapy or antidepressants are offered to treat depression during pregnancy. While antidepressants are very effective against depression and mood disorders, they can have a direct impact on the unborn child, which is why the use of antidepressants is not always recommended. (3)

Can pregnancy depression also occur in men?

Partners of pregnant women can also suffer from depression during pregnancy. However, depression occurs much later in men than in women. In most cases, the depression does not appear until three to six months after birth.

Cuddly toy with lamps and x-ray picture of the baby

Depression during pregnancy is not easy to spot. Men especially do not think about the fact that they could suffer from depression during pregnancy. (Image source: Daiga Ellaby / Unsplash)

The reason for men is similar to that for women: fears, being overwhelmed, stress or insomnia. Depression is often underestimated in men. About every tenth father suffers from depressive mood swings after giving birth. These should also be treated, as a depressive mood can develop into a depression that requires treatment over time. (8th)

Pregnancy depression: how to overcome it

There are now many options and ideas on how women with depression during pregnancy can be helped. Don't be afraid to seek help and accept help from others. (4)

own treatment

The help and examination of a doctor or therapist is not always immediately necessary. In some cases it is enough if you help yourself and spoil yourself a little and relieve yourself.


Many women suffer from lack of sleep and sleep problems as a result of their depression. At the same time, lack of sleep aggravates depression.

What many women don't realize is that they may need more sleep during pregnancy than before. So if you only needed 6 hours of sleep before you became pregnant to feel rested, you may need 8 hours of sleep now. (9)


In some cases, depression during pregnancy can also be exacerbated by an unfavorable diet.

Diet plays an important role, especially during pregnancy, because you need to consume enough nutrients and strength for two people.

At the same time, you should take in enough vitamins to support your nervous system and have a positive effect on depression. There are also numerous foods that are also considered mood enhancers:

Groceries Effect
Foods that contain folates (nuts, legumes, avocado) help in the formation of the happiness hormone dopamine
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids help in the formation of the happiness hormone serotonin
dried fruit contain a lot of magnesium and make you stress-resistant
Beetroot contains a lot of folic acid and is said to work against lack of sleep and depression
eggs are also known as anti-depression foods with their amino acids

More exercise and fresh air

Anxiety, fatigue and weight gain all lead to a feeling of sluggishness in pregnant women, which can also increase symptoms of depression.

In general, exercise and fresh air are very important for pregnant women. Even if you're not in the mood to go out, you should force yourself to do so. Exercise and sport during pregnancy can strengthen your mental well-being.

It also frees up your mind and reduces stress. You don't have to do any workouts or go jogging for 30 minutes. A leisurely walk is enough to calm your thoughts. (5)

Seek outside help

However, if you do not feel any improvement after 2 weeks at the latest, you should definitely seek external and professional help. They can then help you better and more specifically.

partner and family

Especially in such cases you should rely on the support of your family and acquaintances. Whether it's with the preparations, in the household or even when going for walks, you shouldn't refuse support.

Man and pregnant woman hold the x-ray

There are now many methods and aids to treat pregnancy depression. Early detection is more important to protect both the mother-to-be and the baby. (Image Source: Meryl Spadaro / Unsplash)

This not only relieves you, but also shows that you are not alone. Having support or someone to talk to during a time like this takes more mental pressure off you than you think.

Professional help

If in doubt, it is also helpful to seek professional help. There are many ways to get help:

  • family counseling centers
  • psychologists
  • midwives
  • medical professionals

However, there are many women who do not dare to seek professional help as it would be a sign of weakness. But this thought should be quickly removed from the mind of every pregnant woman. Getting professional help is the right and safest way for you and the baby. Professional professionals are trained in just such situations and know what they need to do to help you.(7)


Everyone knows that pregnancy is a beautiful event. However, pregnancy brings with it many big changes and the people concerned have to be prepared for a lot.

The process is not easy, so no one should feel guilty about depression during pregnancy. Like pregnancy, pregnancy depression is a natural process and should be treated honestly and carefully.


  1. Madeleine Becker Tal Weinberger, Ann Chandy, Sarah Schmukler. Depression During Pregnancy and Postpartum. 2016, DOI: 10.1007/s11920-016-0664-7 Source
  2. Pearlstein T. Depression during pregnancy. Best Practice Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2015 Jul;29(5):754-64. doi: 10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2015.04.004. Epub 2015 Apr 17. PMID: 25976080. Source
  3. Vivenzio V, Nardi B, Bellantuono C. Depressione in gravidanza: focus sulla sicurezza dei farmaci antidepressivi [Depression in pregnancy: focus on the safety of antidepressant drugs.]. Recenti Prog Med. 2018 Sep;109(9):432-442. Italian. doi: 10.1701/2990.29929. PMID: 30303187. Source
  4. Howdeshell KL, Ornoy A. Depression and Its Treatment During Pregnancy: Overview and Highlights. Birth Defects Res. 2017 Jul 17;109(12):877-878. doi: 10.1002/bdr2.1080. PMID: 28714609; PMCID: PMC5567741. Source
  5. Downs DS, DiNallo JM, Kirner TL. Determinants of pregnancy and postpartum depression: prospective influences of depressive symptoms, body image satisfaction, and exercise behavior. Ann Behav Med. 2008 Aug;36(1):54-63. doi: 10.1007/s12160-008-9044-9. Epub 2008 Sep 5. PMID: 18773252. Source
  6. Van Niel MS, Payne JL. Perinatal depression: A review. Cleve Clin J Med. 2020 May;87(5):273-277. doi: 10.3949/ccjm.87a.19054. PMID: 32357982. Source
  7. Thoppil J, Riutcel TL, Nalesnik SW. Early intervention for perinatal depression. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2005 May;192(5):1446-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2004.12.073. PMID: 15902133. Source
  8. Goldstein Z, Rosen B, Howlett A, Anderson M, Herman D. Interventions for paternal perinatal depression: A systematic review. J Affect Disord. 2020 Mar 15;265:505-510. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2019.12.029. Epub 2019 Dec 25. PMID: 32090778. Source
  9. Okun ML, Mancuso RA, Hobel CJ, Schetter CD, Coussons-Read M. Poor sleep quality increases symptoms of depression and anxiety in postpartum women. J Behav Med. 2018 Oct;41(5):703-710. doi: 10.1007/s10865-018-9950-7. Epub 2018 Jul 20. PMID: 30030650; PMCID: PMC6192841. Source
  10. Pregnancy and depression (antepatrum depression). 17.11.18 Source
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Vielen Dank für den informativen Artikel über Schwangerschaftsdepressionen! Es ist wichtig, dass Frauen sich bewusst sind, dass sie während der Schwangerschaft Unterstützung und Behandlungsmöglichkeiten bei Depressionen erhalten können. Die Auswirkungen auf das Baby können ernsthaft sein, daher ist es gut zu wissen, wie man mit diesem Thema umgehen kann. Haben Sie weitere Tipps zur Vorbeugung oder Behandlung?


Vielen Dank für diesen informativen Artikel über Schwangerschaftsdepressionen! Es ist wichtig, dass diese ernst genommen und frühzeitig erkannt werden, um sowohl der werdenden Mutter als auch dem Baby zu helfen. Ich finde es gut, dass verschiedene Möglichkeiten zur Behandlung aufgezeigt werden, wie z.B. die eigene Behandlung mit ausreichend Schlaf, einer gesunden Ernährung und Bewegung. Professionelle Hilfe sollte jedoch nicht unterschätzt werden. Habt ihr noch weitere Tipps zur Vorbeugung oder Behandlung von Schwangerschaftsdepressionen?


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