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Prenatal Depression Signs and Symptoms

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated May 27, 2021

Prenatal Depression Signs and Symptoms

Prenatal depression signs and symptoms are less talked about than postpartum depression or “baby blues.’ Prenatal (or antenatal) depression is experienced by many soon-to-be mothers. Depression can affect pregnant women of any age, location, or economic status. Like other mental and mood disorders, there is no single cause to blame. In fact, even women who claim to be content and happy with their lives prior to pregnancy can still experience prenatal depression.

What Causes Postpartum Depression?

What are the prenatal depression signs and symptoms?

Firstly, it is important to point out that not all of following prenatal depression signs and symptoms may be present. These signs and symptoms may appear during pregnancy without being related to depression. One cannot self-diagnose depression. Speak to a medical professional for a proper diagnosis.

Lack of energy

For women who have been trying to get pregnant, seeing a positive test result can trigger a sense of excitement and pride. However, the high doesn’t last forever. After a few months of pregnancy, when physical changes like weight gain and body pains start setting in, it is normal to feel exhausted. Before the physical changes, hormonal shifts can also mess with your mood. Depression can also present with the feeling of being constantly tired, even if you have gotten a full night’s sleep.


Insomnia, or the inability to fall and stay asleep, can occur before, during, or even after pregnancy. While pregnancy can cause a lack of energy, you may still find yourself unable to sleep. To make matters worse, insomnia will cause you to feel tired throughout the day.

There are medications available to help with sleep (sedatives), however, not all of these are good for pregnant women. If you are having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor.

Feeling detached or disinterested

Disinterest with a feeling of sadness is often the hallmark of depression. It can be mild and come and go. You may not want to socialize with friends or family, or even lose interest in things that you were once passionate about. Prolonged or frequent disinterest can be considered a symptom of depression.


Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. They are two different disorders, but can have overlapping symptoms. A certain level of anxiety is expected during pregnancy and after delivery. The feeling of responsibility and the new changes to the body can be a source of stress and anxiety. With effective support, these feelings can be a source of strength. However, if you are persistently anxious, it may lead to other symptoms of depression.

Poor concentration

“Pregnancy brain’ is something many women experience. Pregnancy brain or brain fog is a result of hormones like progesterone subtly affecting the structure and function of parts of the brain. This can make you forget where you placed your keys or cause you to be unable to focus on what’s going on in a book or TV show.

While this is fairly common, poor concentration is also a symptom of depression. If you have poor concentration along with other symptoms, it may be more than just pregnancy brain.

Loss of appetite

It’s typical for women to eat more or crave food (sometimes unconventional food combinations). This is normal because a pregnant women needs to consume more calories and nutrients to support a growing fetus. However, depression can cause disinterest in eating or a dulled sense of taste. Skipping a meal is not a big deal, but not eating enough each day can affect your health and pregnancy.

How long does prenatal depression last?

Prenatal depression can occur at any time during a pregnancy. It can also happen during any pregnancy, even if you previously did not experience any symptoms of depression in previous pregnancies.

However, there is no clear-cut number of days or weeks for prenatal depression. Symptoms may come and go, which can make things difficult to record. A typical pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks and prenatal depression can happen at any time until delivery. If depression occurs after delivery, it is already postpartum depression.

If you are suffering from prenatal depression and not some degree of clinical depression before pregnancy, it is likely that your symptoms will subside sometime before you give birth.

Are there long-term effects of prenatal depression?

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of information available about prenatal depression on its own. While depression is a mental disorder, it definitely does affect the body and mind when not treated.

One study determined the relationship between prenatal depression and adverse effects on the fetus. The review study found that women who experience prenatal depression have a higher chance of delivering babies who are preterm or have a low birth weight.

While prematurity and low-birth-weight babies can still grow up to be healthy and happy children, they may have weaker bodies and immune system. Having a premature baby may give a mother added stress or feelings of guilt and anxiety, which can make depression worse.

Whether or not you are currently pregnant, depression should be taken seriously. Talk to your friends, family, and (most importantly) your doctor.

prenatal depression signs and symptoms

Key takeaways

Depression should be identified and treated just as any other disease. Unlike physical illnesses, the symptoms may not always be obvious. Pregnant women who are experiencing prenatal depression signs and symptoms should be treated with respect and understanding. While it is normal to feel down or anxious at times, depression should never be swept under the rug.

Learn more about Being Pregnant here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Written by

Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


Updated May 27, 2021

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