Monday, December 12, 2016

Antepartum Depression

I made an appointment with a therapist for later this week.

I am worried about antepartum depression. As a psychologist, you would think a self-diagnosis would be simple. However, mixing in pregnancy symptoms makes it more complex and I decided after calling off work twice last week that I need to be proactive.

Antepartum depression, or depression that occurs during the pregnancy, is more common then most realize, affecting 12 - 20% of women by some estimates. There are many risk factors, including previous history of depression, pregnancy complications, and IVF among others.

Here are the symptoms of depression:

  1. depressed/sad mood, 
  2. loss of interest in normal activities and relationships (called anhedonia), 
  3. fatigue, 
  4. concentration difficulties, 
  5. sleep disturbance (insomnia or hypersomnia), 
  6. psychomotor agitation or retardation (physically feeling agitation or slowed down), 
  7. significant weight loss or weight gain, 
  8. thoughts of death or suicide, 
  9. feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
A diagnosis of depression is warranted when a significant number of these symptoms is present, more often then not, for greater than two weeks, results in impairment in life functioning, and isn't better explained by something else.

This last part complicates things. Pregnancy, combined with a long-lasting respiratory illness that I can't seem to shake from a lowered immune system, also can cause many of these symptoms. It begins with sleep disturbance (in my case, both insomnia and hypersomnia) and fatigue. The fatigue results in concentration difficulties. The fatigue and changing body shape then escalate into psychomotor retardation. Then I am no longer productive and feel like a less-then-adequate mother to my toddler... and now we have feelings of worthlessness and guilt. Significant weight gain clearly doesn't even count in this scenario.

That leaves depressed mood, loss of interest in normal activities, and thoughts of death/suicide. Those are really the only symptoms that can't be explicitly tied to pregnancy. I can clearly rule out the last of these. So how is my mood and my interest? Mostly, "blah".

This is what has me concerned. I haven't felt any lasting joy in this pregnancy. I am too tired to care about much. Objectively, there are some very exciting things going on around me - at work, with family, etc., but I struggling to find enthusiasm for them. Last week, I called in sick two days in a row. The first day was mostly due to illness, but then I realized by the second day that I was really just avoiding work. And I love my job and it is going really well. But I struggle to get there and make an effort. How much of this is due to fatigue versus depression? I can only compare to my last pregnancy, when I don't recall feeling quite this miserable.

So I made an appointment. Because talking to someone and getting another opinion never hurt.


  1. I am glad you are going to talk to someone. I hope it helps. xx

  2. As you probably know as well as anyone, the outer things that we can point to that are positive have little to do with clinical depression. And with all that pregnancy does to our hormones and how it so drastically affects all of our body systems, added to loss of sleep due to feeling uncomfortable or generally unwell during pregnancy, it's amazing everyone doesn't go through this. Hope you feel better soon. I love that you're not giving in by giving up searching for the answers.

  3. These are awful symptoms to suffer at the best of times, never mind on top of / because of pregnancy. Insomnia alone can kick off a terrible cycle of fatigue and depression. I had never really heard of antepartum depression but those stats are quite high. I wish you well with your second opinion: it definitely doesn't hurt to talk about something that's making you feel so low.

  4. I have 100% been there. Maybe more useful questions to ask yourself are is this okay (sounds like no!) and do other people have tools to help improve the situation (yes!). Like... it doesn't matter if it's Real Depression (TM), it just matters if it can get better soon-ish. Best of luck.

  5. Good for you for taking care of yourself. It is difficult to diagnose, but hopefully having an outsider weigh in with their professional opinion will help reach the most accurate diagnosis.