Pregnancy Blues: 6 Common Symptoms, Triggers, and Coping Tips
You’ve been wanting a baby for a long time and now you’re finally pregnant. You know that you should be overwhelmed with joy and excitement, but for some reason, you just can’t help but feel sad, alone, and depressed.
If you can relate to this – know that you are not alone. The pregnancy blues are a real thing that thousands of women experience during and after their pregnancy.
Here is a look at the facts, common symptoms, coping tips, and typical emotional triggers to watch out for at each stage of pregnancy.
Can pregnancy cause depression?
Pregnancy is one of the most stressful life events that some women may experience in their lives. And due to the emotional and physical toll it takes on the body, it can sometimes be a cause of depression.
In fact, it is estimated that:
- 7% of women will experience depression at some point during pregnancy, and
- 12% of women experience depression after giving birth.
If you think that you might be suffering from the pregnancy blues, here is a quick look at the most common symptoms and what you can do about them.
Unexplainable sadness is very common among pregnant women, with one woman admitting that for a period of her pregnancy “everything” brought her down and that she “just couldn’t cheer up” – until she spoke with her midwife and received further support.
If you are finding it difficult to cope with feelings of being pregnant and sad, the following tips might help you feel better:
- Don’t ignore your feelings. You’re not a bad person, or mom, if you’re feeling sad. It is totally normal and okay to have moments where you feel down.
- Open up to someone you trust. Talking through how you are feeling is one of the best ways to heal and cope with feelings of sadness.
- Seek out a counselor. Counseling can be extremely effective in preparing you to better manage your emotions. Not only that, but it can also help you work through any buried feelings of grief or trauma from your past that your pregnancy may have triggered.
Many pregnant women also experience loneliness – especially if they are not surrounded by traditional support systems.
Artist and model Alexandra Marzella recently opened up about her experience of living alone during the pandemic while pregnant. While she did struggle with feeling alone, she did find that doing prenatal yoga, walking every day, and staying connected with friends online to be helpful in keeping her feeling “sane”.
If you too are feeling alone in your pregnancy, here are a few tips that might help:
- Make an effort to check in with others. Whether it’s a brief call or text, checking in with your friends and family can help remind you that you are part of a community.
- Try to stick to a routine. Maintaining a regular schedule for sleep, exercise, and nutrition can help you feel a sense of normalcy and purpose.
- Join a pregnancy support group. Even though being pregnant can sometimes feel isolating, never forget that there are thousands of other women out there going through exactly what you are going through – and many of them already have established support groups either online or in-person that you can request to join.
Having frequent crying spells is also common among expecting mothers, with some women even admitting to crying over broken ravioli, sneezing, and finding the right shade of green paint for the nursery.
If you find yourself crying more than usual, consider the following coping tips:
- Get plenty of sleep. Sleep plays a critical role in helping us manage stress and regulate our mood; try to aim for 8 hours each night.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead of getting frustrated or embarrassed about a crying spell, try to keep a positive sense of humor and recognize that your crying spell has nothing to do with you as a person and everything to do with your pregnancy hormones.
- Reach out to your doctor. If crying is interrupting your daily routine, making it difficult to concentrate, or you suspect is a reflection of deeper feelings of sadness, speak with a doctor immediately and they can provide further help.
It is also common to suffer from depression, or a feeling of deep sadness and hopelessness, while pregnant. Reflecting on her own experience, one woman admitted that she would “wake up most mornings wanting to no longer be pregnant” and these thoughts continued until she received help from her doctor.
If you are struggling with depression while pregnant, here are a few things you can do:
- Join a depression support group. Small support groups provide a safe way for you to not only open up about your feelings, but hear stories from other women who are struggling.
- Try therapy. Sometimes simply speaking with an unbiased stranger is all it takes to help you process your thoughts and overcome depressive episodes. There is no harm in meeting with a Cognitive Behavioral therapist (CBT) or Emotion-focused therapist (EFT) and reevaluating how you feel after a few sessions.
- Tell your doctor if your depression continues. If left untreated, depression can cause serious complications during and after your pregnancy. If you are still finding it difficult to cope, speak to your doctor and they can refer you to a specialist.
Feeling a constant sense of fatigue during pregnancy (or even exhaustion) is also totally normal, especially during the first trimester. For many women, fatigue can also come with headaches, muscle aches, and difficulties with concentration. Pregnancy blogger Susan expressed that for her, fatigue felt similar to the typical symptoms of burnout.
If you are also finding it difficult to keep your energy levels up, try the following tips.
- Pencil in some relaxation time. If your body is tired and fatigued, the best thing you can do for it is to slow down and set aside time in your busy schedule to relax – even if it means having to say “no” to new plans or projects.
- Try some lifestyle changes. Diet, exercise, and sleep can all impact energy levels. Even though it might be difficult, try to get outside for some exercise daily, make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep, and maintain a diet with lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and proteins.
- Get a blood test. If you’ve tried the above two tips but you’re still struggling with chronic fatigue while pregnant, it might be a good time to have your blood tested. Your doctor may be able to identify certain problems with your iron levels, which could be causing your energy levels to plummet.
Many women also struggle with anxiety throughout pregnancy and even postpartum. For some women, this involves constant worrying, heart palpitations, concentration difficulties, and feeling hot. For others, this includes obsessive thinking, unexplained irritability, and sleep difficulties.
To help manage symptoms of anxiety, try the following tips:
- Prioritize meditation and self-reflection. Taking a time-out to breathe, calm down, and reflect on your thoughts can help to reduce feelings of anxiety. Some women also find writing in a journal to be a healing form of self-reflection.
- Talk it out with someone you trust. Whether it’s your partner, a family member, or your midwife, talking to someone about how you’re feeling can ease any worries and help you feel less alone.
- Work with a therapist. Therapists and counselors do so much more than listen, they can also provide you with practical tools and techniques for overcoming anxious thoughts.
The process of trying to conceive can be extremely stressful and in some cases may lead to more serious mental health conditions such as depression.
The most common emotional experiences to be aware of include:
- Feelings of “fomo” or jealousy of pregnant women and moms.
- Obsessively thinking, ruminating, and worrying about getting pregnant.
- Feeling guilty, worthless, or ashamed about not being able to get pregnant.
Remember – stress, anxiety, and depression can negatively impact fertility. To avoid a downward spiral, keep your mental health a top priority while trying to conceive. This means taking plenty of time to relax, practicing self-care, and being proactive about living a healthy lifestyle.
From coping with the shock of being pregnant to worrying about the health of your baby in the early stages of development, the first trimester can feel like an emotional rollercoaster!
The most common emotional experiences for women during this time include:
- Fear of a complication or miscarriage.
- Anxiety over the financial and lifestyle implications of having a baby and raising a child.
- Frequent mood swings, fatigue, and tiredness due to the rush of pregnancy hormones.
It’s important to note here that research suggests women with untreated depression during the first trimester are more likely to suffer from postpartum depression. If you’re feeling pregnant and sad and your emotions have been affecting your routine for two weeks or more, seek immediate professional advice from your doctor.
Even though your hormones may seem to level out during the second trimester, you still might find yourself struggling during this time.
The most common emotional experiences for women around 13-26 weeks pregnant include:
- Fear and anxiety about eating or drinking the “right” things for your baby.
- Feeling concerned about the baby’s development and the potential risk of birth defects.
- Continued anxiety over the lifestyle changes associated with having a baby.
If you are still struggling to cope with your emotions during the second trimester, don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor. They can provide specialized help suitable for your specific situation and pregnancy.
As your due date slowly approaches during the third trimester, it’s only natural to have some fears about motherhood and giving birth.
The most common emotional experiences to be aware of include:
- Fear about the experience of childbirth or going into labor too early.
- Feeling a sense of urgency to “get everything done” before the baby arrives.
- Feeling down or worried about not being a good mom to your new baby.
At this stage in your pregnancy, the best thing that you can do for yourself and your baby is to try to relax and take it easy. If you are finding that difficult, speak with your doctor immediately as untreated depression can sometimes lead to birth complications.
Your delivery has been a success and now you’ve entered the postpartum period. While this is certainly a happy time for your family, it can still come with its own unique challenges.
The most common emotional experiences for women during postpartum include:
- Frequent mood swings and fatigue due to lack of sleep, stress, and changing hormones.
- Feeling like you are unable and unfit to fulfill the demands of motherhood.
- Suffering from low self-esteem and feeling intense pressure to get your pre-pregnancy body back.
If you are still feeling low, empty, or sad following the birth of your baby and you can’t seem to find a way to shake it off, speak with your doctor and they can help you find the most effective treatment for your situation.
Remember, postpartum depression will not simply go away on its own. Reach out and seek help so that you can get to feeling more like yourself as soon as possible.