Ask a Midwife: Is it normal to get depression during pregnancy?

You may have heard of postnatal depression, but did you know 12% of women suffer with depression and anxiety during pregnancy too?

5 min read

Ask a Midwife: Is it normal to get depression during pregnancy?

You may have heard of postnatal depression, but did you know 12% of women suffer with depression and anxiety during pregnancy too?

5 min read

Ask the midwives about depression during pregnancy

Practising midwives Sonya, Carey and Lorna run Brilliant Birth Company, an educational organisation in Mid Sussex. They have helped thousands of women through pregnancy, birth, and the immediate postnatal period. We’ve asked them for their expert advice on experiencing depression during pregnancy.

What is antenatal depression?

Antenatal depression, also known as prenatal or perinatal depression, is a condition where women feel low, depressed and/or anxious during their pregnancy.

Sonya, Midwife and co-founder of Brilliant Birth Company

You may find that you feel great one minute, then angry or weepy the next.

While pregnancy is an emotional time, with many mixed feelings, some women find it difficult to cope and that’s when you need to watch for the signs of depression.

Sonya, Midwife and co-founder of Brilliant Birth Company


What causes antenatal depression?

According to Carey, understanding why some women experience perinatal depression or anxiety whilst others don't is not easily done.

Carey, Midwife and co-founder of Brilliant Birth Company
It’s possible that some things come into play; having had a previous miscarriage (or several miscarriages) and having had a bad birth experience before can be factors, as can being pregnant unexpectedly – perhaps you hadn’t planned this baby.
Carey, Midwife and co-founder of Brilliant Birth Company
If you have previously suffered from, and been treated for depression, you may be more at risk. Your home life may also be a risk factor, as if you are on your own with no support network or have worries about money and where you and your baby will live, it’s very difficult to relax and enjoy your pregnancy.
Lorna, Midwife and co-founder of Brilliant Birth Company
Lorna, Midwife and co-founder of Brilliant Birth Company

You don’t have to be perfect during pregnancy

There are a number of other factors discussed by the midwives that can affect pregnancy and mental health. You may have had problems in the past that are still making an impact. A disruptive childhood, poor self-esteem, and similar can mean that you don’t feel confident being pregnant.

You may also feel pressure to be picture perfect. We’ve all seen the images of impossibly glamorous new mums in magazines. What we don’t see are the days when things aren’t so glamorous. It can be difficult not to compare ourselves with others, but we should all make the effort to try.

What are the signs and symptoms of depression during pregnancy?

There are many symptoms that can kick in when you are suffering from antenatal depression.

You may not have all of them but having a few of these together is an indication that you should get some help.



Some of the things you might experience include:

  • Feeling detached from the pregnancy and hopeless about the future
  • Worrying all the time about your baby or giving birth
  • Feeling tired and lethargic, or numb
  • Feeling overly emotional, tearful, angry, or touchy
  • Anxiety about various things—either about the pregnancy, the baby, or other subjects
  • Being unable to focus on anything
  • Having feelings of self-harm
  • Having no interest in having sex
  • Experiencing lack-of or low quality of sleep.

Is it normal for an expectant mother to face depression?

It’s not uncommon to feel like you’re doing something wrong if experiencing depression during pregnancy. But, it’s a mental health condition that many mums-to-be go through.

This is a condition that affects around 12 percent of women, so you’re not alone.

How can my pregnancy partner help me if I have depression?

It’s important to surround yourself with people you can trust during pregnancy. Your partner, family members, or close friends know you best, so make sure you ask them for help when you’re feeling low. This can be for practical help, giving you time to rest, go to a yoga class, counselling or try some alternative therapies. It can also be nice to have someone check in with you to see how you are feeling.

Ask them to help you pinpoint the triggers for increased stress and anxiety.

Sometimes, just talking through your feelings can help you rationalise and work these through.



Where can I get help with antenatal depression?

The NHS website has some great resources for you to find help with depression during your pregnancy. You’ll find pages talking you through what depression is and where to go in the first instance. It is extremely important that you do not stop any antidepressant medication that you may already be taking. Instead, seek advice from your GP.

Speak to your midwife if you are concerned about your mental health and don’t feel you can’t talk about it – the sooner you seek help, the better.


It’s important not to be embarrassed by antenatal depression. You are not alone. Antenatal depression is very common and your GP, midwife and hospital doctors are trained to support pregnant women with mental health concerns or worries. You might find joining an antenatal class helps, as you’ll be able to talk to other women in the same situation. Organisations like PANDAS can also help.

What kind of help is on offer?

When seeking help to deal with your antenatal depression, you may be referred for one or more of the following therapies:

  • Counselling or talking therapy. If you want private counselling, look for an accredited therapist with the BACP, BPC or UKCP. Otherwise, the NHS caters for this via your GP and you can refer yourself for therapy using IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies). You don’t need to ask for a referral from a medical practitioner.
  • Antidepressant medication. There are drugs that are safe during pregnancy.
  • A mixture of the two. Some women may find that either one of these options just isn’t working for them, and will be advised to try both methods. It is again important to remember that receiving help to deal with antenatal depression is nothing to be ashamed of.

Some tips for reducing stress and anxiety during pregnancy

When trying to reduce your stress and anxiety during pregnancy, there are small things you can do day-to-day that may make a big impact. Why not try some of the following:

  • Try not to take on extra work right now. Learn the benefits of saying ‘no’.
  • Avoid unhelpful substances. This includes alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs, and caffeine. Also, avoid herbal remedies as many are not safe in pregnancy.
  • Ask for help not just with your emotions but with practical things too. If you can’t face shopping for baby gear, enlist a friend.
  • Take some time out just for you. Go for a walk or swim, or join a pregnancy yoga class. Exercise is very beneficial for your mental health as well as physical.
  • Take up mindfulness and meditation. This might be tied in with a hypnobirthing course too. Look online for good mindfulness podcasts and eBooks.

You’re not alone in this. We’re here to help!

The more you talk about how you feel, the more you’ll find that others are in the same boat too. It’s okay to not be okay sometimes—especially when you’re growing an entire other human inside you!

Maybe you’re looking for ways to protect and nurture your mental health during pregnancy, or looking into exercises like pregnancy yoga to boost your mental health with physical activity. Or perhaps you just need pointing in the direction of some useful support. Throughout your pregnancy journey, we’re here to support you with advice from experts like Carey, Lorna, and Sonya.

This content should not substitute medical advice from your personal healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations/diagnosis or treatment.
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