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Depression Among Women of Reproductive Age

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What is depression?

Many women experience depression including  pregnant women, postpartum women, and women who are not pregnant. Depression has symptoms, just like other illnesses, including—

  • A low or sad mood.
  • Loss of interest in fun activities.
  • Changes in eating, sleep, and energy.
  • Problems in thinking, concentrating, and making decisions.
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, or guilt.
  • Thoughts that life is not worth living.

When many of these symptoms occur together and last for more than a week or two at a time, this is depression. According to a national survey, approximately 11% of women who were not pregnant experienced major depression in the previous year. (Source: Depression and treatment among U.S. pregnant and nonpregnant women of reproductive age, 2005–2009. J Womens Health. 2012;21(8):830–836.)

Postpartum depression is depression that occurs after having a baby.

The symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to symptoms for depression, but they also include—

  • Trouble sleeping when your baby sleeps (more than the lack of sleep new moms usually get).
  • Feeling numb or disconnected from your baby.
  • Having scary or negative thoughts about the baby, like thinking someone will take your baby away or hurt your baby.
  • Worrying that you will hurt the baby.
  • Feeling guilty about not being a good mom, or ashamed that you cannot care for your baby.

According to a CDC survey, 8 to 19% of women reported having frequent postpartum depressive symptoms.

Being a mom is hard. For some, the journey to becoming a mom is really hard too.

You may have heard of postpartum depression (PPD), but many women don’t know that depression can occur during pregnancy or with other events, such as losing a baby or having trouble getting pregnant. According to a national survey, approximately 8% of pregnant women experienced major depression in the past year. (Source: Depression and treatment among U.S. pregnant and nonpregnant women of reproductive age, 2005–2009. J Womens Health. 2012;21(8):830–836.)

What about fathers?

Did you know that the following experiences may put some women at higher risk of depression than others?


Woman walking in a field

Having a hard time getting pregnant: Depression affects many women who experience infertility.

Having twins or triplets: Mothers of multiples have a greater risk of developing depression compared to women who give birth to just one baby.

Losing a baby: Women who experience miscarriage (losing a baby early in pregnancy), stillbirth (losing the baby late in pregnancy), or death of a newborn are more likely to experience depression.

Having a baby as a teen: Teen moms are more likely than older moms to have postpartum depression.

Having premature labor and delivery. These mothers have a significantly higher risk for depression.

Having a baby who is different: Mom’s risk for depression increases if the baby has a birth defect or disability.

Pregnancy and birth complications: Some studies have shown an increased risk for depression among women who experienced complications and hospitalization during pregnancy or an emergency C-section.

Having a baby or infant hospitalized: Women with sick or hospitalized babies may also be at increased risk for depression, as well as stress and anxiety.

Having a healthy pregnancy and childbirth: Women having a difficult pregnancy or childbirth are not the only ones who experience depression. Depression can also occur among women with a healthy pregnancy and healthy birth.

That sounds like me. But how do I know if what I’m experiencing is depression? What should I do?

Depression is common. If you are worried about the way you have been feeling, it is important to tell a doctor or nurse about your concerns. The following two questions may help you determine if what you are experiencing is depression.

During the past two weeks, how often have you been bothered by any of the following problems?

Many women feel this way… you are not alone. There are treatments to help you feel better. Talk to your doctor so you can feel like yourself again.

Little interest or pleasure in doing things?
Not at all.
Several days.
More than half the days.
Nearly every day.

Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?
Not at all.
Several days.
More than half the days.
Nearly every day.

If you answered “more than half the days” or “nearly every day” to either question, you may be depressed and should seek help from a doctor. Your doctor can help figure out whether you have depression or not, and he or she can help find the best treatment for you.

If I don’t do anything about my depression, will it eventually go away on its own?

It is possible that the depression could eventually go away without help. It could also get worse, instead of better. There are effective treatments for depression that may include medication or talking with a trained therapist. The best way to deal with depression is to see a doctor or a counselor. The earlier you seek help, the better you may do.

 

Mental health among women of reproductive age factsheet cover image.
Mental Health Among Women of Reproductive Age Factsheet [PDF - 423KB]


Listen to Podcast

Podcast iconPostpartum depression (PPD) occurs in up to one fifth of women in the United States, and this broadcast discusses causes of PPD and treatments, including talk therapy and antidepressants. Listen now...

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