Antenatal Depression: Robbed Of the Joy of Pregnancy

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pregnancy depressionWhen my first son was a little over fifteen months old, my husband and I decided to try for another baby. I was terrified; I had just come through a bout of severe PPD, and I was finally feeling good mentally. Others might have questioned my reasoning in choosing to have another child, but we just knew it was the right thing for our family. I can’t fully explain what propelled me to make that decision, but whatever it was, I’m thankful for it today. My second son brought astounding light into so much darkness, and I could never regret choosing him, even when the choice brought me a great deal of pain.

After doing a lot of research on the possible effects of using antidepressants during pregnancy and consulting with my doctor, I decided to wean myself off the antidepressants I was on, knowing full well there was a chance the depression would return once I was unmedicated.

My first pregnancy had been as good as I could have asked for. Although I did have a miscarriage scare early on and was extremely tired during my last trimester, I don’t feel as though I had a lot to complain about. My second trimester was especially good, as I had huge amounts of energy, wasn’t feeling the morning sickness of the first trimester, and didn’t yet have to deal with the fatigue and discomfort of the third trimester. I naively expected things to be at least sort of similar in my second pregnancy.

The first trimester my second time around was as I had expected. I was nauseated all day, but was able to function. I still took my son on playdates and gave him all the love and attention he needed, and I felt all right mentally. I was more tired than I remembered being during my first pregnancy, but I attributed it to the fact that I was a mother this time around. I kept waiting for my first trimester to be over so I’d stop feeling sick and start experiencing the euphoric energy I’d felt the first time.

That energy never came; I only became more and more fatigued as the pregnancy progressed. I started to develop insomnia so bad that I’d only sleep two or three hours a night. The lack of sleep started to get to me; my moods fluctuated wildly, and I had to quit my part-time editing job due to complete apathy towards the work.

Eventually, the exhaustion became so marked I was nearly unable to rouse myself during the day. I’d wake up and feed my son breakfast, then lie down at the foot of my bed and drift in and out of sleep. He would drag his toys into the hallway in front of my room so he could see me as he played. I felt like an utter failure when I would start awake and see my beautiful baby sitting alone in the hallway, chirping happily to his toys.

The last three or four months of my pregnancy were decidedly awful. I felt so disconnected from my life, completely unmoored from reality. I existed solely in my own head, telling myself over and over that I’d been insane to think I could handle being the mother of two children. I felt little attachment to the life growing within me, and I looked to his due date with trepidation.

When he was born, it took me hours to process the fact that I was his mother. I went through the motions of oohing and aahing and nursing him, but I wasn’t really present. I would fall asleep in my hospital bed and wake up bewildered, forgetting for a moment why I was there and what had just happened.

Gradually, I came to love my son so intensely the love scared me with its ferocity. I didn’t come by that love easily, and for that reason I cherish him dearly. I’m still sometimes saddened by the fact that depression stole much of my pregnancy from me, but I cling to the happy ending, my incredible son.

I haven’t spoken much about this to anyone because antepartum depression is still such an unmentionable affliction, at least in our society. A woman is supposed to be joyous and glowing when she’s pregnant; if she’s not, she may feel as though the very thing that makes her a woman is broken. Rationally, I knew I was depressed and that if I could just hold on until the end of my pregnancy, everything would be OK. Emotionally, though, I felt hopeless.

I don’t feel any shame talking about this, because I know who I am and what I am capable of–I know my ideal pregnancy was taken from me by force by depression. I’ve chosen not to write about it up until now because I know it can make other people uncomfortable. It’s a difficult thing to explain, and probably even more difficult to understand.

I write for the woman who does understand, who knows what it is to have her brain taken over by a silent intruder, who cowers in the dark recesses of her own mind, trying to escape the overwhelming feelings of inadequacy and doubt. To that woman I say, come out. There is no shame in what you are hiding from.

For more information on antepartum depression, feel free to start by checking out Postpartum Progress’ previous posts on depression during pregnancy.

Alexis Lesa

Note from Katherine:I’m never sure whether to call itdepression during pregnancy, antenatal depression or antepartum depression, but I am sure of one thing: it’s very common. Thank you Alexis for sharing this, because there are so many women out there who need to see they are not alone.

Photo: Fotolia – © Bianca de Blok

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About Katherine Stone

is the founder & editor of Postpartum Progress. She was named one of the ten most influential mom bloggers of 2011, a WebMD Health Hero and one of the top 25 parent bloggers using social media for social good. She also writes the Fierce Blog, and a parenting column for Disney's

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing! My son is now 13 months old. My husband and I are starting to discuss when to try to get pregnant again and it it exciting and terrifying at the same time. Not only did I suffer from PPD, looking back, we realize that I was suffering antenatal depression. In addition, I developed preeclampsia and HELPP syndrome. So the thought of getting pregnant and going through that all again is so scary, but to have that beautiful baby at the end is worth it.
    I struggle with whether or not to be on antidepressants during the next pregancy. We've decided that I will get weened off the meds and try to stay off, but at the first signs of that darkness creeping up, I will go on meds. It's a very personal choice, and I commend you for yours.

  2. thank you for writing about this. I was shocked and confused when my 3rd trimester hit in my last pregnancy and I was suddenly overcome with overwhelming depression. You hear about depression after pregnancy all the time, but during? I'm just glad I'm not the only one.

  3. Thank you for your braveness to speak out on such a hidden subject. I also suffered depression during pregnancy with my third child but I managed to get through it wasn't until he was about 3 months that it really hit it's bottom. I suddenly realised that I was no longer in control of my life and that an uninvited guest was. It has only been 3 1/2 months but I am finding my process through this stage of my life. I have started blogging on advice from a friend and it also helps to read other people, who are brave enough to speak up, journey.

  4. I'm with you on this one. Maybe not to the same extent, but when pregnant with my 2nd I went through a hard time I later realized was a bit (or more) of depression. It didn't last long, it might not have been all that severe, but it was VERY hard for me. I was terrified of having that happen again, but this 3rd pregnancy has been very different that way and I am grateful for that. Good topic.

  5. Thank you. Although I knew that antepartum depression existed, I don't know that I've ever read or heard anyone's experience before.
    I am 31 weeks pregnant with my second child. My 1st just turned one the other day. I was not over my PPD w/ the 1st when I got pregnant. I tried to come off my meds, but in the end, needed to stay on a low dose of anti-depressant. I *should* be on more, but am not willing to go higher b/c of my child.
    So, I suffer. I have no energy for the 1 year old. My husband picks up the slack on everything. Thank GOD for him. Yes, I just feel constantly guilty for being able to do so little to help.
    I am counting the days until I get to meet my baby– AND until I get to go back on my Xanex and up my anti-depressants. I am done with pretending that I'm happy and enjoying my pregnancy. I want to actually FEEL the feelings I've been faking for the last 7 1/2 months.
    I give both children the best I have, but I am not sure that I will ever believe that my best has been good enough this year.

  6. thank you, it is so lonely when you're "supposed" to be living in the most exciting time of your life, and you just want to curl up and sleep. we had our first insemination try this month, which means i have been of all meds for a month and a half now. this is w:o a doubt the hardest thing i've done yet, and i have not lived an easy life. i am exhausted, angry, withdrawn, and physically hurting most of the time. i cry this is what i've been waiting for my whole entire life…becoming a mother is the only thing i've ever really really wanted to do and i'm in the middle of becoming one and i am miserable. and ashamed. these stories are helping me to not be embarrased, not feel freakish. i shared this w: mandy so that she could maybe not feel so alone in loving me through this. thanks again, i'm so thankful we live in an age where we can know we are not alone.

  7. Thanks for sharing your story, and thank you for your courage in stepping forward. As you mentioned, discussing depression during pregnancy is even harder than discussing postpartum depression, although medical experts think the numbers are about the same: 1 in 5 expectant or new mothers will experience depression or anxiety. Many of us working in the postpartum field are including pregnant mothers in the work we do — support groups, telephone support, encouraging therapy and perhaps medication when necessary.
    Karen Kleiman has written a terrific book that I highly recommend called "What Am I Thinking? Having a Baby After Postpartum Depression." It includes many points that other readers have raised, along with some suggestions for how to deal with depression either during or after pregnancy. Worth the investment.

  8. thank you for making me feel sane! i am a partner in a law firm with beautiful 2 year old twins. i waited my whole life to get pregnant. couldn't wait for the experience. did a year of fertility and ended up in an antepartum nightmare. depression. ocd. psychosis. with no history. my story had a happy ending but i was lucky. people didn't think it could happen to me. i didn't think it could happen to me. i live in new york and couldn't find good care. they told me major antepartum disorders didn't exist. let's figure out how to make sure women no longer have to suffer from this dibilitating illness. thank you!!!

  9. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Antepartum disorders didn't exist?!?!?! Goodness gracious, I'm so sorry to hear that Judy. Those people had no idea what they were talking about.
    There is great care in New York. I so wish you had known about it. The Postpartum Resource Center of New York helps women connect to resources regardless of whether they suffer depression or anxiety during pregnancy or postpartum.

  10. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Thanks for pointing out Karen's book, Adrienne! Great idea!

  11. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    You are definitely not alone. And if you need help, let us know and visit for more information on resources where you live. All PSI resources are available for women who suffer depression/anxiety while pregnant too.

  12. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    So glad to hear you're not suffering during this pregnancy. Many blessings to you and your baby!

  13. I forgot to mention in my post that it's important to revisit your feelings and your decision about treatment options often. sometimes, the treatment you choose doesn't work, and you have to be honest about that. it's a good thing that you are monitoring your symptoms and will do anything to stay healthy. your health really is the most important thing for you and your child.

  14. You know, Tina, I kind of suspected that something wasn't quite right with you during your second pregnancy. I even considered bringing it up to you, but I didn't want to make your life harder. I wish now I had spoken up, because maybe I could have provided at least a little support for you. Hindsight is 20/20, I guess. :(

  15. I'm really sorry to hear that you're suffering. It is an awful thing to go through, but it sounds like you are at least aware of what's going on and are optimistic about what lies ahead. That's really important. And you know what? I really think that the best you can give is good enough, whether you think so or not. Thank you for sharing your story, and I hope the next few weeks bring happiness for you.

  16. Alisha, I'm really sorry to hear about what you're going through. I knew that you were doing fertility treatments, and I've heard they can be extremely difficult. Just remember that the real you, the one before all the hormones and the pain and so on, the real you wants this baby and knows that you'll be a wonderful mother. Hold on to that memory and call it forward when you're feeling down. Even though it's a poor substitute for the real emotions, for the actual happiness, that's what got me through a lot of my worst episodes when I was pregnant. Let me know if I can help in any way. xo

  17. Thank you for this story. I have spent hours scouring the internet for any information I could find about getting pregnant after experiencing severe PPA, but little is out there. My son is now 18 months old, and I feel much better, and am now ready to explore the possibility of getting pregnant again. My desire to have another child is great, but I am absolutely terrified to fall down that dark hole again. I wholeheartedly believe that medication saved my life and now wonder whether I can get by without it. Your story has given me some much needed insight into my plight.

  18. Angie, I'm so glad you found this post and were able to get something out of it. There is no way to know how you will feel during your next pregnancy, and there's a chance you won't be depressed at all. But I completely understand the overwhelming fear that you will have to go through that again. And there are so many options for treatment during pregnancy, you don't have to do it alone or without help.
    Thanks for your comment, and please email if you'd like to talk or whatever. Good luck in whatever the future brings you.

  19. Thank you for sharing your story. I experienced pre-natal depression, but my story did not have a happy ending. Because I was so distraught, anxious, depressed, and ultimately suicidal, I ended the pregnancy. I have a lot of regrets now and wish that I could have been able to find the help I needed at the time. Not that I didn't try. I tried talking with three different doctors about it (not psychiatrists – one RE, and two high risk OBs, both women), but either got ignored, shunned, or had no follow up. The psychologists I saw were not much better. We seriously need more education on this issue.
    When I tried to TTC later, I tried to find a psychiatrist who was covered on my insurance plan that knew how to treat pre-natal depression. I sort of found one after calling NINE psychiatrists. She has since decided to leave the psychiatry profession.
    Why is it so hard to find help for this kind of affliction if it is so common? I wonder how many more women there are like me who have ended a pregnancy because of pre-natal depression who didn't really want to do it, but felt they had no other choice, baring psychosis and/or a mental breakdown.

  20. I am so saddened to hear of your loss. There is no need for you to have to live with that regret; it is terrible that you were left to suffer alone. There is no excuse for that, and hearing stories like yours makes me even more determined to speak out about depression.
    I truly hope you are able to find the resources you need to help you have a successful pregnancy. It is possible, and there are people who are both qualified and willing to help women in your situation.
    Please email me if you need help finding those resources.

  21. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I do know of other woman this has happened to, as well as women who have given up their children for adoption because their antenatal depression made them feel they didn't want to be mothers. Some later regretted that decision.
    It should not be hard at all to find someone to help. I so wish that you had received better care. I just hope that because you are speaking out, and because so many others are speaking openly of their experience, other women will not have the same experience.

  22. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    You are not alone Angie, and I hope you can see that you don't have to suffer. There are healthcare providers who can help you through another pregnancy, should you choose to have another child.

  23. Thank you for posting this link. Even though I survived PPD after the birth of my twins, I'd never found this group. I'm currently in my first trimester and suffering with severe anxiety. I've now contacted my local PPD group with hopes that their support group will be helpful to me. Thank you!

  24. Thank you Alexis.
    The first part of your story might as well be my own. I'm still early in my second pregnancy, and I am scared. My doctors just took me off all meds (the withdrawal was horrible). I am terrified, actually, that this is going to last or get worse throughout my pregnancy, and I'll never get better, never be the mom to my second that I want to be.
    I feel a little glimmer of hope that others have been here, so it certainly seems like if I fight hard enough, I might just pull my way out. I'm just so exhausted…and not sure how to fight…

  25. I know this is an old post now, but I’m so grateful it was written and I found it. I’ve just recently started my third trimester (1st pregnancy), and it’s like a switch has been flipped. I’m so sad and unmotivated, and I seem to dwell on negative things. I don’t have much support from my partner and my family is very far away (I’m in NZ; they are in US). I keep thinking I’ll bounce out of it, but I haven’t. I’m scared I’m not going to bond with my baby when he’s born. I completely relate to knowing rationally that everything will be ok, yet still feeling emotionally overwhelmed. It is comforting to read that this is normal and won’t last forever. Thank you.

    • Julia, it’s worth talking to your doctor about this. I know it’s an awful feeling, but it’s not your fault. It’s just an illness. There is an organization from which you may be able to find support: Most postnatal depression organizations also recognize antenatal depression and are very helpful to moms who have it. Best wishes to you. ~ Katherine

    • I’m so glad you shared Julia. I’m in exactly the same boat. The 3rd trimester is on and it’s like a switch has flipped. I’m an entrepreneur who was just getting momentum on the business when we got pregnant, the guilt and anxiety i feel is immeasurable. I’m sad or uncomfortable or unmotivated almost all of the time. I hope things got better for you as I’m hoping they get for me now.

  26. Another great article on this site. I understand the prenatal depression of pregnancy so personally, that the words in this article seem to be written for me.

  27. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you so very much for letting me know that I am not alone! We are quite surprised to be expecting again, and this pregnancy is more emotionally ferocious than the first- except now, I am in a foreign country where views on medication (of any type) during pregnancy are quite different from those at home. I’m so very grateful to know that these horrible emotions will subside, and I can be a good mom in the end. Thank you again- from the bottom of my heart!

  28. So glad to fin this post. I can really telate to it. I suffered very severely with my first pregnancy. The depression set it after around 13 weeks of pregnancy. I thought I’d be ok after the first trimester and we were out of the most worrying time for miscarriage, but it didn’t ease, it only got worse. I was constantly worrying about the next few weeks and would I make it to the next milestone. My husband was. Wry unsupportive and uninterested. It amazes me how you can walk around all day with a little person inside you 24/7 and yet feel so lonely. The only person who understood me was my dad. That surprised me as he is a very hard dry personality. I remember my sister snd mum talking about me when they thought I couldn’t hear and the things they said broke my heart. They thought I’d make a terrible mother and wouldn’t pull it together. I isolated myself and stopped leaving the house. I could barely eat. When my son came along the depression lifted almost instantly, and we bonded immediately. Everyone was amazed at how close we were and I coped so well. I think after the depression I just felt so happy and free. It’s taken 7 years to get pregnant again. I can feel the depression that I was so dreading, I look at my son and I know I must be able to do this as I’ve done it before but it doesn’t stop the tears or the anxiety. So much is out of my control. I don’t know what’s going on in there and if if babies ok. I tell myself something’s are outfit my control and nature will get on with it, but my mind runs at a million miles and hour. I’d it anything like last time I know there is only one person in the world who understands me and he is so far away. I so happy to read this post and see I am not alone, it makes it a little easier. It would just help to have someone close by who understands then I wouldn’t feel so alone. I feel so selfish as I have a happy gift but I just don’t feel happy x

    • Dani – You are definitely not alone. Many women suffer from antenatal depression. Are you seeking treatment while pregnant? Are you working on ways to build up your support system during this very vulnerable time? You are right that you will survive this just like you did the first time. You are strong, but don’t forget that reaching out for help is one of the strongest things you can do. Hugs to you.

  29. Thank you for this article. I appreciated it alot and feel like I am not alone

  30. Beautifully written

  31. Douglas Southerland says:

    My wife just had a miscarriage on August 28th (our first miscarriage experience), and I can honestly say as a military veteran and former police officer (disabled while on duty) it was the most gut wrenching and sorrow filled day of my life. I am the strong one that always protects my family (we have 3 daughters ages 11, 8 & 6) from everything and takes care of my wife and kiddos against anything that can hurt them but nothing ever prepared me for the helplessness and utter lack of control I felt when my wife screamed for me to help her and I walked in and saw what was happening. She had been having cramps and spotting at about 5 and a half to 5 weeks in and I kept calling her OB/GYN to get a sooner appt. but they were booked solid and no other doctor could see her any sooner so we spent many a night at the ER where we were constantly told everything looked fine and to go home. As her symptoms got worse I got more frustrated with the hospital and her doctor, I know there was more than likely nothing they could have done at that point but I still feel that had her doctor double booked her based on her symptoms or squeezed her in between other patients maybe my son would have had the chance to be here with us now. To be honest, we were quite terrified when she suspected she was pregnant, a fourth child is crazy difficult to raise especially when all of them are still living at home and rely on us to take care of and nurture three of them majority of the time and a new baby requires 24/7 attention. However, we just embraced the news and decided we were going to welcome this new little one just like our three before, and we were both pretty sure it was going to be a boy so we were extra excited although we just wanted he/she to be healthy and happy. Then the 28th of August came, and there is no feeling like seeing your wife in so much pain, shock and so emotionally destroyed and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to make it go away or stop. I came into the room and after catching my breath and swallowing my own tears and choking down that lump in my throat I got my wife all cleaned up and cleaned up the room and got her into bed, I barely processed what had happened by the time she finally cried herself to sleep in my arms and I laid there the remainder of the night trying to figure out what I DID wrong. Of course I realize neither of us did anything wrong but at the time my rationale was that if I could find some kind of tangible excuse or reason behind it or even make it my fault, then my wife wouldn’t focus on what SHE might have done wrong or could have done differently; it may sound stupid now but I thought at the time even if she was mad at me at least she wouldn’t think horribly of herself or believe she was to blame. Since that day I have been trying to help her navigate her grief as best as possible and at what ever pace she needs to go while dealing with my own grief in the process and it has proven to be an extremely difficult task. If she knew how hard it is for me to choke it all down and help her she would feel awful and then she would be even more depressed and distant because she herself has said she doesn’t know what she would do if I wasn’t there for her and I’m afraid of what would happen if I was lost in grief myself, I’m afraid of what might happen and worry about my children’s quality of life while we are going through this loss. I will say this though: sexually, I am fine I mean I am ready to get back in the swing of things like normal before the miscarriage but completely understand how it must feel as a woman going through the same loss just felt in a completely different way and she knows that I am ready as soon as she feels okay to be intimate and I haven’t nagged or egged on about sex or intimacy since it happened, I just let her know I still love and am in love with her, find her sexy, attractive and a wonderful wife and mother and that nothing was her fault. I am far from perfect and still have, dare I say it, “man needs and desires” but a man can still feel that way and still be a loving provider and emotional “rock” for his wife, even if he himself can’t or doesn’t understand what his wife or partner is going through personally. That being said, I think a large majority of men simply cannot process emotions or feelings at the same level or capacity of their spouse or partner and I think a lot of women cannot grasp how some men process complex emotions like the loss of a child. I know, I’m a man and the first emotion that came to me was anger, because my wife was in pain and it was an enemy I could do nothing to stop or protect her from it and it killed me that I couldn’t make it go away and it still angers and upsets me that I can’t do anything against this intangible force that is threatening to unravel her sanity and emotionally wreck the woman I’ve loved and been in love with since I met her 15 years ago. So as far as your husband/boyfriend is concerned, I can almost promise you the issues he is having with this loss has more to do with how powerless he feels rather than his actually feelings towards you or your pregnancy and loss of your child and you have to both lean on each other instead of expecting your partner to carry all your weight; God bless them if they try too but you both need each other regardless of what gender roles or society has pounded into us how it should be, but you must recognize that there may still come a point where you have to just focus on yourself and your own grief and coping with it before you get dragged under a current so strong that you lose yourself instead of your husband or partner. Just my opinion about our struggle to cope and recover from OUR loss, and I know everyone’s situation is different and varied but I wish you all the best in this world and hope each and everyone of us finds the peace we need and deserve. God Bless.