The average age depression is first seen is usually between a person's early 20s and their early 30s. This is also a very common time for many women to become pregnant. Over 8% of Canadian women will have a bout of depression when they become pregnant. It was initially thought that pregnancy protected women against depression, but we now know the amount of people with depression is the same in both pregnant and non-pregnant women.

Some people will think that depression during pregnancy is just a minor and temporary issue. But having untreated depression during pregnancy has been linked to some major health issues for the child, including a higher risk of:

  • miscarriage
  • delivering a low birth-weight baby
  • delivering a preterm baby
  • mental development delays and disturbed behaviours

Diagnosing depression during pregnancy can be challenging. Some symptoms of depression such as being tired all the time, changes in sleep patterns, and changes of appetite are also common for pregnant women. The most important thing that a pregnant woman can do if she is starting to feel symptoms of depression (changes in mood, sleep, anxiety, agitation, fatigue) is to mention it to her health care professional. The goal is to help identify depression early so they can get some treatment.

Once depression is diagnosed, there are a number of treatments that have been shown to be effective. One method that works well is talk therapy with a trained therapist. A successful type of therapy is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This is where the therapist works with the woman to change her perceptions of herself, others, and the world.

Many women are worried about using medication during pregnancy. Most of the evidence now shows that some commonly used antidepressants very rarely increase the risks of problems in the child. With the health risks to the child of having untreated depression during pregnancy, many doctors believe that it is more beneficial to treat with medications if other treatments have not been effective.

Another concern is women who are being treated for depression and want to start trying to become pregnant. Many medications are safe to take during pregnancy, so your best advice is to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before trying to become pregnant.