Feeling depressed when you’re pregnant may seem at odds with all those happy images in the media of glowing moms-to-be. But prenatal depression is a very real condition that affects women around the world. The struggle to get through each day can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are some gentle natural remedies and alternatives to medication that may help improve your state of mind during this very special time in your life.
Perinatal Depression: The Pregnancy Struggle No One Talks About
Awareness around mental health and depression has improved significantly in the past few decades, especially when it comes to postpartum depression. Still, there is very little attention given to women who struggle through pregnancy – those nine months of physical changes and emotional upheavals linked to intense hormonal fluctuations. For some, it can feel like an endless onslaught of anxiety, despair, and doom. Symptoms of depression are persistent (over two weeks) and include lingering sadness; trouble concentrating and sleeping; changes in appetite; feelings of guilt, worthlessness or anxiety; and even suicidal thoughts.1
1. Change Thinking Patterns With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Counseling and therapy sessions can go a long way in treating depression and are a safe alternative to medication for pregnant women. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) involves discussions with a therapist to help identify distorted thinking patterns. This can help you adapt and change your thinking and behavior by focusing on problem-solving. If your depression is mild, a treatment like CBT can work well on its own. For more severe forms of depression, your psychiatrist may also prescribe antidepressant medications appropriate for pregnant women.3
2. Open Up To Other Women In A Peer Support Group
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that an estimated 14 to 23 percent of all women have one or more symptoms of depression during pregnancy.4 Peer support groups comprising other pregnant women suffering from antenatal depression can be extremely helpful. Just be sure to go to a group that has a trained counselor or staff facilitating and mediating the process.5
3. Get Plenty Of Foods Rich In Iron, Zinc, And Vitamin C
With a baby on board, it’s especially important to ensure your diet has adequate amounts of all the nutrients you and your baby need. Iron and zinc deficiencies, in particular, have been associated with depression in some women. Vitamin C is also vital, not just for its multiple benefits, but as an aid for iron absorption.6 Here are some great foods you should try to incorporate into your meals:
- Vitamin C-Rich Foods: Citrus fruit, sweet potatoes, berries, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and potatoes.7
- Iron-Rich Foods: Dried fruit like prunes and raisins, dried beans, eggs, liver, lean red meat, poultry, oysters, tuna, salmon, and whole grains.8
- Zinc-Rich Foods: Lamb, beef, pork, poultry, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and yeast.9
4. Try Bright Light Therapy
This gentle treatment for depression is mild enough to try while pregnant. Bright light therapy uses a light box that produces high-intensity light to simulate sunlight. It may be able to improve symptoms like fatigue, low mood, sleeping problems, and social withdrawal. Keep in mind that there’s been little testing and research done on this type of therapy, so check with your doctor before trying it.10
5. Take Time To Exercise And Rest
Of course, pregnancy can take its toll on your body as much as your mind. Getting adequate sleep and rest will keep you feeling less fatigued. Set a bedtime routine and time and stick with it no matter what. You should also try to fit in a regular exercise routine daily. Such physical activity can help improve mood and generate positive feelings in those who are coping with depression.11
Yoga is an excellent form of exercise – it can ease mental stress while giving your body a good, gentle workout. Be sure to only do this with a trained practitioner who can guide you through safe asanas for pregnancy.12
6. Avoid Inflammatory Foods
A lot of how you feel also comes from what you eat. Inflammation may play a role in depression.13 Keep your mind alert and your body primed to handle stress by avoiding inflammatory foods like processed carbohydrates, refined sugars, caffeine, and products containing artificial additives.14
7. Get Plenty Of Probiotics From Yogurt And Fermented Foods
The health of your gut may play a key role in the health of your mind. Researchers have found that probiotics, which improve gut health and immune function, may also have a strong connection to mental and emotional health.15 This means you can happily enjoy yogurt or fresh fruit smoothies made with probiotic-rich yogurt or have fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut. Even that famous pregnancy staple, pickles, can help. Just make sure it’s a homemade pickle fermented in salt and water – and go easy on them!
|↑1||Depression in Pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association.|
|↑2, ↑6||Prenatal (Antenatal) Depression. PANDAS Foundation.|
|↑3||What Is Depression?. American Psychiatric Association.|
|↑4||Depression in Pregnancy.
|↑5||Depression in pregnancy. NCT 1st 1000 Days New Parent Support.|
|↑8||Iron in diet. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑9||Zinc in diet. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑10||Corral, Maria, Xanthoula Kostaras, and Annie J. Kuan. “Nonpharmacological treatments during pregnancy and the postpartum period.” BC Medical Journal 47, no. 3 (2005): 143-145.|
|↑11||What Is Depression?.
|↑12||Mehta, Purvi, and Manoj Sharma. “Yoga as a complementary therapy for clinical depression.” Complementary Health Practice Review 15, no. 3 (2010): 156-170.|
|↑13||Miller, Andrew H., and Charles L. Raison. “The role of inflammation in depression: from evolutionary imperative to modern treatment target.” Nature Reviews Immunology 16, no. 1 (2016): 22-34.|
|↑14||Depression in Pregnancy.
|↑15||Selhub, Eva M., Alan C. Logan, and Alison C. Bested. “Fermented foods, microbiota, and mental health: ancient practice meets nutritional psychiatry.” Journal of physiological anthropology 33, no. 1 (2014): 2.|