The common risk factors are
- Personal or family history of depression or anxiety. If you've struggled in the past with depression or extreme anxiety (or, to a lesser extent, if depression runs in your family), you're more likely to become depressed now that you're expecting. Even if you've never experienced a full-blown bout of depression or anxiety but have a tendency to get down or anxious during stressful or uncertain times, you may be more susceptible to depression now.
- Relationship difficulties. If you're in a troubled relationship and talking things out as a couple isn't working, get counseling. Don't make the mistake of assuming that your baby's arrival will make everything rosy. A newborn will only add to the strain on your relationship — so don't put off seeking professional advice on repairing your relationship now, particularly if you're the victim of abuse.
- Fertility treatments. If you had trouble getting pregnant, chances are you've been under a lot of stress. And if you've gone through multiple fertility procedures, you may still be dealing with the emotional side effects of months or even years of treatments and anxiety-laden waiting. On top of that, now that you're pregnant, it's not uncommon to be terrified of losing the baby you worked so hard to conceive. All of these make you more prone to depression.
- Previous pregnancy loss. If you've miscarried or lost a baby in the past, it's no wonder you're worrying about the safety of this pregnancy. And if the loss was recent or if you've miscarried several times in the last year, you may not have had time to fully recover emotionally or physically. And as with fertility treatments, if you're dealing with health restrictions you're more vulnerable to depression and anxiety.
- Problems with your pregnancy. A complicated or high-risk pregnancy can take an emotional toll, particularly if you're enduring weeks of bedrest or numerous genetic tests. (Women who are pregnant with twins or more often fall into this category.) The strain of having to endure difficult procedures combined with fear about your baby's well-being is often difficult to shoulder. Likewise, not being able to work or do other things you're used to doing makes it tougher to maintain your emotional balance. Talk to your caregiver about caring for your emotional well-being. Taking proper steps now will also reduce your risk for problems after giving birth — and help you to better enjoy the baby you've worked so hard to bring into the world.
- Stressful life events. Financial worries? Relocating? Contemplating switching jobs? Planning to stay home after years of working? Any major concerns or life changes such as these — as well as a breakup, the death of a close friend or family member, or a job loss — can send you into a serious funk.
- Past history of abuse. Women who've survived emotional, sexual, physical, or verbal abuse may have low self-esteem, a sense of helplessness, or feelings of isolation — all of which contribute to a higher risk for depression. Pregnancy can trigger painful memories of your past abuse as you prepare for parenthood, and the loss of control over your changing body may mirror the helplessness you experienced when you were abused.
- Other risk factors. If you are young, are single, or have an unplanned pregnancy, your risk of depression is also higher.