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Feeling alone during pregnancy? Here's why and 5 tips to cope

Feeling alone during pregnancy? Here's why and 5 tips to cope

Reviewed by:
Anastasia Ruiz, MD
|
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April 24, 2024
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Key takeaways

If pregnancy was really how social-media influencers make it seem, it would be 40 weeks of green smoothies, romantic nightgowns that perfectly frame your bump, and blissful vacations with your partner. While some of that may be accurate, it’s also true that pregnancy can be a a mixed bag—full of nonstop (and sometimes unexpected) bodily transformation, mood swings, and anticipation about a new life stage. Sometimes, the rosy view of pregnancy can make the actual experience of it isolating.  

If you’re feeling alone during pregnancy, know that you are not the only one. If you’re feeling more than just blue, there’s actually a name for depression during pregnancy—perinatal depression. Read on for information what you can do to help alleviate these feelings of loneliness, and for signs that they may be something else.


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Pregnancy and depression

Every trimester of pregnancy is full of changes. Even if everything is going as smoothly as possible, it can be destabilizing when even things as basic as sleep can be a challenge. Plus, especially if you are a first-time parent, there are big life upheavals coming up. All of this means that it is pretty normal to feel alone during pregnancy. If this feeling isn’t short lived, though, or if it is accompanied by other symptoms, it might be a sign of depression.  

Depression during and after pregnancy is lumped into one category, called perinatal depression. While postpartum depression (depression in new mothers after the baby is born) is more common, perinatal depression—depression during pregnancy—is also possible.

You might also have heard of the following terms: Antenatal or pre-natal depression, meaning “before birth.” Another kind of depression related to pregnancy and childbirth is post-weaning depression, which some people experience after they wean their baby off of breastmilk.

Some symptoms of depression during pregnancy include:

  • Sadness, anxiety, or an “empty” feeling that last for two weeks or longer
  • Hopelessness or pessimism
  • Irritability or moodiness
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Fatigue (beyond the normal fatigue you might expect in pregnancy)
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating

If you do find that you have some or all of these symptoms while pregnant, you’re not alone (even though it might feel that way): Studies have shown that up to 20% of pregnant women experience anxiety and depression.

Can you take antidepressants during pregnancy?  

You can take antidepressants during pregnancy—up to 8% of pregnant people do so. Many people are concerned about the effect of antidepressants on the fetus. This is understandable, especially because when you’re pregnant your doctor has probably given you a long list of medications not to take, on top of all the other things you’re not supposed to ingest.  

However, it’s important to weigh the risk that antidepressants might pose to the fetus against the risk that a depressed mother does. Untreated depression during pregnancy has been linked to premature birth, low birth weight, and postpartum depression. It is even more important to make sure that you are mentally and physically well when you are pregnant, as your health impacts your pregnancy outcome, and the health and developmental outcome of your child.  

And in fact, robust recent research shows that the risk of harm to the fetus from taking antidepressants while pregnant is very minimal—a mother’s antenatal antidepressant use was not linked to a higher incidence of autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or problems with speech or learning, despite the existence of older studies suggesting these connections. (The newer research says that the previous studies had factors that limited the accuracy of their conclusions).  

Studies have also indicated that if depression is not treated during pregnancy, there may be a higher risk of pregnancy complications. It can be difficult to determine if the complications are due to medication, untreated depression (or anxiety), or other factors. And, if left untreated, mental health issues can result in additional consequences, including an increased risk of substance misuse, which can further impact the well-being of both the pregnancy and the fetus.

That said, any medication can pose risks and has side effects, and some of these side effects might be worse or less desirable while pregnant. If you are pregnant and wondering if antidepressants might be helpful for you, or if you already take antidepressants but have become pregnant and are not sure if you should continue to take them, your first step should be to contact your doctor, OBGYN, or a perinatal psychiatrist. They can help you figure out what treatment options make the most sense for your circumstances.  

How can you stop pregnancy loneliness?

Here are six tips to manage feeling alone during pregnancy:

  • Reach out to a loved one: One of the isolating parts of pregnancy is that even the people you feel closest to, like family members or your partner, can’t experience what you’re experiencing. But that doesn’t mean you can’t lean on them if you’re struggling—social support during pregnancy has been shown to be both emotionally and physically beneficial.  
  • Find community or support system: It may be helpful to talk to or spend time with other pregnant people, who are more likely to be able to intimately relate to what you’re going through. Many cities have support groups for expecting parents and these groups also exist in online forums and social networks.  
  • Know that your feelings are normal, and that they are not your fault: The changes you’re going through are huge, and it would be weird if they didn’t make you feel emotional or have mood swings sometimes.  
  • Practice self-care: Although you might have a lot on your mind while pregnant, you should still take time out for yourself to relax and attend to your well-being and mental health. This might mean prioritizing being active, taking a warm bath, or even getting a prenatal massage.
  • Talk to your doctor: Many OBs and midwives routinely screen for depression and anxiety throughout a pregnancy. But even if you don’t think that what you’re feeling qualifies as depression, you should bring it up to your doctor, who can offer validation and reassurance, on top of making sure nothing more serious is going on.

When to seek treatment

If you think the way you feel alone during pregnancy might actually be prenatal depression—perhaps you have many of the symptoms of depression listed above, or perhaps your feelings aren’t going away—consider reaching out to a mental-health expert.  

A therapist or psychiatrist can help you determine what you’re experiencing, and you two can work together to figure out the best treatment path for you, whether that’s talk therapy or medication. Don’t know where to start? Talkiatry can help: Take our quick online assessment to get matched with one of our psychiatrists or therapists. We’re a national psychiatry practice that takes insurance.

The information in this article is for education and informational purposes only and should never be substituted for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

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How does Talkiatry compare to face-to-face treatment?

For most patients, Talkiatry treatment is just as effective as in-person psychiatry (American Psychiatric Association, 2021), and much more convenient. That said, we don’t currently provide treatment for schizophrenia, primary eating disorder treatment, or Medication Assisted Treatment for substance use disorders.

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At Talkiatry, we specialize in psychiatry, meaning the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. Your psychiatrist will meet with you virtually on a schedule you set together, devise a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and preferences, and work with you to adjust your plan as you meet your goals.

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What's the difference between a therapist and psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are doctors who have specialized training in diagnosing and treating complex mental health conditions through medication management. If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or similar, a psychiatrist may be a good place to start.  

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  • You are interested in taking medication to treat a mental health condition  
  • Your symptoms are severe enough to regularly interfere with your everyday life

The term “therapist” can apply to a range of professionals including social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychoanalysts. Working with a therapist generally involves regular talk therapy sessions where you discuss your feelings, problem-solving strategies, and coping mechanisms to help with your condition.

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About
Anastasia Ruiz, MD

Doctor Ruiz is a board-certified psychiatrist physician who specializes in psychiatric diagnosis and treatment in anxiety disorders, mood disorders, trauma and stressor related disorders, ADHD, and pregnancy related psychiatric conditions.

Dr. Ruiz received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry, graduating from the Honors College with Magna Cum Laude. She later completed four-years of medical school at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, and an additional four-years of psychiatric residency training. Dr. Ruiz has a diverse experience in psychiatry, including working in psychiatric hospitals, outpatient clinics, IOP, PHP, emergency rooms, and academic teaching. Dr. Ruiz is up to date on literature and current treatment guidelines. She has authored research publications. She has received recognition and awards including the AWP International Fellowship Award and the ADMSEP Innovations Award.

Dr. Ruiz's practice focuses on a combination of medication management and therapy, as research demonstrates that this results in better outcomes.

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