British Columbia Reproductive Mental Health Program

Reproductive Mental Health

Emotional Disorders in Pregnancy

Recent research has shown that women are susceptible to psychiatric disorders during pregnancy. Most commonly found are major depression, panic disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders and psychosis.


Women's experiences of pregnancy and mothering includes transitions in their lives. Social, economic, emotional and physical changes affect their roles in society. Some women have difficulties coping with pregnancy and find support from friends, health nurses, neighbourhood groups and family doctors. However, other women may frequently encounter emotional difficulties.

Our program can work with women who experience these difficulties to find successful and supportive solutions.

  • Approximately 10% of women will experience depression during pregnancy.
  • A diagnosis of depression may be missed in pregnancy because many of the symptoms of depression and of pregnancy are similar, such as fatigue, insomnia, change of appetite and loss of energy.
  • Women are more likely to be diagnosed as depressed in the first and third trimesters.
  • In the first and third trimesters Major Depression is more difficult to diagnose since symptoms of depression and pregnancy are similar. These symptoms include: sleep disturbances, changes in appetite, and feelings of lethargy and sadness.
  • In the second trimester Major Depression is more easily noticed because most women enjoy this period as they start to feel the baby move.
  • In the third trimester the discomforts of pregnancy and the symptoms of depression are again similar. The woman has a reduced appetite, difficulty sleeping and is exhausted due to the extra weight she is carrying. Women who are depressed may also experience pervasive sadness, a sense of hopelessness, crying spells and in severe cases suicidal ideation.
    • Women who are depressed in the third trimester are highly likely to continue their depression during the postpartum period. It is essential that women who experience depression during pregnancy receive prompt treatment so that symptoms do not continue or worsen.
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