I’m Embarrassed by My Prenatal Depression. Here’s Why I Talk About It Anyway.

One in five women will have mental health issues during and after pregnancy. Raising awareness matters for getting them the treatment they need.

Comments: 14

  1. Please take advantage of the resources you have today. I had prenatal and postnatal depression 50 years ago. No one wanted to talk about it, not my doctor or my father. I ended up with severe anxiety and depression, only receiving medication 20 years ago. I left my abusive marriage and my daughter was raised by that person, because I was suicidal and too anxious to take care of her. I was assured in therapy that his target was a wife and not children and this was true, thankfully, as they had a good relationship. My mother later revealed the family secret that my father’s dad had killed himself with a gun while in the woods with his young sons. My genetic disposition is obvious to my psychiatrist. Please don’t be ashamed. Get the help you need.

  2. My former spouse had prenatal depression, twice. And post part depression with the birth of our last son. It was pure angst and I had no idea what was happening until an ER doctor told me what was going on. I wish someone would have enlightened me early on.

  3. Thank you so much for this piece. When I became pregnant unexpectedly with my second child in 2016, I abruptly stopped my antidepressants and suffered the entire pregnancy. Debilitating nausea and weekly progesterone shots didn’t help. I was SO ashamed. I did not seek help. I wish I would have read this then. After my daughter was born, I did feel almost instantly better. I am not currently on antidepressants and feeling good, but the entire experience has frightened me away from having a third child.

  4. Perhaps such women who have so many mental health issues, should not be having children at all. Many mental health issues have an inheritable component, and the stress of being a parent is going to put a fragile person at significant risk. I just can't imagine such a person can be a very successful parent to a child.

  5. Prenatal depression is often situational as well as chemical. Years ago, when I told my sister (who already had children) that I was pregnant, she warned me that it would be "the loneliest time of your life." In many ways it was. No matter how many books I read in advance, I wasn't prepared for the changes in my body and relationships. I enjoyed the experience in many ways, but I can see how it could drive others to despair. We're told it's supposed to be a joyous time in our lives. I think we need to be more honest with ourselves.

  6. Thank you for this article. Many years ago after going off of Zoloft prior to trying to conceive I ended up with prenatal depression and anxiety. At the time I was only able to find limited information online and my psychiatrist did not feel comfortable putting me back on medication. I felt scared and very alone and am still somewhat ashamed to admit that I actually felt relieved when I miscarried. The experience was so bad that my husband and I decided not to try to get pregnant again. I'm really glad to see that there has been more written/more awareness on this topic over the past few years. A planned pregnancy is supposed to be a joyous time-I felt a lot of guilt for feeling so awful. I think knowing that it wasn't such an uncommon occurrence would have been really helpful. Pregnancy is no longer an option for me but hopefully articles like this will help other women.

  7. Experiencing a major life change is a common cause of depression. Having a child fits into that category. New fathers, you, too, can become depressed. Please do not be ashamed to admit it and seek help. Be well.

  8. All this hand-wringing about being "embarrassed" isn't exactly helpful though either. It perpetuates the idea -- especially because it goes so unexplored here -- that there is something to be embarrassed about. I had severe post-partum depression that required multiple hospitalizations. It is hard to talk about, but I am not ashamed of it. I don't expect everyone to feel the same way about their own experience with PPD/PPP/PPA, of course, but I wish she would have pushed a little harder against her feelings of embarassment and shame and tried to understand them as an internalization of a pretty pernicious view.

  9. If someone is wearing a cast due to a broken arm / leg, people around them express sympathy at the visual clue that they are injured and healing - mental health does not get the same recognition, it seems to scare many people due to the negative portrayals in media and popular culture. Sometimes people need help, it could be short term or long term, but there should be no stigma. If you know someone is struggling, offer to help and be there for them when they need it - people often won't reach out.

  10. Jessica, I experienced prenatal depression for 16 weeks in early 2018 when I was pregnant with my first child. I re-read your Slate series nearly every day for those 16 weeks so I wouldn't feel so alone. It was a desperately wanted pregnancy, and I didn't understand how I could possibly feel this way. After scoring poorly again and again on the prenatal depression screening at my OB office, and having them chalk it up to my hormones and the weather, I built up the courage to tell my OB just how bad things were. Her solution? Buy leather moccasins and walk around outside to ground myself to the earth. I was devastated, and I knew I was on my own. I should note that I help people navigate their health care treatment for a living, but couldn't even help myself. The depression lifted around the 20 week mark. Thank you for being a voice for prenatal depression, and for helping me get through those very dark days with your writing.

  11. Sorry for sounding insensitive but why would you even want to have a child in such a situation? It seems to me that pre-and post-natal depression are an understandable emotional reaction to the hardships of motherhood. I was not depressed either after or before having my two kids but I absolutely felt at times that I had made a wrong decision and was angry and impatient as a result. The way I coped with it was by reading Stoic philosophy. It worked out just fine with the help of nannies and other caregivers who enabled me to have some time to myself. Would it have been better had I lobotomized myself with pills? I doubt it. Anger, regret and sadness are not diseases but normal human emotions. And for those women who do have an actual mental illness, perhaps the best course of action is not to have kids. Why would you want to pass a genetic predisposition to your offspring?

  12. @Mor You’ll be satisfied to know, subsequent to my story below, that I had two abortions due to failed birth control including an IUD, in order to avoid further partum depression. Of course I didn’t know that my first pregnancy would exacerbate my vague teenage discomforts. This is why it’s important to support choices in family planning.

  13. Wow. This is one of the most thoughtless and insensitive comments I have ever read in the NYT. First of all, depression is treatable (and even preventable in some cases). People who are prone to perinatal depression can be treated and be perfectly capable of being good parents. Second, men also have genetic predispositions to mental illness. So women who are partnered with men with a family history of depression also shouldn’t have kids? Third - we are all genetically predisposed to something. Who else shouldn’t have kids? People with a family history of cancer? Heart disease? Alcoholism? Then who can? Fourth - sadness isn’t at all the same as depression. You clearly (thankfully for you) do not understand depression at all. This is not a natural reaction to parenthood. People who are depressed don’t feel joy in their lives. They aren’t simply stressed out. You know that feeling you get when you eat your favorite food? Or get a puppy in your lap? Or a hug from your friend? Yeah. With major depression, you get nothing. Or worse, you get misery, because you feel like you should feel differently. Depression is not the same as a bad day, week, or month. It isn’t the same as being stressed over typical life events (although that can contribute). For an amazing read - see Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon. For something shorter, William Styron’s Darkness Visible. These are writers who understand how to explain depression - even when their lives look great from the outside.

  14. our son was very embarrassed to be still wetting the bed at 6 years old . One day, instead of putting on an evening diaper I called it putting on his camping pants . From then on we had no issues at all. He even went to overnights in his 'campers'