Shay Mitchell and Ashley Graham got real about “prepartum” depression during their pregnancies

There’s no doubt that pregnancy is a beautiful and amazing thing. But there’s also no doubt that pregnancy can be very difficult, whether physically, emotionally, or both. We need to talk more about that—which is just what Ashley Graham and Shay Mitchell are doing. On a recent episode of Graham’s podcast Pretty Big Deal, Graham and Mitchell spoke candidly about their struggles with “prepartum depression” in an effort to normalize this condition.

Graham, who is currently pregnant with her first child, said that Mitchell had previously brought up the term “prepartum depression.” Graham noted that she may not have experienced this exactly, but that she “might have gone through something like it.”

“All of a sudden my emotions, my mind, my body, things that I always had control over are now totally out of whack, Graham said. “I can't talk to anybody about it. My husband doesn't understand, but he's trying to be as supportive as possible. My mom is like, 'Oh, you'll be fine.' I think I was spiraling a little bit and I was crying a lot."

According to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, about 14 to 23% of women experience some form of depression during pregnancy.

The American Pregnancy Association (APA) calls this mood disorder “antepartum depression,” and the symptoms are similar to other forms of clinical depression (including post-partum depression, which is more widely known). The APA lists “persistent sadness, difficulty concentrating, sleeping too much or too little, anxiety, and feelings of guilt and worthlessness” as just a handful of potential symptoms.

Antepartum depression is a very real condition. But, as the APA notes, it’s often “not diagnosed properly…because people think it is just another type of hormonal imbalance.” Mitchell, who gave birth to daughter Atlas Noel in October, had a similar experience. Like Graham’s, Mitchell’s loved ones, while no doubt well-meaning, didn’t quite understand the gravity of her emotional distress.

“I mean every single thing that you just said is exactly what I went through, Mitchell said. “My mom said the same thing, and I'd be crying to her and she'd be like, 'You're just emotional, it's just the hormones.' And, okay, it might be, but you don't want to hear that. Like, yes, it is, if it is the hormones, I'm still feeling that way. It doesn't take away from this feeling, and it's completely isolating."

The APA notes that fluctuating hormone levels during pregnancy affect a person’s brain chemistry, which can cause mood swings. Mood swings are common during pregnancy, and they’re not always signs of clinical depression. But if a pregnant person is experiencing some of the symptoms of depression for two or more weeks, then those changes in mood and behavior may indicate antepartum depression, in which case you should seek professional help. (That said, it never hurts to seek professional help, if and when it’s accessible, even if you aren’t necessarily experiencing diagnosable depression.)

Mitchell also noted that a previous miscarriage compounded her depression while she was pregnant with her daughter.

Because of her miscarriage, Mitchell said, she was hesitant about telling her friends that she was pregnant again, which made her feel “really lonely” during the early stages of her pregnancy.

“It’s a really crazy period that I don’t think people talk about enough,” Mitchell said. “I heard so much about postpartum which is also a real thing, but I’d never heard about prepartum depression.”

Hopefully, Graham and Mitchell’s conversation paves the way for more pregnant women to open up about any mental and emotional struggles they may be facing—and, even more importantly, to know that they’re not alone.

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