Depression during pregnancy isn't uncommon but it's also not often discussed. Few doctors screen for it and many pregnant women are afraid to admit to it, but it can be dangerous for both mother and baby. The Early Show takes a lot at the condition for the first of a two-part series on pregnancy and depression.
Pregnancy nurse Vanessa Barisano's first pregnancy was not a happy one. She remembers feeling desperate and alone.
"It saddens me a little bit because I see myself performing for the camera," she told CBS News' Kelly Wallace. "I see a woman who was desperate to talk to somebody, someone who would often just hide what she was really feeling from her husband. All I keep thinking about was, 'I'm having this baby and I'm just going to be home. Oh, my god, what is it going to be like? I'm just gonna — I have no life now.'"
After her daughter, Daniella, was born, Barisano learned she suffered from post-partum depression. But looking back, she says that many of those same feelings of despair began when Daniella was still in the womb.
"I have such severe insomnia. I'm having so much fear about this new baby coming and maybe not being able to handle this, and who's out there? Who's going to listen to this?" she said. "And I talked less and less about it. And I suffered in silence."
About 10 percent of pregnant women suffer from antenatal depression. Risk factors for the condition include family history of depression, any previous mood disorders and social stressors such as lack of a support system, marital or financial troubles, difficulty conceiving or an unwanted pregnancy. Some inconclusive research indicates that hormones might play a role in the condition.
As a nurse specializing in pregnancy, Barisano was well versed in the warning signs of depression, but she was afraid to speak up. When she finally did, she says her doctors didn't take her concerns seriously.
"It was, 'Oh, well, you're tired! That's pregnancy. You have insomnia. That's pregnancy. You're having some anxiety, that's pregnancy too,' " she said. "They were more willing to deal with it, to treat it, until after the baby came."
It's important for women to pay attention to the severity of their feelings, especially if they think that no one can relate to them. Clinical social worker Susan Stone says even more women might be suffering from antenatal depression, but few doctors screen for depression during regular check-ups
"They're making the assumption that some of this mood disruption is normal, is a normal association of pregnancy," Stone said. "So we tend to be a bit patronizing about women who are experiencing mood disruptions during pregnancy. The motherhood myth still associates a — a stigma to that. That this is the time you should be happy. So, you can imagine how — how much that would further isolate a person and make her less likely to reach out for help."
The risks of untreated depression during pregnancy can be serious: pre-term labor, increased chance of cesarean section, low birth weight and a higher likelihood the mother will also suffer from post-partum depression.
"This illness is very easily treatable," Stone said. "That's the good news."
For Barisano, that meant getting help when her depression returned during her second pregnancy. She began taking anti-depressants in her third trimester. They worked. And after the birth of her son, Anthony, she didn't experience the post-partum depression she struggled with the first time around.
"I enjoyed my son so much," Barisano said. "I would be so focused on his little tiny fingers and his little tiny toes. I don't have that memory of my daughter. Not until she was about 4 months old do I remember bonding with her. With my son, I bonded with him on the first day."
Today Barisano works as a Lamaze instructor and meets regularly with pregnant women in informal support groups. She says these sessions help identify which mothers-to-be may need special help.
"I want women to understand that they're not alone in this," she said. "That they can get better. That they will get better."
Barisano did and she is forever grateful she battled back for her kids.
"Oh, my gosh, my kids. They are — they are my life," she said. "I look at them and I thank god every day that — that I did recover and that I can be here for them."