Former "Bachelorette" star Jillian Harris shared exciting pregnancy news this week — but with it came another important topic that hits close to home: depression.
The co-host of "Love It or List It, Too" — a fan favorite for her unbridled honesty — shared that she's expecting baby No. 2 with fiance Justin Pasutto in a heartfelt video that shows her surprising family and friends. The couple have one other child, a 1-year-old son named Leo. But Harris, who is due in October, also revealed that she struggled with debilitating depression during her first trimester, something she didn't experience with her first pregnancy.
"My pregnancy with Leo was a breeze," the 38-year-old told TODAY. "Women would say, 'How do you feel?' And I would say, 'I feel wonderful!' And they would say, 'Oh my gosh, you're so lucky.' And I would think, 'What's the alternative?' And now I know."
Harris said that while she's feeling better now, she was moody, unable to eat and exhausted all the time during the first several weeks of her pregnancy.
"I was just so physically ill, and my body felt like it was shutting down," she said. "I wasn't able to do anything I usually do. I felt so useless. Justin noticed it. At one point, he was like, 'I know you're struggling but if there is any way you could give me an indication that you're happy, I would love to just see you smile.' I looked at him and just started crying."
Harris, who has been open about her mother's struggle with bipolar disorder, said that her greatest fear was that her feelings wouldn't go away before her child was born.
"I wasn't doing laundry. I wasn't showering. I wasn't doing anything. I wanted to be a good mom to Leo and I wanted to take care of the baby inside of me and I could barely do that," she said.
Fortunately, her energy has returned in her second trimester, she's back to her "busybody" self, she said.
"I kept praying it would pass and I'm so grateful that it has," Harris said. "But there are women who experience these emotions their entire pregnancy."
While people may be more familiar with postpartum depression, depression during pregnancy — called perinatal depression — is indeed a thing, gynecologist Donnica Moore told TODAY.
"It's very common, actually, and what's tough about diagnosing depression in pregnancy is a lot of the symptoms of depression are very similar to the same symptoms of first trimester pregnancy — being very emotional, being very tired, sort of feeling like everything is changing," she said. "(But) there's this real sense of sadness that distinguishes depression from normal first trimester pregnancy."
Moore, who hosts a podcast about women's health issues, added that depression during pregnancy can have a negative effect on the baby. A woman who is depressed is more likely to have a preterm labor, for example. Women who experience depression during their pregnancy are also more likely to experience postpartum depression.
So how does a pregnant woman know if her depressive feelings are normal, or something more serious? In short, she might not be able to. But feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness are red flags, Moore said.
"If you're having symptoms you don't understand or if you feel you aren't in control, that's when it's time to see a doctor or talk to a therapist — or even a clergy person, anyone who can give you support," she said.
Harris hopes her story lets other women know it's OK to talk about these issues.
"Pregnancy is supposed to be such a happy time ... but I was just so exhausted and sick that I wasn't happy," she told TODAY. "It felt good to be able to say that."