Pregnancy is a very important phase in a woman’s life. It not only leads to bodily and hormonal changes, but also has psychological changes.
Pregnancy generates a complex mix of emotions, ranging from happiness to excitement to being overwhelmed, anxious, worrisome and sometimes even feelings of sadness can surface.
Each pregnancy is different and every woman feels differently.
It is normal to feel worried and anxious. It is a change.
Any change is stressful, both positively and negatively. Positive Stress/ Eustress prepares us for the various challenges and makes us find solutions, while Negative stress/ Distress can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed, anxious, burnt out and this in turn can lead to various mental issues.
What kind of feelings occur when one is pregnant?
It creates a mix of emotions.
1. Mood swings are common.
2. Worry - about the baby and how will you manage once the baby delivers.
- What is to be expected during different months of pregnancy.
- When will I feel the baby’s movement?
- My body is changing and I am tired all the time
- The right diet for the baby’s health.
- I am going to be responsible for another life
- Will I be able to cope with all this?
- Will I be able to understand my baby’s needs?
- What will happen when I go in labour, will it be very painful?
- For a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby
- For a normal delivery
- For a good mother baby bonding.
4. Happiness for new beginnings
5. Confidence that I can go through with this.
6. Role changing- to becoming a mother, may have to take a break from work, caring for another being.
These emotions are normal during pregnancy.
However, every 1 in 10 women experience Depression and Anxiety Disorders during pregnancy (antenatal) and also post-partum (after delivery).
Certain risk factors that increase these conditions are-
1. History of mental health issues in the past.
2. Lack of support
3. Relationship issues, including abusive relationships
4. History of drug use and addiction.
5. History of mental health issues in the family.
6. Financial or work related stress.
When to seek help?
While pregnancy has its ups and downs, it’s time to seek advice from a mental health professional if:
• you’ve felt consistently bad (e.g. sad or worried) for longer than 2 weeks
• negative thoughts and feelings are starting to affect your ability to function normally
• you’re showing signs of depression, such as losing interest, or feeling hopeless or unable to cope
• you feel anxious or worried most or all of the time
• you start having panic attacks, or develop obsessive or compulsive behaviours
Tips for managing your mental well-being
There are plenty of things you can do to help manage your mental health and wellbeing during pregnancy.
1. Don’t expect too much of yourself – be realistic about what you can do.
2. Rest when you need to.
3. Try not to make major changes at this time, like moving house or changing jobs, unless you have to.
4. Keep physically active (check with your doctor or midwife before you start an exercise program).
5. Eat regular, healthy meals.- fresh fruits and vegetables.
6. Keep yourself well hydrated.
7. Cut down on Caffeine intake.
8. Spend time with people who make you feel relaxed and good about yourself.
9. Avoid using drugs or alcohol to deal with stress.
10. Make connections with other expectant parents so you can support each other.
11. Accept help if it’s offered to you; ask for help if you need it.
12. Read or watch videos to learn more about pregnancy and delivery and child care and what to expect at different stages.
13. Take your shots and medicines as advised by your OBGYN.
14. Keep regular antenatal follow up with your OBGYN, atleast 3 visits.
What if I have a mental health problem and I want to become pregnant or I am pregnant?
1. If you are suffering from any mental health issue, your pregnancy has to be a planned pregnancy. Inform your psychiatrist about it and he/ she will adjust the medicines to those which are safe during pregnancy.
2. Do NOT stop the treatment (psychiatric medicines) even though you feel better without consulting your psychiatrist.
3. Keep regular follow up with your psychiatrist and OBGYN.
A mental health problem doesn't have to be a problem for you or your baby. Get the help you need to feel better, and you'll be doing the best thing for you both.
Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy
Do take folic acid and vitamin D
Folic acid reduces your baby’s risk of neural tube defects to almost nil. It is ideal to start taking it three months before conception but if it’s too late for that, don’t worry but start taking the recommended daily amount now and continue taking it until the end of the first trimester (week 12 of your pregnancy).
Do stay active
Being sedentary (sitting down a lot) is not healthy for you or your baby.
It puts you at higher risk of too much weight gain, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and varicose veins and you are more likely to have shortness of breath and lower back pain.
Do monitor your baby’s movements
Your baby’s movements are a sign that they are well. Start monitoring movements at around week 24 and if you notice a reduction in movement seek help immediately.
Do go to sleep on your side in the third trimester
Going to sleep on your back in the third trimester doubles your risk of stillbirth. You may wake up in all sorts of positions during the night, and that’s OK, but if you go to sleep on your side you will be sleeping safely for your baby.
Do consider taking the vaccinations that are offered
In pregnancy you will be offered two vaccinations:
You’ll be offered the whooping cough vaccine by your GP or midwife. You will be offered this vaccination to boost your antibodies. These antibodies will be passed to your baby through the placenta. The best time to get vaccinated to protect your baby is from week 16 up to 32 weeks of pregnancy. You can have the vaccine anytime from 16 weeks but if you have it after 38 weeks it may be less effective.
Do take any overseas holidays before 37 weeks
Women have said that the best time in pregnancy for overseas holidays is the middle of pregnancy. Nausea and tiredness are common in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and the risk of miscarriage is also higher in the first three months (this is not linked to travelling). Travelling in the final months of pregnancy can be tiring and uncomfortable. Tommy’s