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Pregnancy and mental health. 8 ways to take care of you– and why it’s so important.



Pregnancy is an exciting time for many expectant mothers – but all too often, it’s also a deeply challenging time for their mental health. Your body goes through a myriad of changes during pregnancy that can directly and indirectly impact your mood. It's normal, but there are definitely things you can do to help. 



One out of every three pregnant women will develop a depressive or anxiety disorder, according to new post-pandemic research. Other women may experience panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or even eating disorders. So if you’ve been feeling anything other than ecstatic, know that you’re not alone – and that your feelings are incredibly valid. 


How and why your mental health might change during pregnancy.


During pregnancy, there are a lot of unique changes happening to your life, body, and relationships that can have a big impact on your mental health.

Every system in the body changes to adapt to pregnancy.

  1. Υour endocrine system (which controls your hormones) starts producing more estrogen and progesterone to support your growing fetus.

  2. The placenta facilitates surges in steroids to change your metabolism and ensure that your baby gets the nutrients it needs.

These changes are most significant in the first trimester, and can make a person more vulnerable to mood changes, intrusive thoughts, panic, or weepiness. 


Other factors may trigger anxiety, such as:

  1. Women with medical conditions can increase stress levels for them.

  2. Many people also experience stress during pregnancy from their families or other social supports.

  3. If you have a history of childhood trauma, pregnancy might also make you reflect on those experiences.

  4. You and your partner also might feel the strain of preparing for the arrival of your baby, whether that’s financial stress or anticipating the big lifestyle changes that are coming. 

  5. The physical changes that come with pregnancy might also indirectly affect your mood. You might struggle with self-image as your body changes during pregnancy.

  6. Constant nausea or morning sickness might wear at your well-being.

  7. People with a personal or family history of mood disorders (like depression or anxiety), who have limited social support, who are low-income, or who are experiencing domestic violence are at greatest risk of having mental health issues during or after pregnancy. 


Why it’s important to take care of your mental health during pregnancy.


The importance of mental health during pregnancy cannot be understated because it impacts both you and your growing baby. Stress has adverse effects on the mother and the developing fetus

Research shows that prenatal depression or other forms of prenatal stress are associated with

  1. an increased risk of low birth weight,

  2. preterm birth,

  3. and pregnancy complications.

Moms with untreated mental health conditions during pregnancy are also more likely to develop postpartum depression, anxiety, and even more serious conditions that can impact their well-being as well as their ability to bond with their baby.

It can also make it harder for a mom to take care of herself, which in turn can worsen one’s mental health. 

For all of these reasons, it’s really important to be proactive about your mental health during pregnancy. But moms shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed for needing help as there is already a lot of pressure on pregnant women says. Pregnancy is objectively a challenging period of life, and it’s okay to feel overwhelmed, worried, or sad about all of the changes. But taking your mental well-being seriously – and flagging to your doctor or loved ones when you need help – is essential.

 

How to improve your mental health during pregnancy.


Most of the things that work to support your mental health outside of pregnancy – like therapy, self-care, physical activity, and more – also work really well while you’re pregnant. You might have to make some tweaks to accommodate the realities of pregnancy (for example, you might slightly adjust what kind of exercise you do to ensure it’s safe for you and the baby) but otherwise, don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel. Here are some suggestions:


  • Incorporate some physical activity in your day.

Decades of research has shown that exercise can help reduce the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Other studies have shown that moderate-intensity exercise during pregnancy can reduce the risk of prenatal depression.

As our minds and our bodies are intricately connected, add a few minutes of activity in your daily routine, especially pairing it with other techniques like breathing exercises and grounding activities. Check in with your health-care provider first to make sure you’re working out safely. 


  • Lean on your support system.


Humans are social creatures, and having people you love and trust to lean on is really important for emotional well-being.

Talk about what you’re going through with loved ones, ask for help from your partner, and make a point to spend time regularly with friends. However, “avoid interacting with people or content that promote unrealistic expectations for parenthood, as that might contribute to self-criticism or judgment. (Same goes for judgy or unsupportive folks.)


  • Prioritize restful sleep when you can.

Sleeping well while pregnant is easier said than done, especially when your growing bump makes it hard to get comfortable (and demands multiple bathroom trips in the night). But getting quality sleep can help improve stress, depression, anxiety, and your overall mental health. Investigate what’s keeping you up at night – like aches and pains, heartburn, ruminating thoughts, or some combination – and do what you can to address them, whether that’s investing in a good pregnancy pillow, keeping tums by your bedside, or journaling before bed to help you relax and unwind. By nailing this now, you’ll be better prepared for handling (and addressing) the sleep deprivation that comes with taking care of a newborn. 


  • Talk yourself up in the mirror when you’re feeling anxious or doubtful.

The thought of being a parent can be daunting, even for the most prepared, and it’s natural to feel doubts or worries. If your anxiety is leading to negative self-talk (such as: You’re going to be a terrible mom, you should be better at this, try to focus on affirming statements instead. 

Pick a positive mantra that feels right, like: Today I will try my best or I am already a good mom and stick it on the bathroom mirror.

Repeat it to yourself out loud a few times in the morning while looking in the mirror. This might feel silly, but research suggests that self-affirmation might help rewire your brain to help you feel more positive about yourself and your worth.  


  • Make care plans for birth and postpartum.

Pregnancy comes with a lot of uncertainty, which can cause stress or anxiety. Make a birthing and postpartum care plan with your partner and your healthcare provider to give you some sense of control and agency. 

Many women are focused on the birth that they forget to prep for postpartum, but by thinking about certain factors like whether you’re going to allow visitors (and when), use bottles, or you want to prep certain foods ahead of time, you can alleviate some anxiety and set you up for a less stressful postpartum experience.


  • Try yoga, meditation, or other mindfulness activities to manage stress.

Research shows that mindfulness techniques, like yoga and meditation, can help pregnant women with anxiety, depression, and stress. These kinds of activities help you get grounded in your body, focus on the present moment, and accept feelings without judgment before letting them go. Yoga in particular is also a safe low-impact exercise for pregnant women.


  • Talk to a therapist.

Talk therapy has long been an effective way to help people manage mental health conditions, and that’s true during pregnancy, too. If you have means and access, a therapist can be a really helpful way to talk about the emotions that are coming up during pregnancy, trouble-shoot certain stressors, and get validation and support for your journey. 


  • Ask your doctor about treatment options if needed.

You should always keep your ob-gyn or healthcare practitioner looped in about how you’re feeling and be honest when you’re given any mental health screenings at your appointment. 

Pregnancy can be a joyous time, the statistics show it can also be an incredibly tumultuous time and the good news is that treatment is shown to be effective! Your doctor can help talk through treatment options such as evidence based therapy, evaluation for medication considered safe during pregnancy, as well as help you put a plan in place for more support and resources.


“A healthy, happy mother is necessary for a healthy, happy child. I wish you well.


Find all beneficial information regarding nutrition during pregnancy to my Ebooks “Nutrition during pregnancy “ available at https://www.taniastouchofhealth.com/category/all-products



Tania L.

EasyFit Rehab Instructor

IBBFA Barre Instructor Level 1,2,3,PrePostNatal

Barre Eclipse Instructor

ISSA Certified Nutritionist

ISSA Certified Personal Trainer.

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