Mental Health & Pregnancy
Pregnancy is a challenging journey. It takes a huge toll on your body in different ways, you see the growing bump, the need for a new bra size or surprise backpain - but one less obvious affect pregnancy has on your body, is your mental health.
It's common to worry when you become pregnant, especially if it's your first pregnancy or an unplanned one. And it can be even harder if you're dealing with depression or anxiety.
If you're feeling worried, sad, or nervous, you should talk to someone about it — and know that there are people who want to help.
The worries that may surface along your pregnancy journey may feel overwhelming - but remember that you're not alone, and many birth partners can feel the same.
Ways to improve your mental wellbeing during pregnancy
- Stay physically active (check with your doctor or midwife before you start an exercise program) = Mental health can have a huge impact on physical health, and vice versa. That's why it's important when you feel mentally low, to keep your physical health maintained for both you & your baby. Taking care of yourself may look like; getting enough sleep, eating regular nutritious meals, exercising, & taking necessary vitamins.
Doing these activities will improve you physical health by providing your body with the necessary fuel and activity which in turn, allows you to focus on improving your mental health.
- Build your support network - Talking to other expectant parents who share the same anxieties and frustrations you are experiencing is often very reassuring and provides you with confidence as a new parent. This could mean going to local parent-baby groups, accessing online support (e.g. websites like netmums have forums where you can talk to other parents). Or using specialist organisation that have been created to help new parents develop their support networks (such as NCT and Home-Start).
- Spend time with people who make you feel relaxed & good about yourself - This is similar to the point above, but it's not just about parenting confidence, it's about YOU. Spending an hour or so doing something that you enjoy is vital for your overall wellbeing. This may mean reading a book, having a chat with a friend, drawing or doing something that you know makes you feel relaxed. It shouldn't be underestimated how doing something you enjoy every day can drastically improve your wellbeing.
- Be realistic about what you can do, and rest when you need to - It's important to remember you're growing a whole other life inside your body, so you're going to need time to recover as your body experiences changes.
- Try not to make major changes at this time, like moving house or changing jobs, unless you have to - these changes have their own added stresses, which aren't helpful when experiencing pregnancy. It's best to avoid these changes, if possible, to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
- Accept help if it’s offered to you; ask for help if you need it.
When Should I Get Help?
It's important to pay attention and treat mental health concerns during pregnancy. Mothers who are depressed, anxious, or have another issue might not get the medical care they need.
Talk to your midwife or doctor about your overall health and any current or past mental health issues. If these medical professionals know your full medical history, there are ways to reduce the risk by providing support.
It's normal to have mood swings during pregnancy. But if you feel nervous or down all the time, it could be a sign of something deeper going on. Some pregnant women may experience (for the first time) depression or anxiety, for more information about these mental health concerns please visit https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/mental-health/.
There are plenty of options of support out there which vary widely, so you can decide which options are best for you, or use a selection of services that have been created to support you. You may benefit from peer support programmes for people with perinatal mental health problems such as PANDAS.