Mental health is often a taboo topic, but it's something that should be talked about more openly. Especially when it comes to pregnancy. Pregnant women often feel like they have to put on a brave face and pretend like everything is okay, but that's not the case. Pregnancy can affect mental health in both positive and negative ways, and it's important to get the support you need.
Pregnancy can be a really pleasant and exciting time. However, not all women experience this. You might feel torn or even uncomfortable about becoming pregnant. It can be more difficult for you than for others to handle the adjustments and uncertainties that come with being pregnant. Several factors can influence how you feel during pregnancy. These include your physical health, your social environment, and stressful life events.
Your body undergoes a variety of changes throughout pregnancy. The realities of pregnancy include morning sickness, backaches, headaches, leg cramps, varicose veins, itchiness, constipation, hemorrhoids, indigestion, and vaginal discharge. Naturally, they can also have an impact on how you feel about being pregnant.
Some women worry about what lies in store for them. Perhaps you didn't plan to become pregnant. Perhaps you're concerned about how a new child will impact your marriage or your career. Or perhaps you're worried about having a baby. You might experience some or all of these fears during your pregnancy. They are all ordinary worries. However, if these feelings of sadness, anxiety, or worry begin to interfere with your life, there may be a more serious issue.
What emotions and conditions can occur during pregnancy?
Mood changes are typical throughout pregnancy. However, if you experience anxiety or depression all the time, it may indicate a more serious issue. Pregnancy-related stress, physical changes, and regular worry can all have an impact.
Here are other emotions that may occur when you are pregnant:
- Panic episodes, which include shivering, trembling, a racing heart, palpitations, and a sense of being physically “separated” from your environment
- Continuous anxiety, frequently centered on health issues
- Feeling depressed, sad, or crying without apparent cause
- Having little or no interest in enjoyable activities (like time with friends, exercise, eating or being with your partner)
- Being tense or uneasy
- Having constant fatigue
- Struggling to fall asleep
- Losing interest in intimacy or sex
- Experiencing a fear of leaving your infant alone
- Recurring disturbing thoughts of hurting yourself or your child
- Having difficulty concentrating, focusing, or remembering
Other mental health conditions that pregnant women may experience include:
- Bipolar Disorder (episodes of low-energy depression and high-energy mania)
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Eating problems (like bulimia or anorexia nervosa)
What mental health issues can occur after childbirth?
A baby's birth is an extremely emotional experience. You can be exhausted from having the baby, sore from giving birth, tired from not getting enough sleep, and worried about being a good mother. Motherhood is a lot of work! Several strong emotions, ranging from delight and excitement to fear and anxiety, can be sparked by the birth of a baby. But giving birth can also lead to depression, which you might not expect.
Postpartum baby blues
Most new moms suffer from postpartum baby blues, which include mood swings, crying outbursts, anxiety, and insomnia. Baby blues usually start two to three days after delivery and can last up to two weeks. The baby blues may result from hormonal changes that take place after birth.
Mood swings are brought on by an abrupt drop in estrogen and progesterone levels after delivery. Some people may have a sudden decline in thyroid hormone production, which may leave them feeling exhausted and down. These symptoms might be worsened by getting insufficient sleep and eating poorly.
Other symptoms related to baby blues are:
- Feeling overpowered
- Decrease in concentration
- Appetite issues
Postpartum depression, on the other hand, is more severe and pervasive. It's sometimes called peripartum depression because it can start during pregnancy and last after delivery. There's nothing wrong with a person's character if they suffer from postpartum depression. Sometimes it's just a side effect of childbirth. Getting postpartum depression treated as soon as possible will help you control your symptoms and strengthen your relationship with your baby.
It's easy to confuse postpartum depression with baby blues, but the symptoms are more severe. These could eventually make it hard for you to do things like take care of your child. In the first few weeks after giving birth, symptoms start popping up. They can start earlier — during pregnancy — or later — up to a year after delivery.
Symptoms of postpartum depression can include:
- Feeling depressed or moody
- Excessive crying
- Having a hard time bonding with your newborn
- Relationships with friends and family are strained
- Eating more than usual or losing appetite
- Sleeplessness or sleeping too much
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Loss of interest and enjoyment in previously enjoyable activities
- Extreme annoyance and anger
- Feeling like you're a bad mom
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, remorse, or inadequacy
- Having trouble making decisions, concentrating, and thinking clearly
- Feeling restless
- Stress and anxiety attacks
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
There's a chance the second parent's mental health might also be compromised after having a baby. A 2019 study found that new dads can also experience extreme sadness known as paternal postpartum depression, which can start before or after birth. They might feel anxious, depressed, exhausted, or overwhelmed, or they might change their eating and sleeping schedules.
Paternal postpartum depression is more likely to affect young, depressed, interpersonally troubled, or financially challenged fathers. It may have negative effects on a child's growth and loving relationships. If you're the partner of a new mother and you're experiencing depression or anxiety, speak to your doctor right away. Similar therapies and supports can be used to treat paternal postpartum depression as they are for mothers who also suffer from the disorder.
What can I do to stay mentally healthy while I'm pregnant?
During pregnancy, there are lots of things you can do to help manage your mental health, including:
- Eat a balanced, nutritious diet
- Keep your alcohol consumption to a minimum. Stop drinking if you can
- Quit smoking and ask your midwife or doctor for help
- Spend some time every week doing something you like or that makes you feel good
- Meditate or practice mindfulness through a class or an app
- Give your loved ones a hand with household chores, shopping, etc.
- Work out (ask your midwife about fitness during pregnancy and local exercise classes)
- Get enough sleep
- Prepare a well-being plan to help you think about what support you might need during and after your pregnancy
What are the possible treatments for some mental health issues during pregnancy?
Among the possible treatments for mental health issues that occur during pregnancy are:
Before starting or stopping any medications while pregnant, always see a doctor. Inform your doctor that you are pregnant, or that you intend to get pregnant, when taking any medication for a mental health condition. Unless your doctor instructs you to stop taking it, don't quit. Your growing baby may experience issues from some medications, but things could get worse if you stop taking your medicine. The best course of action for you and your unborn child can be determined by your doctor.
Yoga, exercise, and meditation are practices that often provide comfort for many women, especially those who are dealing with the hormonal and physical changes tied to pregnancy. Talking to a friend, a member of your family, or a member of your faith community can also help you feel better if you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
One-on-one therapy sessions with a therapist can be an excellent method to handle depression, reduce anxiety, and manage stress during pregnancy. It might also be beneficial to join a group where you can discuss your worries with other mothers who understand what you're going through. You can deal with financial problems, concerns about raising children, and other difficulties in your life by speaking with a social worker or counselor.
Self-help isn't always enough. Getting professional help might be a good idea. In the stressful postpartum period, one or a combination of therapies can help new moms and their partners cope:
- Talk therapy, or psychotherapy
- Couples therapy, especially if both parents are struggling or your relationship is suffering
- Alternative therapies, like exercise, massage, and acupuncture
Last but not least, remember that prenatal and postpartum depression is common and treatable. Asking for help when you're struggling is the best thing you can do for your family. Click the button below to schedule a free initial consultation. Let's make sure you get the support you need to manage your mental health and pregnancy.