Mental wellness during pregnancy

May 3, 2019
Finding out you are pregnant can be very exciting, but it can also bring feelings that make you uncomfortable, unwell and worries. You may be...

Finding out you are pregnant can be very exciting, but it can also bring feelings that make you uncomfortable, unwell and worries. You may be filled with thoughts about how you will be able to cope. This roller coaster of emotions doesn’t stop after birth. Some mothers will easily adapt to life with a new born while others will struggle greatly.

Physical and emotional changes

Pregnancy and new parenthood are full of emotions – good and not so good. Pregnancy changes your body in all sorts of ways. Morning sickness, backache, headache, leg cramps and varicose veins are just some of the realities of pregnancy. They can affect how you feel about being pregnant.

Others may be worried by what the future holds. These worries may stem from the fact that it was probably an unplanned pregnancy or how a new baby will affect any existing relationship. Issues around childbirth are also a cause for concern and worry.

It is normal to worry, and you may experience some or all of these things during the term of your pregnancy. If these feelings of anxiety, worry or sadness start affecting your life, there may be something more serious like depression or anxiety.

Experiencing depression before or after the birth of a baby is not unusual, and you are not alone. There are many terms for depression during this period including: the baby blues, postpartum depression, maternal depression, prenatal depression, postnatal depression, or perinatal depression and it may present itself in mild, moderate, or severe forms.

It can emerge in women who had a healthy pregnancy and who very much want to love their child. Depression should never be viewed as a sign of poor parenting, rather it is a sign of illness.

How does depression manifest itself?

Most mothers will experience an emotional roller coaster. It is important to seek expert advice if you experience the following symptoms

  • Constant feelings of sadness
  • Anxiety and worry
  • Difficulty in concentrating, remembering things or decision making
  • Excessive anger, irritability and crankiness
  • Sleeping or eating more than usual
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of interest in looking after yourself
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Fragile emotions
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Numbness and lack of emotion towards the baby
  • Fear of self-harm
  • Doubts about your ability to take care of the baby

How can we manage depression pre and post pregnancy?

Depression is treatable. The first step is seeking professional advice and assistance. There are a range of treatments for perinatal depression, including:

  • Increased support from family and friends
  • Focusing on health and wellness—including changes to diet and exercise routine
  • Support groups for new mothers or people with depression
  • Mental health counseling
  • Medication that can help relieve symptoms

Even with all these treatment options, the most important thing you can do is look after yourself and your baby.