Maintaining mental wellbeing during pregnancy
Pregnancy can and should be an incredibly special journey towards an even more special destination: motherhood. However, pregnancy also comes with a lot of physical and emotional changes and challenges, which means that not every woman will enjoy these unique nine months to their fullest. When pregnancy feels miserable, it’s time to act rapidly: high levels of stress and anxiety, in fact, can be detrimental both to the mum and her growing baby.
Maintaining good mental health throughout pregnancy is possible and should be the goal of all expecting mums. If you would like to learn some tips and tricks to ensure good mental well-being during your gestation, keep reading our essential guide.
Why is mental health so important during pregnancy?
The huge hormonal changes of pregnancy are one of the main culprits of expecting mums’ frequent mood swings. Feeling more vulnerable, emotional, and even overwhelmed at times is completely normal, as is experiencing mild levels of worry and stress.
Nonetheless, when anxiety turns into an everyday occurrence, and its levels are high, then problems can occur. Increased and constant levels of stress and anxiety cause the body to respond by ramping up the production of the so-called “stress hormone”, cortisol. This hormone, in turn, can pose health risks to both the pregnant woman and her baby.
Looking after your mental health whilst pregnant, then, is paramount. Below you can find some simple, yet effective, ways to do so.
Talk about your problems and worries
Voicing your feelings is one of the best ways to ensure that you feel supported and understood. If you are in a relationship, you can start by talking to your partner about your fears, worries, and anxieties.
Single mums-to-be can rely on the love and care of family members and close friends. All pregnant women who are struggling should also speak to their GP or seek another type of professional help to sustain them throughout their gestation.
Journaling can help, too. Simply carve out a few minutes, every day, to sit in a quiet and comfortable place, put pen to paper and jot down how you are feeling.
Practice breathing exercises
Practicing breathing exercises is another simple day to ease worries and anxieties whenever they come up. Slow, aware, and meaningful breathing, in fact, enhances oxygen levels, calms your heart rate, and relaxes your muscles.
You can find lots of great exercises online, or you can download a meditation or mindfulness app that incorporates conscious breathing. Lighting up a delicately scented candle can help you to create a peaceful environment that will help you feel even more relaxed and connected to your baby.
Keep a healthy diet
Eating healthily is essential during pregnancy. Ensuring you get your recommended daily intake of all the main vitamins and nutrients supports both you and your growing baby, helping them to keep growing strong throughout the entire gestation.
If you are suffering from morning sickness, it might be difficult to follow a varied, nutritious diet during your first trimester. However, whenever you can, try to drink as much water as possible and replace sugary or salty snacks with healthier options.
Once you have reached the second trimester, things should get better, and you should be able to start eating more normally. Remember, though, that a few foods are off-limits during pregnancy, so try to avoid those.
Be physically active
Pregnancy can make you feel exhausted and lethargic, but it’s still very important to remain as active as possible. The good thing is that you don’t need to spend hours at the gym every week, go for long runs, or sweat it out at your usual cardio class.
A simple brisk walk, a slow swimming session, or a pregnancy yoga or Pilates class can do wonders for your body, your mind, and your baby. To reap all the benefits of exercise, try to be as consistent as possible and, if the weather permits it, take your workouts outdoors. After exercising, remember to treat yourself to a long, indulgent shower, and finish off with a luxurious moisturiser.
What not to do?
During pregnancy, it’s paramount that you do not smoke, consume alcohol or drugs, and limit your intake of caffeine. It’s also important not to compare yourself to other pregnant people that you know or read about on social media. Pregnant bodies are all beautifully different, and so are the effects of pregnancy on them.
Frequent mental problems in pregnancy, and available help and treatment
Some of the most frequent mental health problems in pregnancy include perinatal anxiety, perinatal depression, perinatal OCD, and perinatal psychosis. Treatment is available to help you if you experience any of these.
You can be referred to – or refer yourself – a counsellor and follow a series of talking therapy sessions. If your mental health problems are severe, your doctor might prescribe some medicines. Many medicines are safe to take during pregnancy, and their benefits significantly outweigh their rare and possible risks.
Speak with your GP or midwife if you feel that your mental health is declining, and they will be able to provide you with the best, safest, and most effective support.