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Mental Health During Pregnancy

For any woman carrying life

Macro Photography of Pink Flowers Photo by Ray Bilcliff: https://www.pexels.com/photo/macro-photography-of-pink-flowers-1579413/

Pregnancy is a unique and extraordinary experience. The moment you find out you are expecting, your entire world changes. It may take some time to realise what it means. The process of understanding that you are carrying life is something that is not easily described. You may feel a rollercoaster of emotions including extreme relief, happiness, and excitement, however, what is often left undiscussed is how common mental health issues are during pregnancy. 

Mental health and depression 

Pregnancy and the first year after childbirth are a time during which women are at heightened risk of experiencing psychological distress. It is a known fact that stress during pregnancy is associated with a range of negative outcomes for the mother and her child.

Pregnancy itself involves big and sudden lifestyle changes. These include psychological, physiological, and social life changes which are all associated with one another. Keeping up your social life the way you used to can be challenging for different reasons such as lack of energy. You may find that your social and personal life changes cause you to feel isolated and lonely. A study investigating loneliness during pregnancy finds that all their participants, who were first-time mothers, reported feeling lonely during their transition to motherhood. As common as they are, loneliness and social isolation are major risk factors for depression

We often hear about postpartum depression, but we rarely hear about pregnancy depression. Depression is a mood disorder affecting mood and behaviour. It is characterised by low mood, persistent feelings of sadness, and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. Studies show that as many as one in six women experience depression during pregnancy, and one in five in the first three months after childbirth. This shows that depression during and after pregnancy is extremely common. 

Stigma

While pregnancy is one of the most unique and beautiful experiences for many women, it is a complicated journey in many ways. It can be one of the hardest some women will go through. It can and often does include lots of negative emotions and thoughts. Unfortunately, women often feel like they must constantly be excited about motherhood. But the reality is, that becoming a mother means so much more than being pregnant and simply giving birth. It is a massive responsibility and a lifelong commitment. The realisation itself can be scary and overwhelming, especially since it can take a long time for your mind to wrap around it. 

In other words, it is completely normal to experience stress, worry, and anxiety during pregnancy. Know that you are not alone and that there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Seeking help

Not all symptoms of psychological distress mean you suffer from depression. It is also important to keep in mind, that a certain level of worry and stress is normal. Experiencing sadness can also be explained by the hormonal changes that take place throughout pregnancy to some extent

However, if you experience certain symptoms all the time such as constant sadness, low mood, hopelessness, loss of interest and appetite for a longer period, contact your doctor or midwife as soon as possible. Symptoms of depression can be managed with appropriate treatment methods such as psychological therapy, support groups, and in some cases medication such as antidepressants. 

Self-help

There are ways you can also improve your mood and help yourself feel better:

  • Being open and honest about your negative thoughts and feelings can be difficult due to the stigma around depression and especially in the context of pregnancy. However, talking about your experience may help you feel less isolated and more understood by your close ones. Especially those you live with. 
  • You may have noticed your energy levels decrease or fluctuate during pregnancy. Increasing your physical activity is shown to improve physical and emotional wellbeing, and it increases your energy levels as well. It also brings a sense of accomplishment that contributes to the improvement.
  • Engaging in hobbies and other activities you enjoy or have enjoyed in the past can significantly improve your mood by stimulating your brain. These activities can be intellectual, artistic, or musical.
  • Having healthy eating habits, especially during pregnancy is not only important for your baby’s development but also your wellbeing. Our dietary choices have a direct impact on the brain and mental health:  How Nutrition Affects Your Brain and Mental Health – Women’s health
    66 Views In recent years, more and more researchers have focused on the link between nutrition and the brain. It has…womenshealthweb.com

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