- Everything from the way we handle stressful things, the thoughts that cross our mind, the choices we make and our ability to relate to others affects our mental health. Other than life experiences like abuse or trauma, genetic factors, or a family history of mental health issues, the constant stress created by the mountain of daily tasks and numerous responsibilities of life have made us susceptible to mental health issues. During a delicate phase like pregnancy when the body is a cocktail of raging hormones that can play complete havoc with the emotional state of the would-be-mom, attending to her mental health becomes even more important.
Pregnancy and Mental Health
- Pregnancy might not just be the bubbly thoughts of buying cute baby shoes and cribs, feelings such as anxiety or nervousness may also seep into the thoughts of a mom-to-be. As per global estimates, about 13% of new moms and 10% of pregnant women are diagnosed with mental disorders.
- Anxious thoughts such as “Will I be a good mother?” and “Can I afford to raise a baby?” or depressing thoughts like “How do I balance my work and home stress?” start mounting up and can snowball into mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Some women are also diagnosed with other mental issues like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders like anorexia nervosa or bulimia, bipolar disorders and panic attacks. The following factors put a woman at a greater risk of developing mental health issues during pregnancy:
- Going through an abuse currently or being affected by a past abuse
- Alcohol or drug addiction
- Feeling unsupported
- Having a history of problems that affect your mental health
- Going through a rough time in your relationship
Spot the Red Flags
- Ideally, all pregnant mothers should monitor their mental well-being regularly. You should consult your healthcare professional promptly if you see any warning signs such as:
- Symptoms of depression like feeling hopeless or losing interest in activities that you enjoyed earlier
- Feeling worried or anxious most of the time
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Constantly feeling worried or sad for more than 2 weeks
- Panic attacks
- Negativity that affects your motivation to perform daily activities
- It is important to address mental health issues on time as they could harm the growing baby. Following is a list of tips that will help you cope with mental health issues and stress before, during and after pregnancy:
- Take medications: Taking the medications prescribed to you to treat mental health during your pregnancy or if you are planning to get pregnant is the best way to a healthy pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about your pregnancy status and your mental health issues so that the medicines are safe for you and your baby. If you are a pregnant mom taking medicines for mental health, make sure to update your doctor intermittently about your medication schedule as some medications might affect the baby’s health and growth.
- Talk it out: Having a one-on-one conversation with your doctor, husband, therapist, friend, midwife or with pregnant moms in support groups can help you feel better and less stressed about your mental health. You can also obtain financial solutions for planning your child’s future or dealing with family finances by taking to counsellors or social workers. Do not be afraid to talk about your feelings with your doctor or midwife.
- Self-help is the best help: The following is a bunch of self-care tips that will help you let go of the mental stress and issues during pregnancy and help improve your health:
- Stay physically active: Remain physically active during the pregnancy as research states that exercising or being physically active releases endorphins (hormones that make you happy). So, ask your doctor for a suitable exercise program for you and get going (do rest when you need to).
- Eat healthily and regularly.
- Be realistic about what you can do. Ask for help when you need it.
- Do not consume alcohol or drugs for stress relief; perform yoga or meditation to de-stress instead.
- Meet up other moms-to-be and join a support group.
- Do not set unrealistic goals and expect too much of yourself.
- A mental health issue is no more a stigma, but is a major health concern. So, do not be shy, afraid or nervous to discuss your mental health issues because your baby matters more than other people’s opinions. You can talk to professional mental health experts and gynaecologists on the HealthAssure app. You can also find support groups for pregnant moms on http://www.healthassure.in.
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