Mental Health During Pregnancy
Emotional and Mental Well Being
Your emotional and mental wellbeing are also key to your healthy pregnancy. From the moment you suspect or confirm that you are pregnant, things begin to change. Finding out you are pregnant is usually a very emotional experience – you are either delighted, terrified, or somewhere in between.
What surprises many women and their partners is the ongoing emotional changes that they feel during their pregnancy.
This is perfectly normal, but understanding what to expect and why, will help both you and your partner get the most enjoyment out of this amazing experience. Your feelings change– about yourself, your baby, your relationships and your future.
You begin to think about the realities of being a mother and how you will adapt to this new role. Many women think more about their own childhood and their relationship with their own mother during pregnancy.
If this is your first pregnancy you may feel a little anxious about being a good parent, and about caring for your baby. This is perfectly normal– most women worry about not being able to cope with the day-to-day baby care. Having a good support network in place like your partner and family before the birth will help you feel more confident that you can do it, so make sure you discuss your fears and worries with them.
Try and learn as much as you can about caring for a newborn baby, and speak to other mothers that you know. Having this knowledge will make you feel better prepared when your baby is born.
There will be big changes in your hormone levels during pregnancy. It is common to have mood swings and it is not something you have much control over.
Nearly all pregnant women have emotional ups and downs. You can have times of feeling unsure and panicky, having extreme reactions to minor things and crying. Getting used to the changes in pregnancy is not always easy.
Changes in your hormone levels also mean you have physical symptoms like feeling sick and tiredness, so remember to get plenty of rest and continue to do what you enjoy doing. Talking about your feelings and your concerns to your partner, or to somebody close to you, will help to put things in perspective and help you to cope.
It is normal for couples, and especially the mother, to worry about the health of their baby.
What if there is something wrong? Will he or she be normal? It is helpful to know that many other pregnant women have worries, anxieties and fears like yours – about pregnancy, labour and looking after a new baby. Although it is normal to have some worries while you are pregnant and to feel a bit down from time to time, it is more serious if you are feeling low or depressed a lot of the time. Talk about your concerns with your GP, midwife or obstetrician.
The parent education classes will help to answer some of your concerns and you will have an opportunity to talk with other women who are around the same stage in pregnancy as you.
While most women feel that pregnancy and new motherhood is a happy time, another group of women find that they cannot feel happy at all. About one in five women have some level of depression in pregnancy – they worry, lose confidence, don’t sleep well and become exhausted.
They think they are unlovable and unattractive, their relationships go wrong and they can feel numb, trapped and dull with little interest. They may feel irritable and angry. They may have a continuous bad mood.
When you feel depressed, it may seem that no one cares or that nothing else matters. We don’t usually know the reason for having a low mood or depression in pregnancy. If you have had depression in the past then there is a risk it will happen again when you are pregnant and afterwards.
There are many ways to treat depression in pregnancy. You can manage mild to moderate depression by having a well-balanced approach to life. Having a good diet and exercising will help you to stay well and overcome your low mood and depression. Some women need anti-depressant medication to control the difficult effects of their depression.
If you are taking antidepressant medication and you unexpectedly get pregnant, talk to your GP before you stop taking your medication.
A bad day is normal. A bad week is not. Talking to someone you trust is helpful. Accepting help early on means you could have a quicker recovery. If you are anxious about your pregnancy or the birth of your baby or had a previous difficult birth, then talking with your GP or midwife will help. If you feel anxiety or panic attacks are affecting your ability to do your normal activities then seek help early from either your GP or support midwife.
The Rotunda offers women a supportive counselling service. Talking helps women to develop a sense of perspective about the situation and allows them to think about what steps they can take to get back a sense of control in their life.
We have a dedicated midwife who is happy to offer support and information to any woman who needs it during their pregnancy and after the baby’s birth.
To make an appointment with the mental health support midwife, telephone 01 817 2541 or 01 873 0632.
Excellent information on mental health in pregnancy and postnatal mental health is available on the Royal College of Psychiatrists website: www.rcpsych.ac.uk
Although it might sound like your pregnancy is going to be nothing but a long string of emotional crises, this is not the case for most women. You will have various ups and downs, but you will usually be able to manage these, especially if you have a supportive and involved partner. Remember that most pregnant women experience all the emotions you are going through.
They are perfectly normal and you shouldn’t allow yourself to get stressed by them. Pregnancy is a wonderful experience, so don’t allow normal emotional changes to ruin that experience for you!
Finally, remember that one of the main tasks for you during the nine months of your pregnancy is to mentally prepare yourself for motherhood. To successfully prepare yourself for becoming a mother you need to be completely honest and open about these feelings.
Making Sure You Are Safe
Research shows that some women are at greater risk of violence from their partner when they are pregnant. This can be physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse. If you are worried about this, you can speak in confidence to the hospital social worker on 01 817 1722 or contact the Women’s Aid National Helpline at 1800 341 900 between 10.00 am and 10.00 pm every day.