Pregnancy and the period immediately after it is an exciting and joyful experience for many women, but it can also be marred by mental health issues. Postpartum depression affects up to 1 in 7 women in the US, which is why recognizing mental health needs during pregnancy and providing the right support is crucial. Here are eight tips you can use to support mental wellbeing before, during, and after childbirth:
1. Connect With Your Support Network: Pregnancy can feel overwhelming and isolating due to the vast physical, mental, and hormonal changes taking place. Make a point of reaching out to supportive family members and friends who can offer words of encouragement or lend an attentive, non-judgmental ear. Finding an online or in-person community of other pregnant mothers will accomplish the same goal – just knowing that you have access to people who understand your experience can help combat feelings of loneliness.
2. Prioritize Self-Care: Making time for yourself is especially important during pregnancy. Take advantage of any free moments you have available – whether it’s a five-minute yoga break or ten minutes spent listening to music – to give yourself moments of peace and relaxation. When possible, take yourself on dates – perhaps watching a movie or visiting a museum. These small acts of self-care can work wonders for mental wellbeing. Don’t forget physical nourishment and make sure to have regular meals.
3. Remain Physically Active: Exercise has benefits galore – for mental and physical well-being – so make sure to maintain some form of physical activity throughout your pregnancy by going on walks outdoors or taking part in at-home workouts (if approved by your doctor, of course). Doing so will not only keep you feeling fit, but should also boost serotonin levels, which could in turn help with the mild clinical anxiety and depression associated with hormone swings.
4. Get Enough Rest: Sleep deprivation is a common issue among expectant mothers. As night sweats, nausea, and restlessness may cause disrupted sleep cycles into the third trimester, ensure that you get enough rest whenever possible. Your bedroom environment should be comfortable and feature layers of blankets, as this could help create a feeling of coziness conducive for sleep. If sleeping on your back becomes uncomfortable, consider sleeping on your side instead, with pillows supporting specific body parts – for example, the belly or lower back.
5. Educate Yourself on the Available Mental Health Resources: Knowing which mental health resources are available near you is important when it comes to anticipating mental health concerns such as postpartum depression (PPD) or postpartum anxiety (PPA). Research nearby mental health clinics that provide professional postpartum care. Likewise, research local support groups.
6. Talk About Mental Health Openly With Your Caregiver: Take advantage of prenatal appointments to discuss mental health concerns openly with your caregiver, as they are likely aware of potential risk factors associated with prenatal mood disorders such as preterm labor risk due to prolonged stress levels. Some medical treatments such as Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation, which has been known to improve the mother’s mood while providing neurological advantages to the baby.
7. Recognize That ‘Selfishness’ Can Be All Right: Taking care of oneself emotionally should never be seen as being selfish. Make sure to dedicate sufficient time to being alone and indulging in activities that bring you joy, like reading books, watching movies, painting or even just having long baths – whatever works best for you. Asking for help from family can also help, so don’t hesitate to do it. After all, nobody knows what works best better than the expecting parent themselves.
8. Speak Up If You’re Struggling Mentally: If you don’t feel quite right mentally while pregnant; whether it’s feeling anxious about giving birth, worrying about future parenting roles, or struggling with intrusive thoughts; seek extra support from mental health professionals: psychologists, psychiatrists, or counselors. Sometimes just talking about our troubles helps us feel better about them. In some cases, medications may also be prescribed, but do speak openly about any concerns you may have before taking them; after all, talk therapy could work perfectly fine. As always, speaking more frankly and frequently with close friends about what you’re experiencing will help you feel that you’re not alone in your struggle.