Looking after your mental health in pregnancy: Part One

This post originally appeared on Mummy Fever. Check them out for great recommendations especially on family travel!

When pregnant, we are often bombarded with advice on everything from the most flattering maternity wear to the best nappies, but how often do we talk about mental health as a pregnant mum? It’s estimated that between one in ten and one in five women experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or after the baby is born, and it’s common to feel low, anxious or overwhelmed. Here are some steps you can take during pregnancy to help improve your emotional wellbeing now, and prepare for the impact of the baby’s arrival.

Start finding your tribe

Think about the kind of support you will need with a new baby around. Are there family members or close friends nearby who are willing and able to support you? Perhaps you could start talking to them about the kind of support you would find helpful, be it practical or emotional. It may well be that your friendships will change over time and that you will meet new people over the course of pregnancy and new motherhood. Sometimes women will meet lifelong friends at antenatal classes or baby groups. After all, these are the people who will be awake and messaging you at 2am during night feeds!

Pregnancy problems

Physical problems during pregnancy can impact on your mental health. If you are unable to perform your normal tasks for a while, due to sickness, pain or fatigue, this may impact on your sense of identity and self-esteem. It may be helpful to try to identify the thoughts you are having e.g. ‘I’m not doing a good job’ or ‘I’m useless.’ Challenge these thoughts by telling yourself that you are doing a very important job indeed, and that you and your baby are the main priority right now, everything else can wait. If this is difficult, consider what you would say to a friend if she were having similar thoughts about herself; it’s often easier to kindly reassure a friend than it is to be kind and compassionate to ourselves.

Preparing for labour

An understandable contributing factor to anxiety during pregnancy is anticipation of the birth, whether it’s your first time or not. It’s a great idea to attend antenatal classes; ask your midwife what is available in your area. Choose your birth partner carefully. They should ideally be someone you are comfortable with and you can easily talk to about the fears you have. Many women of course choose their own partner but you (and they) may be more comfortable if you choose someone else like a close family member, a friend, or a professional doula. Hearing other women’s difficult birth stories can, understandably, raise your anxiety. It’s better to discuss your worries and any potential complications with your midwife, and if anyone is offering to tell you about their traumatic birth, say firmly but politely ‘I would rather not hear about it right now, thank you’. Avoid dramatized birth stories on television if you can; remember these are usually chosen as they make ‘good television’ rather than being an accurate reflection of birth. There are plenty of positive birth stories out there and, if you find it helpful, you can watch videos of positive births on YouTube. Tommy’s have more information on preparing for labour here https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/labour-birth/5-positive-ways-prepare-labour

A thoughtful gift for any pregnant friend is Mama Notes, the 12-week journal that supports mum in the early weeks of having a newborn baby. Shop here!

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