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Mental Well-being during Pregnancy and Post Pregnancy

16 Feb 2015

If you are reading this article probably you are would be mother or father concerned about your/your spouse’s mental well-being during this miraculous phase of life! So Kudos for this first step yes

A mother nurtures an entire life (or more) inside her body! The child breathes, sleeps, feeds and has his/her tiny heartbeats with the mother. Isn’t that a miracle in itself? Since child derives all the growth inputs from the mother, mother’s mood, stress level, eating habits, physical and mental health, affect the little one/s too. So it is the prerogative of the mother & father to make the journey of pregnancy less bumpy and more fun for you and your and your little one!!

 

By definition, pregnancy is, “The period from conception to birth of the child”. In this period, mother’s body goes through innumerable changes both physically & mentally. The physical well-being of the mother is well looked-after by gynecologists but often mental wellbeing which is a major element of a mother’s overall wellness, is left out. Pregnancy can be a very stressful & emotionally overwhelming phase for the mother.

 

Recent studies have shown that up to 27% of women in metro cities in India suffer from depression, mood or anxiety disorders during the gestation and postpartum periods. Whether the symptoms develop at the onset of pregnancy or are a continuation of a previous history, women face a difficult decision about how to manage their mental issues during pregnancy.

 

To cite an example, a 28 year old lady, pregnant with her first baby suddenly around third month of her pregnancy, started to have long periods of sadness & crying spells. She would remain very quiet and avoid social gatherings. She also had a very poor lifestyle, where her average day would be consumed in accomplishing household work. Family members had varied explanations and would label her symptoms as “just fatigue” to “some-one’s evil eye”. Thankfully her gynecologist noticed the changes in her and explained to the lady & her spouse that her symptoms were not just fatigue but something more serious which needed urgent professional help. Gynecologist referred the lady to a clinical psychologist who after assessment concluded that the patient was having mild depression and helped her navigate through the rest of her pregnancy in a more effective and relaxed way.

The lady in the case above was lucky that her gynecologist took a pro-active step and helped the lady in getting quick & timely help. Unfortunately most women are not as lucky and continue to battle with similar symptoms and assume that these are “normal” changes associated with pregnancy.

It is therefore important to make the distinction of what can be considered as normal change during pregnancy and what clearly signals an impending problem, demanding urgent attention.

Be aware of the following symptoms during pregnancy:

  • Childbirth related anxieties that don’t leave the mind.
  • Poor coping skills with the present condition.
  • Lack of sleep/Inadequate sleep in the later stages of pregnancy.
  • Sudden excessive fears of all sorts ranging from the pain of delivering baby, of something going wrong or specific fears like from spiders, snakes or heights. (Remember fear is not once in a while thought. To qualify as a fear, it has to be persistent &unsettling)
  • Panic attacks resulting in breathlessness and rapid pulse and feeling of impending doom.
  • Eating related symptoms where there might be Loss of appetite due to fear of weight gain or excessive eating due to uncontrollable hunger
  • Excessive worrying about one’s own or baby s health or worrying about delivery process and post -delivery changes that may occur in one’s body and life style.
  • Sadness, Mood-swings, fits of range, getting angry on small things & crying spells.
  • Feelings of worthlessness & hopelessness

Be aware of the following stressors post-pregnancy:

  • Persistent sad mood
  • Lack of interest in looking after the baby
  • Poor sleep and appetite
  • Poor self-care & hygiene
  • Thoughts of Death, Killing self, Self-harm or Suicide
  • Post-delivery psychosis marked by bizarre disorganized behavior, severe mood swings and loss of contact with reality.
  • Excessive headaches, back-aches & other Psychosomatic Symptoms

To read more about psychosomatic symptoms click here 

If you notice any of these or any other marked changes in your usual self, habits or social interactions, you should plan a meeting with a counselor or a psychotherapist to help you ease out your symptoms & anxieties so that you can enjoy this beautiful phase of your life.

Pregnancy & Post pregnancy Depression & Anxiety can  affect women of any age, background or socio-economic status. However,

Following Conditions can be risk factors for mental issues in pregnant women:

  • Conditions like Thyroid & Diabetes
  • Previous history of Depression, anxiety or any other mental issue/disorder
  • Stressful life events: Recent or past and chronic
  • Financial difficulties.
  • Personality Traits like Narcissism.
  • Genetic predisposition of psychological issues.
  • Home-makers in nuclear urban families with a busy Spouse.
  • Complicated pregnancy.
  • Insufficient family or social support.
  • Experience of miscarriage or still birth before.

 Tips for managing pregnancy and post pregnancy stress:

Even if the mother is only experiencing mild stress, there are many things she can do to keep her mentally healthy & fit. Given below are some tips that can help beating that stress during pregnancy & post-pregnancy.

  • A healthy lifestyle is essential for physical and psychological well-being. Having a regular structured & healthy diet with proper greens, proteins and good carbohydrates is essential for a healthy mind & body of the mother & baby.
  •  Keep well hydrated & drink at least 10 glasses of water.
  • Have a proper sleep pattern with the same time to sleep & rise. Also maintaining a 7 hours’ good sleep is absolutely essential for the mother.
  • A nagging or unsupportive husband/partneror lack of family support can be a matter of concern. Adequate physical and emotional support is essential at this stage in a woman’s life and the family should look after the physical and mental well-being of the mother. Small chats, laughing, strolling or just sitting happily with partner can be therapeutic for the mother. (If such support is absent then seeking professional support is recommended to help vent out ones stress and for guidance to sailing smoothly through this important phases of your life).
  • Stay in a clean and peaceful ambience
  • Breathing exercises in the morning with partner are therapeutic.
  • When confronted with minor mood swings, simply tune in some favorite music, watch an old favorite movie or turn to mentally challenging activities like puzzles or professional work.
  • Have an active walking routine for both mornings & evenings. Light walks are amazing stress-busters.
  • Light pregnancy friendly exercises are also a must as they will help to align the body with mind positively & will also build physical strength & resilience.
  • Going for outdoor activities is essential even if it a stroll with the pet or a walk with kids to the nearby park or mall.
  • Tai-chi & Yoga classes could be great for maintaining mind-body balance and also serve social needs.
  •  In home activities, activities like creative cooking or making a painting can be great. They not only keep the mother busy but also give her a sense of accomplishment which can have a very positive impact on her mood.
  • Other activities may include going for shopping, getting a new hair cut or makeover (might boost your confidence) or a spa trip.
  • Seeking a psychotherapist’s & Counselor’s support is not just for mental disorders. Mental well-being professionals trained in positive psychology can help mother & father by structuring a custom routine & plan tailored to the needs of the couple thus enabling the parents to enjoy every moment during and post the joyous journey of pregnancy.

The bottom line is that Mother’s mental & emotional well-being is crucial. Like ignorance of mother’s physical health is unacceptable, so is ignorance of her mental health and emotional needs. Mom’s happy mind is crucial for a happy & healthy babysmiley


Tags: #Pregnancy #Post-Partum Depression #Anxiety #Childbirth