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Your mental health during pregnancy: Support is vital. Here’s why!

Protect your mental health during Pregnancy.

Pregnancy is a demanding process. It takes over your life for three quarters of a year. It is a huge life change. In fact, your life is going to be altered forever. Of course, you have clear physical changes to cope with throughout a pregnancy. However, it is common to ignore the psychological changes that also occur. Those alone can have ramifications for the rest of your life.

A mother’s mental health affects both herself and her child. But there’s a problem. Psychological health is a huge under-considered aspect of the pregnancy journey.


How Common is the Problem?

The issue of mental health during pregnancy is more common than you think.

Twenty-five percent (1 in 4) of pregnant women have mental health problems. In terms of maternal mental health, about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have given birth experience a mental disorder or some kind of depression.

In developing countries, this figure is lower when you focus on one aspect, depression. Here, post-natal depression affects about 15.6% during pregnancy and 19.8% after childbirth.

These figures remain constant around the world. King’s College London published a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry, which found the same 25% of pregnant women experiencing mental health problems.  This was the first UK study of its kind. It focused on the prevalence of mental health problems or mental disorders when seen by a midwife for pregnancy care. The fact it reached the same conclusion is something you cannot ignore.


During the interviewing process, they made some interesting discoveries. Within the 25% with mental illness of some definition, they identified different issues or disorders. What they discovered was it wasn’t only depression (found in 11%)  and anxiety (found in 15%), but also eating disorders (2%), obsessive-compulsive disorder (2%), PTSD in under 1% and less commonly, bipolar disorder and other disorders.


It is already known that mental illness during pregnancy leads to negative life-outcomes. This applies to not only the mother but also the pregnancy itself and the child. This can cover birth through to adolescence for these children. This makes it clear as to the importance of getting the correct diagnosis. Of course, treating these conditions as early as possible is also key.


What to do if you feel depressed while pregnant?

Due to how common a problem this is, knowing how to deal with your depression is important. The good news is you have a number of avenues to explore should you feel depressed. This is not something you should suffer with on your own. This is not unique to you. We do recommend considering each point that we will discuss below.


1. Tap into a Local Community 

There are many community outreach groups and hospital counsellors with professional training. They can help if you need support in various ways. For conditions such as mild depression, you should have no difficulty in finding relevant support groups or professionals who can help. However, do note that more severe conditions may require specialist help or advice.

 

Your maternity clinic should have numbers and contact details of relevant professionals. Talk to a friend, counsellor or mental health professional. Sometimes talking to another expectant mother, or a recently new mom can help. This is due to knowing they have experienced something similar.


2. Find Professional Support


Support for mental health conditions is available in developed nations. Even some under-developed countries have various resources to support new mothers.


There are a number of groups, counsellors, psychologists, therapists and mental health practitioners available to deal with maternal mental health and psychological health during pregnancy. It’s important to realise that your mental health is tied to your baby’s mental and physical health. All clinics and hospitals will, at the very least, be able to put you into contact with the correct professional.

A pregnant women’s mental health can be integrated into general health care. This includes areas of Women’s Health, maternal and child health care, reproductive health care and other relevant services. It’s worth discussing this with your doctor.

What you must understand is that women are at greater risk of mental health problems. This is due to biology. Psychiatrists know that hormonal imbalances can cause significant psychiatric issues, which explains why pregnancy is such a problem.


The numerous changes experienced during pregnancy and the year following the birth are a real cause for concern. Add in lifestyle and hormonal changes to see how this places some women at risk of developing depression, anxiety or other less common mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder and postpartum psychosis.

 

3. Eat well and often

Diet is important especially at a time when your body is under significant strain. Keeping up your Vitamin B levels and Omegas is especially vital during pregnancy. This will help your nervous system cope with the additional strain put on it.

 

Eat plenty fruits and vegetables, along with your pre-natal vitamins and medication. Be sure to check with a healthcare practitioner whether your supplements are safe to take during pregnancy. The same care also applies to your medication.


Regular meals will keep your blood-sugar levels stable and prevent you from falling into sugar-highs and heavy carbohydrate depressive episodes. This instability of sugar levels can play a role in triggering these episodes. It is essential that you do what you can to prevent this happening.

A High Quality Prenatal Vitamin also goes a long way in helping you get the necessary vitamins and minerals during your pregnancy.



4. Exercise


Exercise helps maintain a positive mood and outlook. This is especially true at a time when your body’s physical shape is changing. After all, you need to cope with walking, moving and balancing differently.

 

Working your muscles as hard as you can manage is good as long as you don’t do too much. You may also discover that more strenuous exercises like swimming or running can trigger the release of endorphins into your system. Endorphins are happy hormones. They elevate your mood and promote a feeling of well-being and joy.


Mental health during pregnancy is important to monitor. Symptoms can often be confused with pregnancy mood changes and conditions like depression can go undiagnosed for a long time.


Pregnancy and gestation releases many different hormones at levels unfamiliar to you. This can then wreck havoc on your moods and feelings. If you have a history of depression or anxiety, pregnancy can have unsettling effects on your state of mind and being. Keep your emotional support groups close to you and ask for help if you feel overwhelmed or anxious about the changes happening in your life.

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