Pregnancy can be a time of excitement, joy, and wonder. But for 10 to 15% of women, it can also be a time of mental health stress, primarily depression. Depression during pregnancy may lead to poor self- care including poor diet, social isolation, self-medication with either pharmaceuticals, drugs or alcohol, and lack of sleep. These can lead to poor health outcomes for both mother and baby. For this reason, it is important to know if you might be at risk for mental health issues before you are pregnant and to work to maintain good mental health during and after pregnancy.
Where to start?
If possible, talk to your doctor about concerns before you are pregnant, or as soon as you find out. Starting the conversation early will help to lesson stress caused by uncertainly. Additionally, symptoms early in pregnancy such as changes in sleep and appetite are associated with both pregnancy and depression. Through discussions with your doctor he or she will help you to understand what you are experiencing. A diagnosis of depression may be appropriate after experiencing several symptoms for two or more weeks. Some of those symptoms include: persistent sadness, difficulty concentrating, feelings of guilt, and a loss of interest in once enjoyed activates, although only your doctor can make that diagnosis. Women with previous mental health issues or previous diagnosis of depression are at a higher risk of re-occurrence during pregnancy, so understanding your symptoms and course of treatment with your doctor is very important.
How to maintain good mental health?
Luckily, there are many options. If you are experiencing depression or another mental health issue, you and your doctor may discuss starting (or stopping) medical treatments. Research is still ongoing determining the safety of many medications during pregnancy, so only you and your doctor will be able to determine the best course of action for you.
Support groups are a great option for pregnant women, either experiencing mental health issues, or for those wanting to continue good mental health. These groups provide advice, understanding, and comradery. Some groups will be led by a trained professional (psychologist, therapist, counselor, etc.) or may be simply a gathering of women at a local center. Each group will have different offerings and can be helpful in different ways. For example, groups may encourage partners to attend, “assign” homework tasks, and/or provide community resources. If groups are not available in your area, there are many different online platforms that can provide similar support.
Personal therapy is also successful in helping pregnant women maintain good mental health or treat depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Each type of therapy will have a different focus. Some therapies will look at the relationship between the individual’s throughts, feelings, behaviors, and environment and how each affect mental health. Interpersonal therapy focuses on the role-change often felt during and after pregnancy. One-on-one therapy with a trained professional is an excellent mental health ‘tool’ to have before, during and after pregnancy. Providers can be found through reference from your doctor, through your insurance company, or through researching what is available if your area. Lastly, while not only for pregnant women, supportive therapy will provide reassurance and education to the family as well as they may be experiencing anxieties, stressors, and role-changes. It is important to note that when seeking therapy, you may need to try more than one therapist, or more than one treatment to find the right fit, and that’s ok. Discussing options with your doctor may help narrow down your options.
In addition to talking with your doctor and potentially seeking therapies, self-care is a must when pregnant or after having a baby. This includes eating a healthy, balanced diet, proper exercise and getting regular sleep. It is also important to do something for yourself that makes you feel good or helps you to relax: take a bubble bath, go for a walk on a sunny day, book a massage, or read. While self care is important, pregnant or not, it is particularly important during pregnancy as a key way to reduce stress and relax. Lastly, it may help to reach out to friends and family for help, especially if they offer. It is important to have those around you supporting you however they can, which may include letting them know about your mental health issues during pregnancy.
A bit about Moment Health…
Moment Health is a technology company that aims to prioritise Maternal Mental Health and provide new parents with the tools and knowledge they need to sustain good mental wellbeing – from pregnancy through to parenthood.
The Moment Health app has been developed with clinicians and healthcare professionals. It screens for perinatal, postnatal and associated anxieties, and includes additional features such as a helpful guide to practical and accessible coping strategies.
At Moment Health, our mission is to make maternal mental health mainstream #MakeItMainstream.
Download our App today