Taking Care Of Your Mental Health During And After Pregnancy
Being pregnant unfolds one of the most beautiful chapters of your life, yet it could also be the most stressful one.
Pregnancy can be a very emotional experience. Physiologically, your body's pumping out more hormones than ever, making space for a new life that’s growing inside of you. And then psychologically, you have to prepare for the little one and embrace the fact that your life will now be forever changed.
It’s normal and understandable to feel overwhelmed and scared at times, especially for the things that you can't control. But remember you're not alone, and there are always ways to make things better.
According to a 2020 study, as many as one in five moms suffer from mental health issues during pregnancy and after birth. Paying attention to our mental health is especially significant in the new normal, more so during pregnancy.
If you’re unsure about where to start, don’t worry! Here are a few things to remember to ensure that your mental well-being is protected during and after pregnancy:
Rest. Rest. Rest.
Give yourself a break! Moms and dads can get tired too. You're human after all! When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases cortisol, the main stress hormone that affects your mood, motivation, and fear. Too much cortisol in the body could lead to cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, and weight gain. Take a day off. Relax and get plenty of naps and sleep, this will decrease cortisol levels and will help you to keep going.
Always find “Me-time” to recharge and motivate yourself. Do things that you like, get something special for yourself, go on a date with your partner, spend a day with a friend, or buy some sweet treats. Self-love is a necessity. You deserve happy hormones!
Focus on food
All the hormones will make you want to eat strange things and hate some foods or smells that you normally like. And when the cravings hit, sometimes you just got to have it! And although you may want to indulge in all the food you’re craving, it’s best to be mindful about how some of them can impact your stress and anxiety levels.
According to Ali Miller, an integrative dietitian and the author of The Anti-Anxiety Diet, refined carbs like cookies and potato chips spike blood sugar and then cause it to crash, which increases stress and anxiety. Drinking milk and plenty of water and eating healthy food such as whole grains, fatty fish, nuts, vitamin C rich-fruits, leafy greens, will create favorable hormone signals in the brain. These hormones, in turn, support satiety, mood regulation, sleep, and energy balance. A healthy mommy equals a healthy baby!
Bring out the athlete in you!
A good exercise routine doesn’t only keep you fit and healthy but also helps relieve stress. While doing any kind of physical activity, the body is put under physical stress. This helps the body practice responding and working together. It also helps the body produce endorphins, which are happy hormones.
Moms during pregnancy are encouraged to do at least 10 to 30 minutes of exercise a day. These can include swimming, prenatal yoga classes, brisk walking, low-impact aerobics, and indoor stationary cycling.
Embrace your experience
Remember that what you see on social media isn’t always how things are. The experiences of other expecting moms aren’t better or more valid than yours. Recognizing and accepting the differences of your experience and journey from theirs will unburden you of negative thoughts. It will also open you up to savoring the joy of shared experiences.
Speaking of which, having someone to talk to about your experiences will be very helpful. According to the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, the risk of depression decreases by 24% when you confide in others. So share your thoughts and feelings with people you trust — your partner, family, friends, or a healthcare provider who will support you through honest and open communication.
Join online communities and prenatal groups. The science of socialization is that it boosts your oxytocin level, a hormone that lessens anxiety levels. Connecting with others who are on the same page will also remind you that – “Hey! I am not alone!” You'll be surprised to know that what you’re going through might actually be totally normal. You can also support and help each other by sharing your experiences.
Talk to your doctor
Keep your doctor updated on your physical and psychological status after birth. Postpartum depression is a severe condition that needs immediate attention. If left untreated, it could last for months and affect your capability to look after yourself and your baby. If you feel depressed or that your mood swings are more drastic, reach out to your doctor soon as you can.
While feeling stressed and overwhelmed is common during pregnancy, it doesn’t have to mean that you can’t do anything to alleviate or avoid them altogether. Always remember that you are not alone. You have people around you willing to help, especially your partner, and all you have to do is ask.
• American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Postpartum depression. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/pi/women/resources/reports/postpartum-depression
• Davenport, M. H., Meyer, S., Meah, V. L., Strynadka, M. C., & Khurana, R. (1AD, January 1). Moms are not ok: Covid-19 and Maternal Mental Health. Frontiers. Retrieved from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fgwh.2020.00001/full?fbcli…
• Kennedy, K. (n.d.). An expert-approved diet plan for a less-stressed you. EverydayHealth.com. Retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/wellness/united-states-of-stress/ultimat…
• Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, August 18). Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth…
• MediLexicon International. (n.d.). Confiding in others may protect against depression. Medical News Today. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/confiding-in-others-may-prote…
• Mental health in pregnancy: Royal College of Psychiatrists. RC PSYCH ROYAL COLLEGE OF PSYCHIATRISTS. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mental-health/treatments-and-wellbeing/mental…
• Stress - how sleep can affect stress levels: Banner Health. Stress - How Sleep Can Affect Stress Levels | Banner Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.bannerhealth.com/healthcareblog/teach-me/how-sleep-can-affe…
• Stress and pregnancy. Home. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/stress-and-pregnancy.aspx?fb…
• World Health Organization. (n.d.). Mental health: Strengthening our response. World Health Organization. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-strength…
About The Writer
Jelyn Estrada-Landayan is a baker’s wife and a mom to two beautiful souls. She has been a writer for as long as she can remember. Some of her works were published in SPOT.ph and GMA News Online. She is also an ESL teacher. Driven by her passion to serve and educate, she pursues a degree in Bachelor of Elementary Education and is presently a graduating student. Her home is the root of her inspiration to chase after her dreams.
When she’s not writing or teaching, you’ll find her playing on her keyboard, singing songs of praises to Elohim.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.