Expecting a baby should be a happy, joyous time. At least that is what the pregnancy books say. They echo sentiments such as, “bundle of joy,” “happy moms make happy babies,” and “pregnancy is such a magical time.” For many, pregnancy is a joyous, emotionally stable time. What about the side of pregnancy that nobody wants to talk about? According to the American Psychological Association, 25% of women experience depression during pregnancy and 10% will experience anxiety at some point. This means that up to 35% of pregnant women will experience at least some emotional instability during pregnancy. We should be talking about this! Depression during pregnancy is the persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in the things that would normally bring you happiness. Symptoms of anxiety include feeling uncontrollable anxiousness, excessive worrying, difficulty focusing, irritability, and even panic.
• Why do some expectant mothers experience anxiety or severe mood swings?
Many physical, social, and emotional factors contribute to mental health during pregnancy. During this time, the body has fluctuating levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are responsible for providing the baby with a safe and healthy environment to grow. However, they are also associated with anxiety, moodiness, depression, and fatigue. In addition to the hormone changes, physical changes in the body can contribute to sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep causes irritability, inability to think rationally, and fatigue. Add to this morning sickness, general aches, and discomfort. Stress related to relationships, finances, and living situations may also be contributing factors.
• What can the expectant mother do when feeling depressed or anxious?
It is important to distinguish between the normal ups and downs of pregnancy and prenatal depression. Feelings such as perpetual sadness, hopelessness, and rage are signs that professional help is needed. The good news is that help is easily accessible. There are many approaches that the expectant mother and her practitioners can take.
• The Specifics
Talking to a primary care practitioner is a safe place to start. Therapy may be recommended. Pregnancy classes and support groups are excellent sources of encouragement. Pregnancy Care Center can help in this area. Talking through this process with supportive friends and family can also be healing. -Nutrition is vital for emotional health during pregnancy. The expectant mother should eat healthy meals and snacks, take prenatal vitamins, and drink at least 8-12 cups of water a day depending on activity. Studies have shown that regular exercise during pregnancy, such as walking, yoga, or swimming, greatly reduces symptoms of depression. Conversely, it is equally important to make time for relaxation as well. Activities like journaling (writing positive affirmations and listing things to be thankful for), reading, or watching a favorite movie can help alleviate stress. -Sleep should become a priority. The pregnant body needs at least 8-10 hours of sleep a day. Napping may help, especially if night-time sleep is interrupted.
• If you are an expectant mother and this resonates with you
Not everyone experiences emotional instability during pregnancy. However, if mental health issues do arise, know that you are not broken, there is hope for a happy pregnancy. Your emotions, your health, and your baby’s health all matter. You are not alone in this, support for emotional wellness during pregnancy is readily available. If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, talk to your practitioner today. Pregnancy Care Center is also available for nurse consultations, parenting classes, and to connect you with local community resources.
We are here for you!
By Kathy Cullett RN, CFCN - Pregnancy Care Center's Nurse Manager
References: Understand the symptoms of depression during pregnancy: Prevalence and obstetric risk factors among pregnant women attending a tertiary care hospital in Navi Mumbai - PMC Prenatal stress can program a child's brain for later health issues What expectant moms need to know about mental health during and after pregnancy Pregnancy Mood Swings: Why You're Feeling Them and What to Do