Your little one hasn’t doubled or tripled in size since you conceived, but they are 10,000 times bigger than when they made their way to your uterus. Yes, your baby is busy growing!
And while there is much to celebrate with a new baby on the way - there’s also a new level of responsibility, an incredible list of to-dos and a lot of big changes. It’s normal to feel a mix of excitement, joy, worry and yes, overwhelm. But, how do you know if what you are feeling is normal - or if it’s something you need help with.
Today, let’s take a minute to talk about mental health during pregnancy - because you deserve to feel good throughout pregnancy. And if you don’t, you need to know you are not alone. There is nothing wrong with you and there is support, options, tools and unending love available to you.
What Is Pregnancy Anxiety?
Anyone can experience anxiety during pregnancy. According to The American Institute of Stress, around a third of people report feeling extreme stress, and approximately three-quarters of people experience stress that impacts their physical and mental health – just in everyday life.
Add to the mix worries about a new baby, giving birth and becoming a parent and you can see that if you feel stressed out - you are not alone.
Many people don’t really know what pregnancy anxiety looks like. Here’s how it affects people day to day:
- Overthinking and rumination
- Difficulty focusing
- Panic attacks
- Increased tension
- Frequent Stress Eating
- Lack of motivation
- Feeling a lack of control and apprehension
- Shortness of breath, or changes in your overall breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Not being able to sleep or sleeping too much
If you are reading these symptoms and thinking - oh yeah, that does sound like me. There’s one really great thing. Once you can name a difficulty, it can become much easier to manage. We’ll talk about how to work through these symptoms in just a minute.
What Is Prenatal Depression?
We can’t talk about mental health without also mentioning depression. It’s normal to feel worried and a bit anxious as you’re going through pregnancy and expanding your family. But depression is different from a healthy amount of worry.
You may be feeling depression if you feel:
- A sad or ‘empty’ mood that doesn’t seem to go away for long
- More irritable than normal
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness or helplessness
- No longer interested in hobbies or activities that used to bring you joy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
- Trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with your new baby
- Persistent doubts about your ability to parent your baby appropriately
- Thoughts about harming yourself, baby or others
Most moms will have a period of baby blues, or a sense of fatigue the first couple weeks home with their baby. And it is normal to feel a range of emotions from overjoyed to overwhelmed through the childbearing year. But, the baby blues should only last a couple of weeks.
At 7 weeks, and throughout pregnancy, these symptoms are a sign of depression. Proper help can help you create a more fulfilling pregnancy experience.
If you feel an ongoing sense of any of these feelings before or after birth, reach out for help!
What to do if you’re experiencing these symptoms?
If you are in immediate danger because of these symptoms:
- Dial 911 in an emergency.
- Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are confidential. To use the Lifeline Chat, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.
- Contact the Crisis Text Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by texting HELLO to 741741.
What Else Can You Do To Fight These Feelings Before And After Pregnancy?
I’ve spent years learning to understand and work through my own anxiety. And the process has been such a gift. One thing I want you to know is that you are not defined by the season you are in. Just because you are anxious or depressed right now, does not mean you have to feel that way forever. Feelings can and do change.
Here are a few ways to encourage yourself to move forward from a place of anxiety or depression.
There are so many life changes that take place when having a baby. One thing I wish I would have done sooner myself is talk to a therapist. You can look for someone local if you like being in person. You can also find a great therapist online at Mywellbeing.com with My Wellbeing, you can match with and meet 3 different therapists and then pick the one you connect with best. That way, you have someone that is really the right fit for you.
If the idea of giving birth is what is stressing you out - consider taking a childbirth course. A really high quality course will help you with these 3 things:
• Understand the process of birth and demystify it. That way you can make educated decisions about your birth and understand what is happening. Education can take birth from something that is happening to you to a process you are actively engaged in and doing yourself. Birth can feel much more empowering this way.
• A good childbirth class should teach the basics of nutrition and exercises for a healthy pregnancy. Nutrition absolutely affects mental health in the childbearing year and beyond. Knowing what foods can support your physical and mental health can help you feel healthier and cope more easily with the changes around pregnancy, birth and parenthood.
• The best birth classes should provide a sense of community and help you connect with other moms. Often friendship circles shift as you enter a new stage of life. A childbirth course can help you connect in person or digitally with others making the same life changes.
Of course I would love to support you within my own Childbirth Course. I strive to provide moms with all of these things. But, there are many high quality courses in person and online. Choose one that will give you the most confidence and clarity going into birth.
Change the way you think about your problem.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when there are so many changes happening all at once. But remember, everything can be figured out. Slow down, take a deep breath and examine the way you are thinking about your problems.
I made you a simple feelings journal to help you recognize and move through emotions you don’t want. It is for moms-to-be that are dealing with stress, anxiety, depression or are simply in need of self care. It has useful daily, weekly and monthly prompts, exercises, affirmations and worksheets to help you tackle your stressors, build self confidence and boost your mood.
Go ahead and grab it as my gift to you.
Mental Health Spotlight Conclusion
Congratulations on your pregnancy. You are absolutely the right mom for this child. More than that, remember, you have everything you need to create a beautiful life with your little one.
We all struggle with different levels of anxiety and depression. If your mental health isn’t where you want it to be, there are ways to heal and grow. If you feel alone, make sure to reach out for help. You are never alone in this.
**Please note, nothing in this article is medical advice; it is purely educational. Consult with your healthcare provider if you have questions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Suzzie Vehrs is a mama of two vibrant and growing kids. As a certified doula she loves helping moms know how to prepare for birth and create beautiful beginnings. Her goal is to help moms dream about, align with and experience a healthy, happy birth.