Pregnancy & Mental Health

Becoming pregnant can be an exciting time. When you think of pregnancy, you may picture glowing, smiling women and loved ones sharing their joy. The media often doesn’t depict the realities of pregnancy. It may seem that everyone else is happy and coping well. Read more about Pregnancy & Mental Health here.

Of course, pregnancy is a life-changing event and can also be problematic. Lots of women struggle during and after their pregnancy. That is why it is vital to protect your emotional well-being during pregnancy.

 

What is the connection between pregnancy and mental health?

Did you know there is a strong link between pregnancy and mental health?

According to Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) *[1], one in seven women suffer from depression after pregnancy. If you think about the number of pregnancies each year, this is a very high figure.

There is so much to think about during pregnancy. Perhaps your concerns are playing on your mind. Maybe your pregnancy was unplanned, and you have no idea where to start. You could equally be worrying about going through childbirth or your finances.

It is normal to have worries, but many parents find it hard to know where the line is. Society tells them to expect exhaustion, sadness, or distress. It is tough to decide if their feelings are “normal” or a sign of a mental health condition.

Pregnancy and mental health go hand in hand. Your emotional wellbeing during pregnancy can set the tone for the birth and future of you and your child.

 

What changes can pregnancy mental health cause?

You are not only having a baby; you are going through changes. Your body and chemical makeup adjust to the growing life inside of you. It’s no small task.

Think about it!

You are making another human being inside your body. It’s an incredible act of biology. Undoubtedly, your body is going to change during the process.

 

You may experience some of the following:

  • Morning sickness
  • Stomach cramps
  • Backaches
  • Constipation
  • Leg cramps
  • Indigestion
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Headaches
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Dizziness or a lightheaded feeling

These changes, as well as hormonal fluctuations, can all impact your emotional wellbeing during pregnancy.

 

Antenatal anxiety and depression

PANDA**[2] showed that one in five women have antenatal anxiety or depression. Emotional lows are typical during pregnancy, and you may be struggling.

All pregnant women attend check-ups during the nine months. If you are uneasy about your mental health, try talking about this at your appointment. It’s okay to say you’re are finding the pregnancy hard. Never be afraid to ask for help.

If you are still unsure of how you are feeling, here are some symptoms of depression and anxiety to look out for:

  • The constant worry that affects your daily life
  • Feeling lonely and disconnected from those around you
  • Unpredictable mood swings
  • Feeling drained and tired no matter how much sleep you get
  • Loss of interest in things that used to bring you happiness
  • Episodes of distress or panic attacks
  • Feeling sad and crying for no reason
  • Finding it hard to sleep at night
  • Trouble concentrating or remembering things in everyday life
  • Engaging in self-destructive behaviour such as alcohol dependency or drug abuse
 

What treatments are available for Pregnancy & Mental Health? 

Treatment for depression and anxiety during pregnancy usually requires a combination of traditional talk therapy and medications.

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment. Everyone is different, and everyone will respond differently to treatments. It is vital to speak to your doctor or midwife and give them a complete and accurate account of what you are going through. Only by knowing your medical background and current symptoms can your doctor effectively refer you for the correct treatment.

Treatment for depression and anxiety is not straightforward at the best of times. When you are pregnant, your doctor will need to consider:

  1. What stage of pregnancy you are in.
  2. The risks or possible side effects of medication.
  3. The risk posed to your baby.
  4. How severe your symptoms are.
  5. If you have any underlying or associated conditions.
 

Traditional Talk Therapy for Pregnancy & Mental Health

Talk therapy is a golden standard when it comes to depression and anxiety. Evidence has shown that this type of therapy can help ease negative thoughts and emotions.

Ask your GP to refer you for counselling. Your therapist will guide you to discuss the main reason you’re seeking therapy and what outcomes you would like to achieve.

Professional therapists are trained listeners, and this can help you feel valued as a person. Talk therapy gives people the opportunity to explore the root of their negative thoughts and how they can improve this in their daily lives.

 

Medications

Your doctor may discuss with you prescribed medications to treat your Pregnancy & Mental Health condition. A common concern is that there is a risk of birth defects from antidepressants. However, there is strong evidence to suggest otherwise.

Furthermore, an untreated mental illness poses a far greater threat to an unborn child than taking antidepressants.

If your mental health condition is mild, you might talk about staying off medication with your doctor. Never attempt to do this without medical advice. Your doctor can refer you for non-medicative treatments if appropriate.

 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT is valuable in treating anxiety and depression. It challenges you to recognise the source of your negative thoughts and behaviours. The purpose is to interrupt the harmful thought-behaviour cycle. This type of therapy focuses on getting results and takes place over a set time.

At Epsychiatry, our team are experts in delivering CBT through telehealth. Get in touch today to start your treatment.

 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

If you don’t want to take medication during your pregnancy, you might want to try alternative therapies. EDMR employs visual imagery and rapid eye movement to yield fast relief from emotional distress. It is an eight-phase treatment that naturally transforms your thoughts and behaviours to empower your emotional health. The goal of EDMR is not to make you forget your negative thoughts but to be aware of them in a way that is separate from your emotions.

This example is just one of many types of alternative therapies. If this doesn’t feel right to you, it’s always good to try other treatments.

Contact us today to see what options best suit your needs.

 

Self-care during pregnancy

Taking care of yourself and your emotional well-being during pregnancy is essential. As the saying goes, you can’t take care of someone else if you don’t take care of yourself.

 

Talk to someone 

A problem shared is a problem halved. It can be a friend, a family member, a therapist, or a stranger on the bus! Just make sure you are talking to someone if you are having fears and doubts.

Getting to know other parents that are in a similar situation can be helpful. Join a local parent’s group or sign up for an antenatal class. If you are introverted, reach out to others online. There are many interactive Facebook groups or messaging boards for parents who want to talk to someone who understands.

 

Get regular exercise 

While you need to go easy during pregnancy, that doesn’t mean you need to cut out exercise. Staying active will boost your mood. There are plenty of pregnancy-friendly activities you can try. Why not join a pregnancy yoga class or go for a swim in the local pool?

Exercise has many known benefits, including lower stress levels, improved sleep pattern and a general sense of wellbeing. You might find it relaxing to distract your mind and stay busy with some fun activities.

 

Eat a healthy diet

When you’re eating for two, it’s essential to have a balanced and nutritious diet. Morning sickness can make this challenging in early pregnancy. Try sticking to dry, salty foods if you are feeling sick and avoid skipping meals where possible.

Don’t forget to treat yourself. Just because you are eating healthy for your baby doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in a craving now and again. Remember, it’s about caring for yourself as well as your new child.

 

Try meditation

Meditation can have a calming effect on the mind and body. If you are feeling stressed, why not download a meditation app or try a YouTube class. It can help you to feel relaxed even if you are experiencing pain from childbirth or anxious thoughts.

Anyone can learn meditation. Many mothers have said that practising meditation and positive visualisation helped them during the birth of their child and the pregnancy.

 

Take time for yourself

Once you are a mother, commitments can pull you in all directions. Your time is no longer your own, and you have another person to care for.

It is crucial to take some “me time” to relax and stay in touch with yourself. Light a candle and have a long bath, or go for a walk outside. Ask the people in your support system if you need help minding your child while taking time for yourself. It is not selfish to want to relax now and again. A parent or not, everyone is entitled to a break.

 

Lone parents 

It is normal for any parent to feel overwhelmed sometimes. If you are without a partner, it can be particularly tough. Being a single parent can put increased demand on your finances, time, and energy.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics *[3], in 2020 alone, 1 in 7 families were one-parent households, with almost 80% of those being single mothers.

It isn’t easy dealing with parental stress on your own. You will need practical, emotional, and social support. Indeed, asking for help can be tricky. You might feel that you should be able to manage on your own. In hard times, you should lean on your friends and family for support. You will likely find that they don’t mind or even enjoy helping you out.

Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. You might consider respite care for your child. A counsellor can also support you by giving you an unbiased opinion and an outsider perspective. Sometimes, it can provide you with relief to tell someone honestly how you have been feeling.

 

Where can I get help with Pregnancy & Mental Health?

If you are in distress and feel you need immediate help, you should dial “000” and contact emergency services. However, in less severe cases, there are many supports available to you:

 

  • Epsychiatry Telehealth Services – Online mental health support
  • PANDA Free National Helpline – Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia.
  • Beyond Blue Support Services – 24-hour helpline.
  • Lifeline Crisis Support – Short term, confidential help.

For ongoing treatment and support, ask your GP to refer you by email or fax for counselling. Here at Epsychiatry, we can help you from the comfort of your own home. Our telehealth services are proven to relieve the symptoms of depression, anxiety and more.

Contact us today to discover a treatment plan designed just for you!

 

References 

[1] Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (2017) After Birth. Available at: <https://www.panda.org.au/info-support/after-birth >

[2] Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (2017) During Pregnancy. Available at: < https://www.panda.org.au/info-support/during-pregnancy >

[3] Australian Bureau of Statistics (2020) Labour force status of families. Available at: < https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-status-families/latest-release#:~:text=one%20parent%20employed-,All%20families,of%20these%20being%20single%20mothers >