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Mental health tips for mums-to-be
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Mental health tips for mums-to-be

mental health in pregnancy
Representational image | Canva

Morning sickness, unusual cravings, frequent trips to the bathroom, ill-fitting clothes, accompanied by a mix of hope, fear, and boundless love, are all familiar experiences for soon-to-be mothers.  This unique journey is quite an emotional rollercoaster for a woman stepping into a new phase of life, with her body undergoing gradual change over the course of nine months.

While each pregnancy is a unique experience, the first pregnancy can be overwhelming. Despite the joy and excitement radiating from those around the pregnant woman, she may often feel a sense of nervousness, especially when she is unable to confide her fears with loved ones.

Happiest Health talks to experts to understand this phase better. Dr Divya Shree KR, consultant psychiatry, Aster CMI Hospital, Bengaluru, and Dr Shilpa Srinath, consultant clinical psychologist, Cadabams Hospitals, Bengaluru, suggest five tips for mothers-to-be to cope with stress during this period.

Plan the pregnancy 

Dr Divya Shree emphasises that embracing parenthood entails committing to a lifetime of responsibilities. For a working woman, this decision requires meticulous consideration, given that having a baby could potentially lead to a five-year career setback. Additionally, it is essential that the pregnancy does not occur unexpectedly or due to family pressure as in can induce stress causing mental health issues.

In the Indian context, she says, “A woman is also expected to permanently leave her job to be a constant caregiver to the baby.” She adds that the family must discuss the financial situation along with future responsibilities. This reduces the mother’s burden of feeling stressed over raising a newborn.

Building a reliable support system is crucial

Motherhood is a new role bringing additional responsibilities for the family. Each member has a distinct role to play in ensuring the mother feels relaxed. Dr Srinath, who frequently interacts with expectant mothers, observes that changes in appearance, hormonal imbalance, and financial stress with the baby coming in, makes the new mother anxious, affecting her mental and physical health.

She adds that family members should make themselves emotionally and physically available. The expectant father must accompany his partner for regular check-ups, and others should support her in stressful times. A supportive partner who listens with empathy can significantly ease the journey for the woman.

These empathetic steps, make her confident of not being alone during a crucial time of her life ensuring continued support after the delivery too.

Eat for health, exercise for vitality

A pregnant woman is no longer solely feeding herself; she needs to ensure appropriate nutrition intake for both her and the baby. Experts suggest regularly indulging in physical activities like yoga, swimming, or meditation as it is calming and releases serotonin (a happy hormone). Dr Divya Shree says, “The baby resonates with all emotions of the mother—happy or sad. Naturally, [the baby] can feel her stress and anxiety too.” It is ideal to engage in listening to music or other physical activities to combat discomfort and daily stress.

Do not hesitate to seek professional help

Doctors observe that domestic violence increases during pregnancy. A qualitative PubMed Central 2022 study performed in Iran titled ‘women’s strategies for managing domestic violence during pregnancy’ notes that domestic violence is a public health concern estimating one in three women disclose domestic violence during or after pregnancy, but prevalence differs depending on the location. Physical violence can lead to the mother experiencing mental health issues like complex trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during pregnancy. It can also result in a miscarriage, pre-term delivery, or the baby being born stunted, says Dr Srinath. A woman with a history of mental illness is more likely to relapse during this time and self-harming tendencies can be induced again. In case a woman experiences constant mood changes, prolonged irritability, exhaustion, unwillingness to wake up in the morning, and suicidal tendencies accompanied by amplified stress, she should seek professional help.

Educate yourself on post-natal depression

Unlike the gradual change in the immune system observed during pregnancy, it normalises within a short period once the baby is pushed out. This quick transformation in the body post pregnancy affects her mental health. Most mothers undergo postpartum blues – feeling irritable, unable to sleep, crying, or lack of interest in taking care of the baby, lasting for six to seven days, says Dr Divya Shree. However, if these symptoms persist for a long time, it is likely that the mother is suffering from postpartum depression and will require medical intervention.

Taking these simple measures during pregnancy not only allows a smooth transition from pregnancy to motherhood, but also reduces the risk of any mishap. All jitters vanish once a healthy baby enters the world.

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