Mental Health during Pregnancy
Pregnancy is a vulnerable period for pregnant women. Physical and hormonal changes experienced by pregnant women can affect the psychological state of pregnant women. Common complaints/discomforts felt by pregnant women such as nausea, vomiting, backache, headaches, leg cramps, indigestion and vaginal discharge can certainly affect their feelings. Mood swings are normal during pregnancy. But if you feel nervous or sad all the time, it could be a sign that something deeper is going on. Stress due to pregnancy, changes in the mother’s body during pregnancy, and everyday worries can have a negative impact. If this happens, the mother needs to immediately come to health workers such as midwives, psychologists and psychiatrists.
Mental Health after Childbirth
Giving birth to a baby is a very emotional time. Mothers may feel sick after giving birth, sleep deprived, overwhelmed by the new baby and worry about being a good mother. Being a mother is hard work! You may have unrealistic expectations about being a new mom and you may find it hard not to have a lot of time for yourself.
Have you ever heard of the baby blues? It says that up to 80 percent of mothers feel like crying, are irritable, overly sensitive, moody or overwhelmed after giving birth (often between the third and 10th day after delivery).
Often, changes in hormone levels are the cause of the mother’s fluctuating feelings. Especially now that the world is going through a period of the COVID-19 Pandemic which can certainly affect the mental health of mothers. According to research conducted by Yan (2020), the prevalence rate of anxiety, depression, psychological distress, and insomnia in pregnant women and postpartum mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic is relatively high.
If you feel this during pregnancy or post-pregnancy, don’t forget to do things that can help your mental health.
- Talk about your mother’s feelings with friends, family members, doctor or midwife
- Try relaxing breathing exercises if you feel overwhelmed
- Do physical activity if you can – it can improve your mood and help you sleep
- Eat healthy food with regular meals
- Try attending antenatal classes to meet other expectant mothers
- Find time each week to do something you love. It improves mood and helps relax.
- Let family and friends help Mom with homework
- Involve husbands in the baby-rearing process so that parents have the same bonding to the baby
It is also possible that post-natal stress conditions occur because the mother finds it difficult to breastfeed. Of course all mothers want to provide the best for their little ones and one of the best things that has become a global consensus is to breastfeed their little ones exclusively without giving anything other than breast milk from 0 to 6 months and continue breastfeeding for up to two years or more with additional complementary foods (weaning food) given from the age of 6 months.
There will definitely be many difficulties that the mother and family members will face, so it is best to be prepared of knowledge that is understood not only by the mother but also by spouses and other family members. Seek as much support as possible from those closest to you and don’t forget to contact a breastfeeding counselor or other health professional who can provide practical assistance when mothers face difficulties with breastfeeding and feeding babies and children.
Above all, be kind to yourself. The most important thing you can do is take care of yourself and your baby with full support from your closest family and people around you.
Better Health Channel. (n.d.). Pregnancy and your mental health. Better Health Channel. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/Pregnancy-and-your-mental-health
Gavin, MD, M. L. (2017). Taking Care of Your Mental Health During Pregnancy (for Parents) – Nemours KidsHealth. Nemours KidsHealth – the Web’s most visited site about children’s health. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/pregnant-mental-health.html
NHS. (2021). Mental health problems and pregnancy. nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/mental-health/
Yan, H., Ding, Y., & Guo, W. (2020). Mental Health of Pregnant and Postpartum Women During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.617001