Pregnancy not only affects a woman physically but also brings changes in her psychological functioning. Mental health is of utmost importance during this period, as it is the experience of a lifetime and has an impact on the growing foetus as well, says Dr Sonal Anand, Psychiatrist, Wockhardt Hospital, Mira Road. With many women opting for single pregnancies and taking the current age variation scenario into consideration, emotional and physical well-being becomes a priority. Some women do breeze through the gestational period without a hitch, while others might have difficulties from day one. A positive approach, backed by knowledge about what to expect and what not to be worried about, makes things easier.
Some amount of anxiety is normal and is bound to happen during a first pregnancy as the body changes can be overwhelming. However, there are some issues that warrant a visit to a mental health professional. “Sometimes anxious thoughts can be quite intense and rumination of unnecessary thoughts can be a problem,” warns Dr Anand. “They might be accompanied by difficulty in falling asleep, reduced concentration and restlessness.” Some women might find it difficult to sleep in the later stage of pregnancy, and this must be discussed with the obstetrician.”
Depression can become a cause for concern in pregnancy, as medical management can pose a dilemma. “Depression can make a pregnant woman feel quite empty and less enthusiastic about the baby,” notes the psychiatrist. “A gloomy mood with a lack of initiative to do even routine chores can be seen in depression. Pregnancy can also give rise to feelings of isolation if the pregnant woman thinks that she is not understood well by others. Severe depression can lead to feelings of hopelessness and thoughts of self-harm, which need urgent attention from a psychiatrist.”
Psychoses can also be seen sometimes. These can hit back where there is a history of previous mental health issues or even occur de novo (anew). Symptoms include becoming paranoid, losing touch with reality, or even hallucinating.
Emotional upheavals can be experienced. Many pregnant women find themselves susceptible to bouts of crying and mood swings. Irritability might also be seen, but angry outbursts are not good for the growing baby’s health. “Help must be sought where irritability and mood swings seem to happen frequently and intensely,” advises Dr Anand “Self-doubt, ambivalence, eating disorders, and a negative body image can be seen and should be discussed along with worrying thoughts of the outcome of the pregnancy and the stress related to the entire period.”
Being prepared for pregnancy and planning ahead can help immensely. Pre-pregnancy stress factors should be identified before getting pregnant. “It is important that the father and other close members of the family become support systems and can play a big role in helping to manage a smooth pregnancy,” says the doctor. “Try to stick to a routine during pregnancy; it helps even though it might be difficult every day. A small number of hitches is something that the pregnant woman must be aware of and prepared for.”
Dr Anand suggests that mothers-to-be follow these easy ways to de-stress:
- Try simple exercises such as relaxed breathing, meditation, and practising mindfulness.
- Take small and frequent breaks from work to help the body relax as well.
- Eat healthy food and have the right amount of nutrients to prevent problems.
- The need for adequate sleep should be kept in mind; avoid excessive screen time before sleeping to improve sleep.
- Avoid unreliable negative news on the media and maintain a realistic approach towards social media goals. It is important to take one day at a time and enjoy the small moments of everyday life without the pressure to post them for everyone else to see.
- Your pregnancy can be an enjoyable experience with a healthy attitude.