Take Care of Your Emotional Well-Being

What is Mental Health?

Mental health includes your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how you think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how you handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.

Maintaining your mental health or emotional well-being before, during, and after pregnancy can help you achieve a positive quality of life for you and your newborn.

Emotional well-being means:

  • Keeping informed, being proactive, and asking for help
  • Understanding that your mental health is just as important as your physical health and vice versa.
  • Doing what works best for you
  • Creating your emotional wellness plan.

Keep informed, be proactive, and ask for help

Studies have shown that up to 20% of birthing people suffer from mood or anxiety disorders during pregnancy and postpartum periods. Many may also enter pregnancy with existing mood or anxiety disorders. Your provider can conduct a mental health screening for you and refer you to the appropriate mental health care support. It is important to inform a mental health professional if you have been diagnosed with a mental health condition and are planning to have a child or are currently pregnant.

Both the pregnancy clinical team and mental health professionals should be  communicating regularly to ensure you are feeling well.

If you’re taking mental health medication to manage symptoms, you do not have to stop taking medications to decrease risks of prenatal exposure. However, in some cases, your doctor or midwife may recommend stopping or changing medications as they may cause negative health effects to you and your unborn baby. 

Here are some mood and anxiety changes that are common during pregnancy:

Major depression is a mood disorder that affects a person’s ability to experience a normal mood for 2 weeks to a year or longer. It involves a loss of interest or pleasure in activities that you would normally enjoy. This may occur during pregnancy or within a year of giving birth. Other symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of energy and fatigue
  • Thoughts about death and suicide
  • Feeling unworthy and guilty
  • Change in sleep and appetite
  • Loss of motivation
  • Negative thoughts of guilt, hopelessness, and worthlessness
  • Low self-care

Untreated, major depression can pose a risk for the pregnant person and unborn baby and can lead to unhealthy choices like poor nutrition, smoking, and drinking during pregnancy.

Perinatal anxiety is a persistent feeling of anxiety or dread, which can interfere with daily life and can be triggered or made worse by pregnancy. This develops during pregnancy and immediately after childbirth to 6 weeks after childbirth, and lasts weeks to months or longer. Symptoms can include:

  • Panic attacks
  • Hyperventilation
  • Thought of frightening things happening to your unborn baby
  • Excessive worrying
  • Restlessness or inability to sit or sleep

If you are experiencing symptoms of any of the above and/or may have thoughts of harming yourself or your unborn baby, please reach out to your provider immediately for support. Your provider will evaluate the best treatment method for you and help you identify professional support and/or other strategies to manage your feelings and emotions.

For information on postpartum mental health support, visit Navigating Your Postpartum Journey.

Relationship between mental health and physical health

Mental health and physical health are directly linked and their association can impact your quality of life.

Poor mental health can lead to chronic physical conditions. For instance, depression, anxiety, and stress can cause cardiovascular disease, insomnia, and other physical health issues.

Poor physical health can lead to a risk of developing poor mental health conditions. For instance, people living with cancer or diabetes can result in emotional unwellness.

To live your best, eat well , exercise , speak with your provider if you are experiencing symptoms, get screened for mental and physical health conditions, and establish an emotional wellness plan.


Create your emotional wellness plan

An emotional wellness plan can help identify activities and routines that assist in relieving your stress. Here are some ideas to get you started. Remember to always discuss your plan with your doctor or midwife first to ensure that these strategies are safe and appropriate for you.


STRESS RELIEF STRATEGIES

Pregnancy can be stressful. Here are some ways to manage the stressful moments on your pregnancy journey, both during, and after childbirth:

Acupuncture to treat anxiety and depression

Aromatherapy to reduce tension

Crystal healing to relieve anxiety

Dancing to improve your mood and physical strength

Mindfulness to reduce the risk of perinatal depression

Reiki to improve relaxation and sleep and relieve tiredness

Prenatal massage to improve relaxation and sleep, usually starting in the second trimester

Chakras-focused practices to create hormonal balance and regulate emotions

Crochet and knitting to reduce stress and improve sleep

Grounding to help you refocus on the present moment and distract you from anxious feelings

Listening to music to help ease stress, uplift your spirits, and support your baby’s brain development before birth

Yoga to encourage mental centering and focused breathing, and reduce stress and anxiety

Pilates to calm the mind, lower blood pressure, and increase coordinated breathing

Journaling to manage the many emotions you may experience during pregnancy

Meditation to help you cope with physical and emotional stress, refocus, instill peaceful feelings, and sleep better

Creative arts to manage emotions, instill optimism and calmness, and increase confidence to enter parenthood

Visualization techniques like meditation or imagining a peaceful location to help you develop positive and calming feelings about your pregnancy and the childbirth process

NUTRITION
  • Nutrition: You are what you eat! Having a proper nutritional diet is important for improving your emotional wellness.

    Even though your body may be telling you to eat cheese sticks, pickles, and ice creams, try your best to resist these pregnancy cravings. What you eat can affect your mood! Studies show that there is a direct correlation between an impaired brain function and diets high in refined sugar. This means a lot of sugar can actually lead to and worsen the symptoms of depression. See pregnancy dietary recommendations here.
  • Exercise: Maintaining a regular exercise regimen can promote:
    • Improved sleep
    • Better endurance
    • Stress relief
    • Improvement in mood
    • Increased energy and stamina
    • Reduced tiredness
    • Weight reduction
    • Reduced cholesterol
    • Healthier heart

SEEKING PROFESSIONAL MENTAL HEALTH CARE

Pregnancy comes with a lot of new changes all at once. Mental health professionals can guide you through this adjustment.  Your care should be culturally-sensitive, trauma-informed, person-centered and tailored to your needs. Your mental health team can be made up of a:

  • Psychiatrist, who is a medical doctor specializing in mental health, including substance use disorders. They can diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication.
  • Psychologist, who is not a medical doctor. They specialize in mental health and substance use disorder. They treat people’s cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behaviors through talk therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, among other methods.
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, who is not a medical doctor. They specialize in mental health, including substance use disorders and in some states can prescribe medication. Psychiatric nurse practitioners work under the supervision of a physician, often a psychiatrist.
  • Psych peer specialists, whoare individuals with lived experience in mental health or similar health conditions to the person that is being supported. Peer Specialists offer help to others through empathy, respect, and empowerment.

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