Most women know the drill when it comes to physical health during pregnancy. As soon as the happy news is confirmed, we cut out the alcohol and caffeine, wave goodbye to the salmon, shellfish and soft-boiled eggs, and start studying diet and exercise tips from experts – we want to be in the best shape possible, to give our babies the healthiest start in life.
But too many women don’t take care of their mental health during pregnancy with the same rigour. Yes, it’s normal to expect mood swings as your body’s hormonal balance shifts gears completely. However, in 10 to 15% of pregnant women, these changes can cross the border into the realm of mental illness. Anxiety and depression are the most common mental illnesses that crop up during pregnancy, and both can have long-term consequences for mother and child.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Unfortunately, many women don’t realise they need help and are convinced that they’re experiencing what any mother-to-be goes through – they worry that they’re “weak” or “non-maternal” if they can’t cope with it on their own. They need to know that they’re not alone; all women can go through these issues, and help is available.
This is why family time is so important – the best first resort is to talk about your feelings to family members who have experienced what you’re going through. The support of mothers, sisters and other female relatives who have been through pregnancies of their own is invaluable. However, in some cases, the advice of a professional mental healthcare provider may be needed.
Staying mentally strong while pregnant
- Remember, you’re not alone. Every woman who has ever given birth has wondered, at some point, if she was up to the task of motherhood. Every woman has worried about the safety of her child in the womb. Talk to women who know what it’s like.
- Family is for life! Your partners and relatives are the people who know you best, and care about you most. Don’t be afraid to lean on them.
- Your mental health is just as important as your physical health during pregnancy. If you feel you’re not coping, if you’re consumed by thoughts of disaster or overwhelmed by a conviction that you’ll fail as a mother, or if the thought of motherhood leaves you sad and listless rather than excited, do not be afraid to talk to a doctor, a counsellor or a therapist.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.