Updated: Jun 28
Ahh, pregnancy. A time of great physical, mental, and emotional changes that evolve as your body grows and prepares for baby. It's exciting!... and can also be overwhelming, stressful, joyful, scary, and more. Ambivalence is common; life as you know it is already different and grieving those changes is important. Perinatal depression and anxiety can start to creep in. Who you once were shifts to who you are now: mama.
Early intervention for perinatal mental health challenges, such as postpartum depression, is important. Doing so can reduce instances of PMADs, promote maternal wellness, and reduce early childhood difficulties (Izett et al., 2020). Knowing ways to recognize warning signs and respond accordingly to protect your mental health during pregnancy benefits mama and baby. When mama is well, others can be too.
So what can be done as you navigate the metaphorical roller coaster that pregnancy can be? Fortunately there are a number of things that are found to be helpful to boost and bolster your mental health during pregnancy.
*Please remember that any suicidal thoughts, safety issues, or serious mental health concerns should be brought to the attention of your primary care provider, midwife, or a perinatal mental health provider immediately. If you are in crisis please go to your nearest emergency room as soon as possible. Otherwise if you're looking for some mood-boosting tips then read on.*
1. Be wary of spending excessive amounts of time on social media and Google.
It's easy to reinforce anxiety by Googling symptoms, what this or that could mean, how to know if things are okay, etc. We've all been there! Ultimately though this typically isn't really helpful and can be all consuming. Additionally be careful when using social media- if you follow certain accounts that don't feel helpful or supportive, you can unfollow or mute. Some accounts that *are* helpful would be @momwell, @postpartumsupportinternational, and @ppsupportmn. You can also check out the @duluthperinatal Instagram for more ideas of what accounts to follow for perinatal, relationship, and childhood development resources.
2. Develop a routine for self-care.
If you don't already have a routine now is a good time to start one! Focus on pleasant activities- things that feel good to you- which can be done alone or with others (if you want!). Some ideas could be prenatal yoga, chiropractic care, engaging in hobbies, finding a new favorite TV show, listening to music.. so many options! Also make sure that you're eating nutritious food, taking prenatal and other OTC/prescribed medications, moving your body every day (or as directed by your doctor or midwife), maintaining good hygiene, staying hydrated, etc. Do what you love and do so regularly.
3. Practice positive self-talk.
Pregnancy and becoming a parent can challenge a person's confidence and self-esteem. Negative thinking begets more negativity. Noticing your thoughts and shifting them to be more encouraging, uplifting, and kind makes for a positive mindset. Create a list of positive affirmations to recite to yourself once in the morning and before you go to bed. See what a difference it makes in how you see yourself. You got this, mama!
4. Seek community.
If you work with me, you may have heard me say that mamas need mamas. It's true! Maintaining relationships with family and friends is essential; it helps us feel supported and reminds us that we are not alone. It also helps with keeping a sense of identity and belonging. Accessing faith-based supports is beneficial too if this is an important element in your life. Fun fact: having a community is a protective factor against postpartum depression!
5. Connect with your partner.
Speaking of support, make sure that you make time with your baby's other parent! Your relationship is going to change in awesome and hard ways. Relish in the time you have together and regularly spend time talking, daydreaming, and spending quality time together before baby's arrival. That includes enjoying sex, even if you have to get creative with positions as the pregnancy progresses. You can also check out John and Julie Gottman's book, And Baby Makes Three, which has simple steps parents can take to "preserve intimacy and rekindle romance."
Being pregnant is exhausting. Changes in sleep patterns, physical discomfort, and frequent middle of the night bathroom trips all run interference on feeling rested which negatively impacts mood and your thinking. It's harder to concentrate, remember things, and feel good when you're that tired! Alas sleep and rest are still important so do them when you can. Midday naps are okay! Resting is also good for your body which is doing so much already. Plus you can start working on delegating tasks to others and accepting help which are key after baby arrives!
7. Actively work on reducing stress.
This can be tough but is really important. Too much stress is toxic and can negatively impact our physical health in addition to our mental health. Give some relaxation techniques a try such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, meditation, or prenatal massage.
8. Give therapy a try.
Connecting with a therapist is early intervention. You can start to learn about how your past is present, create a plan for meeting your needs now and postpartum, get support, and much more. Therapy is personal and the relationship you have with your therapist is important. Schedule a few consultations and see who you feel drawn to. You can find perinatal therapists on the PSI Directory which lists vetted providers specializing in perinatal mental health.
9. Consider medication.
Medicine for depression, anxiety, Bipolar disorders, and other mental health challenges can safely be prescribed during pregnancy when working with a provider trained in perinatal health. Some medications are not pregnancy safe so working with a provider who can help you weigh the pros and cons, and come up with a safe plan, is crucial. Taking medication does not make you weak. Rather, research shows that antidepressants taken during pregnancy is better than uncontrolled or untreated perinatal depression and anxiety (Chan et al., 2014).
10. Do less more often.
Priorities shift dramatically when you become a parent. What previously felt important might not as much, or at all, anymore. It's good to start focusing on what is a priority and leaving the rest, or asking someone else to take care of things for you. This can range from not working too much, reducing overextending yourself, or finding help with managing household tasks such as routine cleaning or meal prep. Listen to your body and respect your limits.
Hopefully you'll find some of these tips helpful and simple enough to begin. That doesn't necessarily mean that they're easy but they are all important. Try one or two to start, whichever resonates the most or seems like it'd be the most beneficial, and add from there as you need to. And if you have any additional suggestions feel free to leave a comment below!
Photo Cred: Bailey Aro Photography
Izett, E., Rooney, R., Prescott, S. L., De Palma, M., & McDevitt, M. (2020, September 24). Prevention of mental health difficulties for children aged 0–3 years: A Review. Frontiers. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.500361/full
Chan, J., Natekar, A., Einarson, A., & Koren, G. (2014, March). Risks of untreated depression in pregnancy. Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3952758/
And Baby Makes Three. The Gottman Institute. (2018, December 4). https://www.gottman.com/product/and-baby-makes-three/
DISCLAIMER: The content of Duluth Perinatal’s website, blog, or social media is for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing found here is intended to be a substitute for professional mental health or medical diagnosis, treatment, or advice. Discuss any health or feeding concerns with your infant’s pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay it based on the content on this page.