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Mental Health in Pregnancy: About, Symptoms, Treatment and Challenges

Pregnancy – Importance of Mental Health

People see pregnancy as a period where expectant parents express positive feelings. However, a rush of negative thoughts and feelings could cause mental illness in many pregnant women.

Mental health in pregnancy requires close monitoring to ensure expectant mothers don’t experience avoidable issues. Ensuring proper mental health care for pregnant women is also effective towards preventing psychological issues after birth.

Guaranteeing the mental health of pregnant women is difficult without correct information. That’s why this article presents vital details about mental health in pregnancy.

All the information in this post helps expectant mothers make sense of their mental health status before seeking effective solutions.

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Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression in Pregnancy

The most common signs of anxiety and depression seen in pregnant women include:

  • Sustained nervousness
  • Constant bouts of fatigue
  • Reduced sleep
  • Little to no interest in intimacy or sex
  • Fear of isolation
  • Intrusive thoughts towards yourself of your baby
  • Concentration difficulty
  • Increase in risk taking and harmful behavior (self-harm, substance/alcohol abuse, etc.)
  • Panic attacks
  • racing heartbeats,
  • palpitation,
  • shortness of breath,
  • trembling,
  • low physical awareness
  • Prolonged bouts of worry about health issues
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD)
  • Swift mood swings
  • Heightened emotions towards meaningless events or nothing at all
  • Reduced interest in common activities
  • lesser time with friends,
  • little to no exercise,
  • poor eating habits,
  • reduced interest in spending time with your partner,

Pregnant women are more likely to experience these symptoms if their mental health declines.

However, partners of pregnant women might experience some mental health-related issues too. Such men can experience irritability, conflicting thoughts and increased chances of drug abuse.

Pregnancy and Mental Health

Pregnancy causes several changes in mothers’ bodies, but the health challenges from being pregnant are more obvious. Common symptoms of pregnancy many mothers experience include:

  • Backache,
  • Constipation,
  • Haemorrhoids,
  • Headaches,
  • Indigestion,
  • Vaginal discharge,
  • Itching,
  • Cramps,
  • Morning sickness,
  • Varicose veins, etc.

These realities directly affect how mothers feel throughout their pregnancy. And there’s the mental challenge that comes with expecting a child.

Expectant mothers can also be concerned about how the child will affect their relationships with other people.

Many women experienced mental health problems during pregnancy while others might suffer some issues after birth. Several women are not immune from the symptoms of mental health decline during pregnancy; however, symptoms can vary.

Women with past mental health problems are also at greater risk of developing psychological issues while pregnant.

In most cases, several factors determine the mental health problem a woman experiences during pregnancy. Some of these elements include:

  • Previous history of mental illness or decline in psychological health
  • Medications used to suppress mental health problems before pregnancy
  • Recent traumatic life events
  • Increased stress levels before pregnancy
  • Mental health challenges from childhood

Failing to treat mental health issues pregnant women face could have far-reaching consequences, even after birth. Expectant mothers need to consult experienced health care practitioners with knowledge about treating mental health problems during pregnancy.

How to Treat Mental Health Problems during Pregnancy

Pregnant women need proper physical and mental health care throughout their gestation cycle. Failing to provide the right attention to pregnant women could cause several avoidable problems.

Three recommended methods are potent for treating mental health problems in pregnant women. These methods are:

Medication

Taking medication during pregnancy requires close monitoring from your general practitioner or other professional. Wrong medication can cause several problems in babies and lead to other complications during pregnancy.

You need to consult your doctor for the right medication to reduce or eliminate mental health issues during pregnancy.

Expectant mothers on mental health medication before pregnancy must also consult their doctors. Advice from doctors is essential to know if pregnant women should continue or stop mental health medication.

Psychotherapy

Talking therapy usually helps some expectant or new mothers better their mental health. In some cases, psychotherapy might be used instead of drugs or combined with medication for greater effect.

Services available to expectant mothers could include primary care counselling to help pregnant women with mild or moderate mental health problems. The services are usually time-limited and target mental health issues across different trimesters of pregnancy.

Non-medical approaches

Pregnant women might react badly to some medication ideal for treating mental health problems. And in other cases, women at different stages of pregnancy may not see significant improvements through therapy.

Pregnant women in this category can get positive results through non-medical methods like yoga, meditation and light exercise. Women who feel overwhelmed can rely on advice from instructors and family members along with such approaches.

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Professionals/Facilities to Visit for Mental Healthcare during and after Pregnancy

Midwife

Midwives will ask questions about the mental and physical health of expectant mothers. Informing your midwife about mental health issues ensures you get proper care towards managing psychological problems.

Midwives can offer such support at antenatal appointments or through home visits.

General practitioner (GP)

A general practitioner can provide advice, information and treatment to pregnant women grappling with psychological issues. General practitioners can rely on information from consultations to refer you to an appropriate mental health service.

Children/Family Social Services

Some midwives and doctors might refer you to Children & Family Social Services in your area.

Such facilities usually employ social workers to improve the mental wellbeing of children. However, the guidance from such social workers can also prove effective towards assisting mothers retain good mental health.

Advice and information from such social workers can make the difference towards coping with pregnancy and childbirth.

Health Visitors

A health visitor works with new mothers and their babies to provide a wide range of services. Health visitors can provide information on nutrition, sleep and can ask mothers questions about their mental health.

Such professionals have the right training to offer support and recommend referrals for comprehensive mental health treatment.

Special Perinatal Mental Health Care Services

Specialist mental care services from such facilities are reserved for pregnant women or new mothers. A specialist care service of this kind might collaborate with your midwife, general practitioner or other teams for proper care.

In some cases, specialist mental health services for expectant and new mothers might be attached to your preferred midwife.

Community Mental Health Care Teams

A community mental health team is a group of psychological care professionals who help people solve different mental health-related problems.

People who receive care from such teams don’t have to be pregnant; however, expectant mothers can receive special attention.

If you’re already a member of such a care team and discover you’re pregnant, consult your coordinator for assistance. The care coordinator of such teams will provide valid advice and treatment solutions for pregnant women with mental health problems.

Psychologist

A clinical psychologist has the training and experience to recommend correct treatment for pregnant women with mental health issues. Expectant or new mothers may also need assistance from an exercise, health, or social psychologist for other mental health needs.

How to Maintain Mental Wellbeing as a Pregnant Woman

Maintaining your mental wellbeing while pregnant is a collective effort. Leaving the entire care process to your psychologist or general practitioner might not yield the best results.

The best way to maintain your mental health during pregnancy is to work with your healthcare professional for outstanding results. You can take the following steps towards maintaining your mental health:

  • Avoid alcohol intake
  • Shun smoking throughout pregnancy (and after birth if possible)
  • Eat healthy, balanced diets
  • Take out time weekly to engage in fun activities (to aid relaxation and brighten your mood)
  • Sign up for mindfulness or meditation lectures, (online or in-person options are available)
  • Get assistance from friends and family to complete chores, shopping, etc.
  • Regular light exercise (seek advice from midwives on the best in-house exercise classes while pregnant)
  • Draw up a comprehensive wellbeing plan and acting on it (wellbeing plans help you identify required support during and after pregnancy)
  • Reduce or eliminate activities that might cause stress build-up
  • Get enough sleep every day
  • Avoid overfeeding
  • Discuss any concerns with your family, midwives, and general practitioner

Following the steps above prove vital to solve mental health problems pregnant women face. These methods are also effective towards reducing or eliminating mental health challenges after childbirth.

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Mental Health Challenges after Birth

Expecting a baby can be quite an emotional experience. Feeling sore after birth, lacking enough sleep and getting overwhelmed with new responsibilities can be challenging.

Being a new parent is some tough work and some mothers naturally nurse unachievable expectations pretty early. Failing to meet such expectations can have a massive effect on mothers’ mental health.

Some common mental health challenges mothers face after birth include:

Baby blues

Reports show that 4 out of 5 women could experience ‘baby blues’ symptoms after childbirth. Some common symptoms associated with this condition are:

  • Constant teary feeling
  • Increased irritability
  • Heightened sensitivity
  • Moodiness
  • Constant feeling of being overwhelmed

Common symptoms of baby blues are evident within the first 2 weeks after childbirth. In most cases, hormonal changes may cause these symptoms and they may reduce in less than a week.

Baby blues symptoms don’t usually require any medical intervention. However, medical attention could become necessary if these symptoms refuse to go away.

Prolonged baby blues symptoms might point to signs of anxiety or early depression in new mothers. Consult a general practitioner or psychiatrist if any of these symptoms exceed the first 10 – 14 days after childbirth.

Post-natal depression

Symptoms of post-natal depression can be evident in mothers between 1 and 12 months after childbirth.

Post-natal depression is common in most new mothers with a history of mental illness. The condition currently affects at least 1 out of 7 new mothers.

Urgent medical attention is essential for women who experience mental health problems after birth. Seeking support from experienced mental health practitioners is an effective way to solve such problems and guarantee great improvements.

Reclusion

New mothers who struggle with mental health problems are likely to reduce their social interactions significantly. In some cases, new mothers might develop an immense detachment from everyone in their environment except their babies.

Neglecting social ties could cause increased bouts of anxiety and depression, heightened emotions, increased sensitivity and much more.

How Does Mental Health Affect Babies?

Mental health problems affect mothers and can cause some issues in babies too. Some of the most common mental health issues that can affect babies include:

Increased stressors

Parental anxiety and depression can lead to significant neglectful behavior capable of causing mental health issues in children. A mother’s mental decline can affect her baby through increased exposure to stress hormones.

These hormones can create a hyperactive amygdala (part of the limbic system; plays an important role in motivation and emotional behavior).

Higher heart rate and lower weight at birth

Recent studies show that babies born to mothers with heightened anxiety or depression are likely to have low birth weights.

Increased stress in pregnant women or substance abuse can also increase the heart rate of unborn children.

Societal issues

Parents do not cause a direct decline in the mental health of their children. However, they can do more to improve the social interactions their children can access.

Parents can increase their social interactions while their children are at a tender age. But dealing with these issues before birth will reduce the overall effect of isolation on a child’s mental health.

Keeping social ties open is vital to reduce the effects of mental health decline and may be therapeutic in many cases. Neglecting social interactions could negatively affect your child, especially during their formative stage.

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Conclusion

It is common for expectant moms to feel depressed or anxious at different stages of their pre-birth cycle. It’s normal to feel down many times, but know that you don’t need to handle everything alone.

Getting proper treatment for these challenges is essential for a hassle-free pregnancy.

Consult experienced mental healthcare professionals and qualified medical care practitioners for advice. Guidance and medical intervention from the right professionals should be enough to solve mental health issues during and after pregnancy.

Must See: How to Sleep When Pregnant?

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Kelly W
Kelly W
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