Emotional wellbeing during pregnancy
Trepidation, excitement, anticipation and uncertainty are all part of expectant parents’ experiences. Transitioning to parenthood, either for the first or subsequent time, is a period of significant change. Almost 50 per cent of pregnancies are unplanned. There may be an early sense of joy or anxiety followed by many contrasting thoughts and emotions.
Many changes in hormone levels occur, which can feel overwhelming. Changes to sleep patterns and overall tiredness affect a woman’s mood and the ability to cope with everyday life. This can be surprising to them or their partner. The physical symptoms of pregnancy can also affect a person’s sense of wellbeing. Knowing what to expect and being open and compassionate towards yourself can ease the impact of the changes.
If a pregnancy is unplanned, there may be extra stress. Unplanned pregnancies can create financial uncertainty, job insecurity or questions about a relationship’s future. People experiencing unplanned pregnancy benefit from supportive people around them, who are willing to listen to these worries and concerns without providing judgement or unwelcome advice.
The prenatal (pregnancy) period can also be a good time to tune into your pregnancy and baby and start the process of getting to know them. Learn what babies realistically need and reflect on your own experience of being parented and how different or similar you would like yours to be. Keep some balance in your life and care for yourself as you go through the many changes. Explore options for ante-natal care and labour/birth.
Parents may find themselves anxious or stressed around the time of prenatal medical testing, screening, and scans. Some worry is normal and inevitable. If expectant parents find themselves experiencing a sudden increase in anxiety or depressive type feelings that significantly affect their sleep or daily routine for two weeks or more, it is worth discussing with a health professional.
Some tips to look after your overall wellbeing during pregnancy:
- Eat regularly and aim for healthy food most of the time
- Get outside in fresh air and sunshine
- Gentle exercise (seek medical advice if planning something strenuous)
- Keep regular sleep times if possible, although some sleep disturbance is expected
- Social connection
- Practise mindfulness and relaxation strategies
- Enjoy time with a partner
- Find supportive people to share worries with
- Limit exposure to unhelpful social media and online forums
- Practise accepting offers of practical help
- Become aware of harsh self-judgement and/or a drive for perfectionism
- Try out more flexibility in daily routines and chores
- Try tuning into the pregnancy by rubbing oil into tummy or playing music /talking to your pregnancy/baby
Better Health Channel website https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au
RANZCOG factsheet Common Questions in Pregnancy
Mental Health Care in the Perinatal Period, Australian Clinical Practice Guideline, October 2017. Australia: Published by COPE