Among all the excitement that comes with being pregnant and preparing to welcome your child into the world, there are also a lot of challenges and stressors to overcome during pregnancy.
For some, the lack of control or readiness both during pregnancy and after provides a great amount of stress. There are also numerous physical side effects, body changes, and hormone changes that many have trouble coping with.
The potential for developing a mental health condition doesn't just happen with expectant mothers but also their partner or child's father as well. While less common, it's important to stay alert in recognizing the signs of a mental health condition.
In the spirit of mental health month, we’re diving into what could happen with your emotions and your mental health while you’re pregnant and after your child arrives.
What kinds of mental health conditions could you experience during pregnancy?
It’s normal to struggle with fluctuations in mood, the elevation of stress, and decreased energy levels during pregnancy, however, if your feelings start to seem more extreme, it may be something else.
While there are a number of mental health conditions that you could experience, depression and anxiety are among the most common:
Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.
Signs and Symptoms:
- Feelings of sadness
- Loss of interest in everyday activities
- Angry outbursts over small matters
- Reduced appetite and overall energy
- Feelings of worthlessness
Anxiety may cause you to experience frequent intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations.
Signs and Symptoms:
- Feeling nervous, restless, or tense
- Sense of impending danger or panic
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing
- Experiencing difficulty controlling worries
- Avoiding triggers excessively
There are many other mental health conditions that women may experience during pregnancy, however, they are less common than depression and anxiety. If you experience these conditions during your pregnancy, your first step should be to meet with a medical professional.
Bi-Polar Disorder: A mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs and lows.
Panic Attacks: A sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Features a pattern of unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions)
Eating Disorders (anorexia or bulimia): If you’re dieting or exercising in excess to maintain your weight during pregnancy, this isn’t doing you or your baby any favors. It’s important to maintain a healthy weight while pregnant.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, while many women experience the need to vomit while pregnant due to nausea, some may force themselves to do so. Those who are binge eating, followed up by purging or vomiting, should seek medical help right away.
For those of you who aren’t struggling with a mental health condition, it’s still important to regularly set aside time to manage and maintain your mental health during your pregnancy. Doing this during pregnancy will also help your transition into motherhood when the baby arrives.
Helpful tips for the management of mental health conditions
If you find yourself struggling with a mental health condition, there are some things you can do to further prevent and help manage ongoing symptoms:
- Stay physically active
- Eat healthy, balanced meals
- Get adequate rest
- Find support, whether it be a support group or people close to you
- Implement stability elsewhere, don’t make any big changes during your pregnancy like moving or transitioning jobs
- Talk with your provider
It’s common to experience mood swings and stretches of time where you may be feeling strange. If you feel you are struggling with a mental health condition that persists for two or more weeks, it’s important to visit your provider sooner than your next checkup.
Seek the help you need
It’s important to know you’re not alone in experiencing these things, as 14-23% of pregnant women say they experience symptoms of depression. However, with this awareness comes the responsibility to seek treatment for ongoing mental health conditions for the health of you and your baby.
While some women may experience difficulty with mental health during their pregnancy, it’s also not uncommon to develop conditions after your baby has arrived. Check out our blog on postpartum depression to learn more about common feelings you may be experiencing after giving birth.
Be sure to schedule an appointment with your provider to discuss your mental and physical health. Making this progress is a great first step toward a better state of mental health during and after pregnancy.