When we think of pregnancy, we think of the physical changes that occur, and we go for regular medical check-ups. But what about the changes that can happen to our emotional health? Psychologist Dr. Sasha Lynn explores the value of emotional health in pregnancy, with some key points to keep an eye on to ensure your emotional health is travelling ok.
Pregnancy is a time of many changes. From softening ligaments, and leg cramps, to increased appetite and food cravings, there are so many things happening. Having a baby can bring some big emotional changes too. Alongside joy and excitement, there can be feelings of uncertainty and apprehension, when we worry and think “Am I ready?”, “Can I handle this?” Some emotional change is completely normal. Hormones are changing and fluctuating with each trimester, as you adjust to the next chapter in your life. However, if you find you’re struggling with the emotional changes, it’s vital to seek help.
But how can you tell if your emotional health is struggling? How can you tell the difference between general emotional fluctuations and serious difficulties? While everyone is unique, and will experience pregnancy differently, there are a few key signs to check in on to see how your emotional health is travelling:
Changes in sleeping and eating
Pregnancy can see some changes in your sleeping and eating habits, as your body grows and develops to accommodate your baby. However, signs like losing your appetite, or continually struggling to sleep, may indicate the need to seek further support.
Lack of enjoyment
When you’re pregnant, you may feel a bit flat every now and then, and you might not feel interested in getting out and about. But when you find that activities you normally love to do no longer hold a sense of enjoyment, or you feel a sense of dread about going out, it may signal problems with emotional health.
To help support you during pregnancy and after birth, Bupa has developed a new tool called mummatters
, which can help you track your emotional health and wellbeing. The tool has been developed by specialists, and is free and easy to use. And if any help is ever needed, mummatters can help you find it.
Downtime is important when you are pregnant, but withdrawing from others and isolating yourself may lead to emotional difficulties. Social support and connectedness is a vital component in staying emotionally healthy, without those connections, it may also lead to physical health issues. Friends and family can be invaluable in observing how your emotional health is travelling and may be able to pick up on signs you’re not even aware of.
Struggling to focus… more than usual
If you’re finding that you’re struggling more than usual, and you can’t explain why you are feeling this way, or you’re feeling like you’re in a perpetual fog and you can’t seem to get tasks done each day, then that sense of mental overload can mean it’s time to check in on your emotional health.
Our thoughts are like the driving wheel in a car. They can steer us on the right path, or they can lead us to take detours. They can get stuck sometimes, and be difficult to turn. However, we are the drivers behind the wheel, and if we maintain awareness of our thoughts and feelings, this can help us stay in control. Try to check in with your thoughts each day, and ask yourself if they’re changing, getting darker or worrisome. Are they stuck on repeat, leaving you feeling panicked, angry, or sad? If so, then it’s important to seek support.
Panic setting in
Experiencing some anxiety during pregnancy is understandable. Fears around the health of your baby, your own health, and coping with all the changes to your life are all normal. However, if you find your worries are going above and beyond what you would expect, are getting worse or not going away, or they’re leading to a sense of resentment or anger towards your baby, it’s time to chat to someone and get some help to process those feelings.
Know your history
If you have experienced anxiety or depression
before, you may be more likely to experience emotional health issues in pregnancy. That’s not to say you will definitely experience problems, but it’s just helpful to be aware, and know your history.
If you are experiencing any emotional issues during pregnancy and after birth, it is important to get help as soon as possible. Talk to a friend or family member, or your doctor or another trusted health care professional.
There are also organisations that can provide information, and free and confidential help and support including PANDA and beyondblue.