Pregnancy and your mental health
The combination of physical, social and emotional changes in pregnancy may, for some, lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
Pregnancy, changes and mental health
Pregnancy changes your body in all sorts of ways. Morning sickness, backache, headache, leg cramps, varicose veins, itchiness, constipation, hemorrhoids, indigestion and vaginal discharge are some of the realities of pregnancy. And not surprisingly, they can affect how you feel about being pregnant.
For some people, there’s the worry of what lies ahead. Maybe you didn’t plan your pregnancy. Maybe you’re worried about how a new baby will affect your relationship. Or maybe you’re concerned about childbirth.
These are all common worries and you may feel some or all of these things during your pregnancy. But if these feelings of sadness, worry or anxiety start to affect your life, it may be something more serious, like perinatal depression or anxiety.
If you have a pre-existing or a past mental health condition, and you are pregnant, the good news is that with support and treatment, you are likely to have a healthy pregnancy and baby. The most important thing is to talk about it.
Mental health after giving birth
Having a baby is a very emotional time. You may be sore after the birth, not getting enough sleep, overwhelmed by your new baby and feeling worried about being a good mum. You might have unrealistic expectations of new motherhood. And you might find it hard not having much time to yourself.
Often, changes in hormone levels are to blame and these feelings usually pass within a few days. Usually you don’t need any treatment, just support and understanding. But if these symptoms continue beyond the early days, it may be a sign of something more serious, like depression or anxiety.
Postnatal depression can occur between one month and up to one year after a woman gives birth to a baby. Postnatal depression is a common mental health condition.
It’s not just new mums or mums-to-be who can feel anxious and apprehensive. Welcoming a new member of the family can also be a complicated time for fathers and partners, who may worry about being a good partner and parent, how a baby will affect their lifestyle, or how they will deal with the added responsibilities.
Symptoms of perinatal depression and anxiety
- panic attacks – a racing heart, palpitations, shortness of breath, shaking or feeling physically ‘detached’ from your surroundings
- persistent, generalised worry, often focused on health concerns
- obsessive or compulsive behaviour
- abrupt mood swings
- feeling sad, down or crying for no obvious reason
- having little or no interest in things that bring joy (like time with friends, exercise, eating or being with your partner)
- being nervous or on edge
- feeling tired all the time
- not being able to sleep
- losing interest in sex or intimacy
- fear of being alone with your baby
- intrusive thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- brain fog, or finding it difficult to focus, concentrate or remember things
- engaging in risk taking behaviour (such as drug use).
Men may be more likely to experience symptoms such as frustration or irritability, increased anger and conflict with others, or increased alcohol and drug use.
If these symptoms last for more than two weeks, it’s time to get some help. The sooner you see someone, the quicker you’ll start to feel better.