Often during pregnancy you’re so focused on the health of your baby, but what about your mental health?
So many new mums tell me that they really struggled with their mental health during pregnancy or after the birth of their baby. Being pregnant, growing and birthing your baby is one of, if not the biggest transition in your life. We need to take good care of ourselves during pregnancy and the weeks after birth. Your mental well-being is just as important as your physical health.
It’s normal to have some worries and fears. Pregnancy is an incredibly exciting time, but it can also be overwhelming with all the physical and hormonal changes occurring in your body, not to mention all the decisions that need to be made regarding antenatal tests, choosing a care provider, concerns about your health or your baby’s health!
Key facts to know:
- 1 in 5 pregnant women experience antenatal anxiety or depression.
- More than 1 in 7 new mums and up to 1 in 10 new dads experience postnatal depression.
- Anxiety and depression during pregnancy or the postnatal period can be mild, moderate or severe.
- Symptoms sometimes begin suddenly, or appear gradually over weeks or months.
Perinatal anxiety and depression is much more common than many people realise, and women deserve to have really great support if they are experiencing mental health concerns during the childbearing period.
So what can you do to support your mental health during pregnancy and the weeks after your baby arrives?
Seek out midwifery continuity of care
Midwifery continuity of care means knowing your midwife - being able to build a relationship with the same midwife or group of midwives during pregnancy, through labour and birth, and into the early weeks of parenting.
This type of care has been shown to have many benefits for mums and babies. A woman who receives care from a known midwife is more likely to have a more positive experience of labour and birth and successfully breastfeed her baby.
There are many ways to access midwifery continuity of care – through a midwifery group practice (caseload) program through your public hospital, a private midwife, or perhaps a birth centre where midwives work in a team.
A doula (non-medical support person for pregnancy, labour and birth) can also be beneficial in helping women to experience a more positive transition to motherhood.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
It is important to take good care of your body during pregnancy and after birth. Make sure you are eating enough throughout the day, and stay hydrated. Exercise during pregnancy has many benefits, including improved mood and helping your body to release endorphins and other feel good hormones. Most women can continue with regular exercise throughout their pregnancy, however check with your midwife or doctor to ensure your chosen activity if safe for you.
Maximise your sleep and take naps as you can – I know this can be tricky but it is especially important during those first few weeks with your new baby!
Ask for help!
Those first weeks at home with your new baby can be tough, just feeding and taking care of your baby can take up most of your day! Accept offers of dropping off a meal, or helping with housework from family/friends. Have a nap or relaxing shower while your partner cares for your baby.
If you are struggling with breastfeeding or your babies sleep reach out to a midwife or lactation consultant to help you through any challenges.
Make sure you communicate with your partner and family – they may be happy to help but not know how to support you or what exactly you need.
Seek professional support early
There are some excellent support services available so reach out early! One of the best first steps is to talk to your midwife, GP or obstetrician about how you are feeling. Your primary care provider will be able to refer you to other professionals and support services who may be able to help, such as psychologists and mother-baby units.
It’s really important to remember that while anxiety and depression during the childbearing period is common, it is absolutely treatable with the right support. If you or your partner experience any symptoms for more than two weeks, or you are concerned with how you are feeling please reach out to your midwife, doctor or obstetrician.
Article written by PBC Expo Midwife