Your life is about to undergo a significant change, you’re tired, slightly queasy (or throwing up), your body is burgeoning out in unexpected directions and none of your clothes fit.
But you’re pregnant, so of course you feel on top of the world!
Or maybe not…
Owning up to antenatal depression is tricky, because everyone assumes that your overriding emotions are filled with joy and happiness. And even if you ARE delighted to be pregnant it doesn’t always stop the whole process from feeling slightly scary and out of control.
It’s estimated that at least one in ten and possibly as many as one in three pregnant women experience some form of depression. And not acknowledging it can increase the risk of postnatal depression.
Typical symptoms include feeling sad and tearful for no apparent reason; tired and unable to cope; irritable and angry; struggling to concentrate or think; sleeplessness and negative thoughts. Or you may be feeling overwhelmingly anxious about how you’ll care for your baby, the changes in your life and the changes to your body.
Acknowledging how you feel and recognising that you’re not alone is the first step to managing it and feeling better. Yes, those pregnancy hormones can play havoc, both physically and emotionally but if you can’t stop weeping there might be other issues to address. Don’t beat yourself up over it and simply pretend you feel ok, recognising and dealing with how you feel can really help.
Talk to someone
Talk to a family member, a friend or a health professional – the old adage ‘a trouble shared is a trouble halved’ is surprisingly true.
Make sure you include a variety of different foods with plenty of fruit and veg, energy giving carbs and protein. Knowing that you’re giving yourself and your baby all the right nutrients provides comfort and reassurance as well as making you feel better physically.
Factor in time for relaxation and sleep
Give yourself space to relax and do something you enjoy, whether it’s curling up and watching a film or soaking in a bath. Enjoy some guilt-free ‘me’ time, consider yourself to be storing up energy for after the baby is born.
Exercise during pregnancy will help you to feel more in control of the changes in your body, keeping you leaner and stronger as your bump and boobs grow bigger. Regular exercise will help you to manage a healthier pregnancy weight gain, giving you a more positive body image and improve your confidence in yourself.
Those feel-good endorphins really do exist, improving your positive and energized outlook on life and diminishing the negative effects of stress and anxiety.
Join a pregnancy yoga class and meet other Mammas-to-be. Research has shown that the breathing and relaxation techniques taught in yoga are super-helpful in alleviating anxiety and stress. It’s a good way to meet other Mammas-to-be too, especially good if your usual social circle doesn’t include too many pregnant friends.
If you feel physically tired, you’re likely to sleep better at night. Sometimes exercising too late in the day can be too stimulating, so experiment with what works best for you -but a good night’s sleep will do wonders to improve your mood.
Lace up your trainers and exercise outdoors – studies have shown that outdoor exercise has a positive benefit in calming your down with trees and forests having the greatest stress-busting effect. A walk in the park can make all the difference!
Taking time out for exercise can be your guilt-free ‘me’ time, with the added bonus of knowing that you’re doing something positive not just for you but the baby too.
And if you still feel low, don’t feel awkward about seeking help from your midwife or GP. It’s better for you and your baby if you have medical advice and support rather than struggling to cope.