Getting ready to have a baby is a very exciting time. But making plans for this huge change in your life (as well as coping with the physical pregnancy symptoms) can be overwhelming too.
Up to 1 in 5 women develop mental health problems during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth. It’s very important to take care of your mental health as well as your physical health during this time, and to always remember – it’s okay to ask for help if you need it. Simply sharing how you feel can be a huge relief for many women to help remind you that you’re not alone.
Why is it important to look after yourself during pregnancy?
As we know, having a healthy and safe pregnancy will help your baby have the best start in life – which is what all expectant parents want for their little ones. Looking after your mental health during this memorable time is just as important for you as it is your baby.
There’s lots of things you can try to help you manage your mental health during this time. Here are just five ways you can relax during pregnancy:
Yoga is an activity that focuses on mental and physical wellbeing. Yoga in pregnancy is a great way to stay active, strengthen your body and ease aches and pains through stretching.
Even the act of going to a prenatal yoga class once (or more) each week is a gentle reminder to take the time out of a busy work and home life to care for and bond with your growing baby. As your pregnancy progresses, your body's different responses to yoga poses will be a reminder of other physical changes happening in your body.
In pregnancy, anxiety generally peaks in the first and third trimester and dips in the second trimester. The relaxation exercises and postures in standard antenatal yoga classes can help to reduce anxiety in the third trimester by teaching women skills and techniques that can help with physical discomfort and also be used in times of heightened stress.
Do you ever find yourself caught up in your thoughts and worries? Or maybe you’re just going through the motions of the day and have forgotten to enjoy the little things around you? Stop for a second and focus on your feelings, body sensations and the world around you.
Mindfulness is about knowing directly what is going on inside and outside yourself, moment by moment. It can help you live in the present moment and block out worries (like the endless ‘To Do’ list in your head). In pregnancy, it can also help you bond and connect with your unborn baby.
Focusing on mindfulness during pregnancy has been shown in a recent study to reduce the fear of labour, decrease the use of pain relief and lower the risk of postnatal depression.
Participants in the study were assigned to either mindfulness training or traditional childbirth classes. The results suggest that incorporating mindfulness into antenatal education can help mums to cope better with their fears.
The results also show that mindfulness can help decrease the symptoms of prenatal and postnatal depression. Apps such as headspace gives you the tools you need to easily start on your mindfulness journey, in a simple and interactive way.
It’s safe to exercise in pregnancy. In fact, it’s extremely helpful and highly recommended. It may not sound appealing, especially if you’re feeling sick, tired, or heavy. Going for regular gentle walks, or relaxing swims can benefit your body, your baby and your labour.
Not only can regular exercise during pregnancy help improve your posture it can also help to decrease some common discomforts such as backaches and fatigue.
However, if you are going to exercise during pregnancy you must remember; do not exhaust yourself. You may need to slow down as your pregnancy progresses or if your maternity team advises you to. If in doubt, consult your maternity team.
As a general rule, you should be able to hold a conversation as you exercise when pregnant. If you become breathless as you talk, then you're probably exercising too strenuously.
Talking to other pregnant women at local groups or on online forums
Sharing your feelings with other people having similar experiences can help you feel less isolated and will show that you’re not alone. Besides having someone you can relate to, the more support you can get, the better as research shows that having social support during pregnancy may lower your risk of mental health issues and stress-related complications.
There’s many ways you can stay social and meet new people during this time, even if you cant attend your classes. Start following people, pages and groups on social media that can relate to what you’re going through. Keep in mind that you’ll want to follow those who portray a realistic view of pregnancy. Pregnancy Facebook groups are full of other expectant parents that you can chat to digitally. Having social support, even from other mothers over the internet can relax and ease your mind.
Do something you enjoy that’s just for you. Take a warm bath, read a book or simply close your eyes – whatever makes you feel peaceful and helps you relax.
When you’re pregnant you need to get used to the idea that putting your feet up and simply doing nothing for a while is not a waste of time, but an important opportunity to relieve the physical stresses on your body and to give your mind a break. It’s also important you don't over exhaust yourself.
Reading is a great way to relax your body, it does so by lowering your heart rate and easing the tension in your muscles. Use this time to educate yourself further on your pregnancy and what to expect during and after. Here are some of our favourite books that will help you relax and reduce stress during pregnancy:
The Positive Birth Book - This book will help you work out what kind of birth you really want and learn how to maximise your chances of getting it, in this refreshing, warm and witty guide to pregnancy, birth and the early weeks. Packed with vital and cutting-edge information on everything from building the ultimate birth plan, to your choices and rights in the birth room; The Positive Birth Book shows you how to have the best possible birth, regardless of whether you plan to have your baby in hospital, in the birth centre, at home or by elective caesarean – the choice is yours. You can find this book here.
Finding Calm for the Expectant Mom – This book will give you the tools you need to reduce stress, anxiety and your mood swings during your pregnancy. It’s seven-step program shows women what they can do to feel happier, calmer, and less stressed in a safe and natural way. With the tools and problem-solving techniques presented in this book, women can adjust their expectations, restructure negative thought patterns, cultivate resiliency, and become better prepared to take on the role of motherhood. You can find this book here.
Read our latest blog post to discover more books and podcasts to enjoy during and after pregnancy.
Looking after yourself after pregnancy:
After giving birth, you will probably feel quite emotional for a while. It is just as important to try to look after yourself as well as your new baby during this time and always remember, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel overwhelmed.
The ‘baby blues’ affect around 80% of women after birth. Women who experience the baby blues can expect to feel down for a little while shortly after having their baby. Symptoms can include:
- feeling emotional and irrational
- bursting into tears for no apparent reason
- feeling irritable or touchy
- feeling depressed or anxious
Symptoms might upset you at the time, but they are relatively mild and will usually pass within 10 to 14 days. If they hang around or become more severe, they could be signs of more serious postnatal illness. You should speak to your GP or health visitor about getting some help and support. There is also lots of support online from organisations such as The Royal Foundation – don’t be afraid to speak up during this time.
Remember, pregnancy is a time when your body is changing very quickly — you’re growing a baby, after all. Feeling emotional during pregnancy is common because of hormone changes. But it’s important to ask for help if you are feeling sad more than you are feeling happy. If you need any help or support don’t be afraid to reach out to family, friends or your midwife. They can help you find ways to look after your emotional health, including getting extra help and treatment if needed.