How To Care For Your Mental Health While Pregnant

Pregnancy is a time when many changes and transitions are taking place as parents prepare to welcome a new family member. Not only is the pregnant person dealing with physical symptoms (such as heartburn, fatigue, nausea, and constipation, per the Mayo Clinic), they are also undergoing a huge psychological shift. This is, of course, relative to each individual's situation. For example, some may be dealing with unfavorable circumstances for expanding a family, such as financial stress and lack of support from existing family and friends, explains the International Forum for Wellbeing in Pregnancy. Others may simply find the transition to parenthood incredibly nerve-wracking and scary.

It's understandable, then, that 20% of pregnant people deal with mental health issues during this time of their lives, with the most prominent being depression and anxiety (per the Royal College of Psychiatrists). While these conditions can worsen during pregnancy if they were pre-existing, a person may also experience them for the first time while expecting. In addition to psychological stress, the hormone changes that take place during pregnancy also contribute to mental health woes, adds UNC Health. In this case, the increase in progesterone and estrogen can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety.

If pregnancy is negatively affecting your mental health, know that there are ways you can care for yourself to minimize symptoms and cope with the distress.

Help that's available during your pregnancy journey

While you can definitely expect mood swings during pregnancy, you may find that your mental health takes a plunge and you start experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other conditions like panic attacks and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

Kids Health emphasizes the importance of reaching out to a mental health professional in these cases rather than trying to deal with the issue on your own or turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms. A doctor that specializes in pregnancy and postpartum-related mental health issues can provide the best support during this phase, whether that be through prescribing medications or offering a safe space to talk through your experiences.

In addition to seeking professional help, you can also turn to physical activity for improving symptoms related to mental health issues. A 2019 systematic review published in the journal Medicina found that even just one exercise session a week was enough to improve depression symptoms during pregnancy. Exercise also goes a long way in minimizing anxiety and stress. Some pregnancy-safe activities you can consider include swimming, yoga, stationary cycling, strength training, and walking, per the March of Dimes.

Finally, one of the best things you can do for your mental health while pregnant is seek out or lean on a support system. Austin Expecting recommends prenatal-specific support groups. You can also consider hiring a doula, who specializes in offering emotional support during the pregnancy and postpartum periods.