- The challenges of pregnancy can worsen or harm a pregnant mother's mental health
- Having conversations about what you may be feeling or struggling with helps both you and your baby
- Don't forget, caring for your mental health should always be a priority
Mental illness is one of the most common conditions people experience in the United States. About 1 in 5 adults may develop a mental illness within a given year. Alarmingly, women are much more likely to have a mental disorder than men. Knowing the changes that pregnancy brings to a woman’s body, pregnant women who are living with mental illness may find that these new challenges of pregnancy can worsen their mental health. Feelings of depression and anxiety can come up and become a problem that is not easily handled alone. Many moms find it hard to talk about their mental health. They may be afraid that friends and family won’t understand what they are going through. Talking about your mental health is often the first step that moms can take toward living a happy and fulfilling life for themselves and their baby.
This is especially true during pregnancy, when the mom may be at risk for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) – mental illnesses that arise during pregnancy and up to one year after the birth of your child. PMADs can happen to any woman with or without pre-existing mental illness with about 30,000 Georgia women experiencing a PMAD within a given year. Check out the Georgia chapter of Postpartum Support International (PSIGA) for advice on how to get help if you or someone you know is experiencing a PMAD. Their resources are available for both for pregnant and postpartum mothers.
The Pickles & Ice Cream Team understands that dealing with mental illness during pregnancy can be overwhelming, but all moms should try to do the following if they begin feeling symptoms of a PMAD:
Talk to Your Provider.
Receiving treatment is incredibly important to protecting mom and the baby during pregnancy. Depression diagnosis is on the rise and is the most common disorder for prenatal and postpartum moms. Moms who do not get mental health treatment may also put off going to their provider’s appointments. This means they miss out on getting the check-ups they need for a healthy pregnancy. This can put the mom and baby’s health at risk. Without treatment, depression during pregnancy can lead to premature birth, low birth-weight, and developmental delays as the baby gets older. Opening up to your provider about your feelings will allow the mom to get help before the baby is born.
Your provider can help you figure out if you need medications and how taking them might affect your baby. While some medications have been found to be safer than others, it is still unclear how mental health medications during pregnancy can affect your baby. It is highly important that you and your provider discuss the effects of these medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding to avoid complications down the road. Your provider can also help you find a therapist who is trained to talk about the difficult thoughts and feelings you are having.
Reach Out to Friends and Family.
Hanging out with friends and family is incredibly important for people living with mental illness. Feeling alone and isolated can make the symptoms of mental illness worse. Spending time with loved ones can boost your self-esteem by creating a sense of belonging. Doing activities that you enjoy can relieve stress. Friends and family can also help you find healthy ways to cope with symptoms of mental illness. For example, they can remind you to take your medications, encourage you to eat healthy foods, and support you when you feel overwhelmed. Remember, when it comes to mental health, you should never have to deal with it alone.
Having a personal self-care plan can help raise your confidence. Having confidence in yourself can help you face day-to-day challenges and stressful life events head on. Self-care often gets a bad rap with its association to expensive spa days and shopping sprees. However, self-care can also mean doing practical activities that are useful in your daily life. Setting goals, exercising, journaling, and cooking are just a few examples how to practice self-care in a useful way. If you want help developing your personal self-care plan, NAMI’s Self-Care Inventory can help you build a plan that works for you! To get help right now, call or text the PSI Helpline for information, support, and resources!
- Mental Health By the Numbers, NAMI
- Recorded Diagnoses of Depression During Delivery Hospitalizations in the United States, 2000–2015, Obstetrics & Gynecology
- Self-Care, Mental Health First Aid
- Taking Care of Your Mental Health During Pregnancy, Kids Health
- Maternal Mental Health Resources, Georgia Department
of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities
- Psychiatric Disorders During Pregnancy, The MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health
- Perinatal Mood Anxiety Disorders, Postpartum Support International