Taking Care of Your Mental Health During Pregnancy
Pregnancy brings a mix of feelings, and not all of them are good. If you're feeling worried, you're not alone. Worry is common, especially during a woman's first pregnancy or an unplanned one. It can be even harder if you're dealing with depression or anxiety.
If you're feeling worried, sad, or nervous, talk to someone about it — and know when to reach out for help.
What Feelings Can Happen?
Mood swings are normal during pregnancy. But if you feel nervous or down all the time, it could be a sign of something deeper going on. Stress over being pregnant, changes in your body during the pregnancy, and everyday worries can take a toll.
Some pregnant women may have depression or anxiety:
- Depression is sadness or feeling down or irritable for weeks or months at a time. Some women may have depression before getting pregnant. But it also can start during pregnancy for a number of reasons — for example, if a woman isn't happy about being pregnant or is dealing with a lot of stress at work or at home.
- Anxiety is a feeling of worry or fear over things that might happen. If you worry a lot anyway, many things can stress you out during pregnancy. You might worry that you won't be a good mother or that you can't afford to raise a baby.
Pregnant women may have other mental health issues, such as:
- bipolar disorder (episodes of low-energy depression and high-energy mania)
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- panic attacks (sudden, intense physical responses with a feeling of unexplained and paralyzing fear)
- obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- eating disorders (like bulimia or anorexia nervosa)
It's important to treat mental health concerns during pregnancy. Mothers who are depressed, anxious, or have another issue might not get the medical care they need. They might not take care of themselves, or they may use drugs and alcohol during the pregnancy. All of these things can harm a growing baby.
If you have a mental health issue, talk with your doctor so you can get the help you need during and after your pregnancy.
How Can I Get Help?
If you feel anxious or depressed, talk to a doctor, counselor, or therapist, and get help right away. The sooner treatment starts, the sooner you'll feel better.
Also talk to a doctor about your overall health and any mental health issues you've had in the past. It's best for your doctor to know your full medical history, in case anything comes up during or after your pregnancy.
How Are Problems Treated?
Treatment for mental health problems may include:
- Prescription medicine. Always talk to a doctor before you start taking — or stop taking — any medicines during your pregnancy. If you take any kind of medicine for a mental health issue and are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, tell your doctor. Don't stop taking it unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines may cause problems for a growing baby, but stopping your medicine may make things worse. Your doctor can make a treatment plan that is best for you and your baby.
- Talk therapy. Talking one-on-one with a therapist can be a great way to manage stress, deal with depression, and ease anxiety during pregnancy. Finding a support group where you can share your concerns with other mothers who know what you're going through also can help. Talking with a social worker or counselor can help you deal with money issues, worries over raising a child, or other stresses in your life.
- Other approaches. Many women find comfort in activities like yoga, exercise, and meditation. If you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed, talking to a friend, family member, or faith leader can help you feel better.
Many moms feel anxious or depressed at some point in their pregnancy, and some may even need treatment for it. But a mental health problem doesn't have to be a problem for you or your baby. Get the help you need to feel better, and you'll be doing the best thing for you both.