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Pregnancy

      Pregnancy mental health: mood swings, pregnancy blues, depression and anxiety

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      Pregnancy mental health: mood swings, pregnancy blues, depression and anxiety

      Discovering that you’re pregnant can result in a range of different emotions, including a feeling of overwhelm as you contemplate what your new life will look like with a brand new baby as part of the picture.

      Between the raging hormones and changes to your body, pregnancy can make for an emotionally tricky time.

      According to UK government statistics, anywhere between 10 and 20% of women experience mental health difficulties during their pregnancy1.

      From pregnancy depression and anxiety during pregnancy to body image and pregnancy psychosis, we’re looking at pregnancy mental health and what to do if you need support.

      Pregnancy mood swings


      Pregnancy mood swings can be confusing, frustrating and leave you feeling thoroughly fed up. Fits of crying, unexplained feelings of anger and changes to your sex drive could all be a result of your pregnancy hormones.

      You may find that your pregnancy mood swings are at their worst during the first 12 weeks when hormonal changes are at their height2. If they’re starting to get you down, keep in mind that your pregnancy hormones are helping you to stay healthy during your pregnancy and preparing you for birth and bonding with your baby. 

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      Why am I so angry with my partner while pregnant?

      Pregnancy can be tough on relationships. Accepting that some things are going to change can be difficult. Your social life as a couple might start to look different. You might resent your partner for not being restricted to certain foods or activities.

      In addition, there are potential future concerns; financial worries, childcare responsibilities and household chores, to name a few. All of these things can put a strain on a relationship.

      Relationships always rely on open and effective communication. It’s no different during your pregnancy. It might not feel like the stuff of great romance, but telling your partner how you feel will go a long way in working as a team and helping them support you.

      Pregnancy blues and pregnancy depression

      Pregnancy depression is also known as prenatal depression or antenatal depression. 

      The symptoms can vary from mild to very strong and typically involve feeling down most of the time and having difficulty concentrating or making decisions. Often there's a growing and powerful fear of giving birth. Depression in pregnancy can also make you feel very anxious, tearful and irritable, leaving you with little energy or motivation3.

      If you’re experiencing prenatal depression, you might be asking yourself whether it’s normal to be depressed when pregnant. Let’s take a look at the signs and symptoms of depression in pregnancy and how to manage it.

      Prenatal depression: symptoms and signs

      If you’re struggling to manage your feelings during your pregnancy, you may be experiencing prenatal depression.

      Some of the signs include feeling guilty, worthless, getting teary and feeling down or a drop in confidence and self-esteem. Other signs of prenatal depression include3:

      • Feeling hostile towards your partner.
      • Being unable to find joy in the things that usually make you happy.
      • Feeling isolated from other people.

      How to cope with depression while pregnant

      If you’re experiencing prenatal depression, it’s essential to seek support. You’re not alone.

      There are so many different options to help you manage how you’re feeling. Why not try4:

      • Physical activity. If you’re up to it, exercise can help to lift your mood and help you sleep a little more soundly.
      • Eating a healthy balanced diet at regular intervals.
      • Breathing exercises to help you feel calmer.
      • Exploring counselling or other talking therapies.

      Is it normal to be depressed when pregnant?

      The experience of pregnancy is different for every individual. Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s all relative. Focus on how you feel as your pregnancy progresses and seek the support you need when you need it.

      Body image and pregnancy depression

      Pregnancy can really affect how you feel about your body and the physical changes it’s going through.

      If you feel a far cry from the glowing mums-to-be that adorn the magazine covers, rest assured you’re not alone.

      You might be worried that you don’t look attractive or that your body feels different and unfamiliar. Be kind to yourself and remember your body's amazing work during pregnancy. Do the things that make you feel happy and keep talking to those you feel close to for support.

      Depressed about weight gain in pregnancy

      Whilst weight gain in pregnancy is completely normal, that might come as little comfort if you’re feeling uncomfortable about how your body is changing. It’s important to remember that pregnancy isn’t a time to focus on weight loss. Instead, opt for a healthy and well-balanced diet that will help to nourish both you and your baby.

      If you feel overwhelmed and very upset about your pregnancy weight gain, always seek support from your midwife and GP. Unresolved negative feelings may leave you at risk of an eating disorder during pregnancy and after birth.  

      Anxiety during pregnancy

      Anxiety during pregnancy can happen for any number of reasons.

      You might be worried about the future and how your life will change once you become a parent. You might have a fear of giving birth that’s interfering with your ability to relax and stay calm during your pregnancy.

      Signs and symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy include5:

      • Feeling dizzy or faint.
      • Your breathing becoming faster, and an irregular heartbeat. 
      • Feeling hot and/or sweating.

      From hormonal changes to how to keep calm, read on for a non-judgemental discussion around anxiety during pregnancy.

      Is anxiety common during pregnancy?

      From not enjoying being pregnant to feeling isolated and overwhelmed, there are so many things that can result in pregnancy anxiety.

      It’s a massive life change, and it’s estimated that around 21% of pregnant women are affected by anxiety whilst pregnant6.

      How to calm anxiety while pregnant

      There are lots of things you can try to help relieve pregnancy anxiety. For example:

      • Experiment with mindfulness activities like colouring and relaxing breathing techniques.
      • Pregnancy yoga or other mild physical activity.
      • Getting enough sleep

      If you’re still struggling to calm your anxiety, speak to your midwife or GP for advice. They may recommend talking therapy, CBT, or medication where appropriate7.

      Pregnancy psychosis

      Pregnancy psychosis is an extremely rare condition, resulting in an altered mental state and psychotic episodes during pregnancy.

      If you have any concerns about yourself or someone you know, experiencing pregnancy psychosis, it’s very important to seek medical help as a matter of urgency. This is a condition requiring correct diagnosis, close observation and ongoing support8.

      Fear of giving birth

      Feeling anxious about giving birth is very common, and usually, nothing to worry about. However, if this starts to affect you more significantly, you could be experiencing what’s known as tokophobia.

      Tokophobia is a mental health condition that results in a severe fear of childbirth6. Tokophobia can occur as a result of a fear of pain, a previous birth experience that was traumatic, or having a history of anxiety9

      If this is sounding familiar, talk to your midwife or GP. They’ll be able to help you access the support you need. For example, they may encourage you to attend antenatal classes and write your birth plan to set out your birth choices and preferences.

      I’m not enjoying being pregnant

      If you’re not enjoying your pregnancy, you’re not alone. Dealing with pregnancy symptoms like heartburn, sore breasts and tiredness and fatigue isn’t easy.

      Your feelings are totally valid here. Just because you’re not enjoying your pregnancy doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy being a parent.

      Take care of yourself and try to relax as much as possible. Your pregnancy will soon be over, ready for you to start your parenting adventure.

      Eating disorders and pregnancy

      For some women, pregnancy and the body changes that come with it are very difficult to deal with. Whilst it’s perfectly natural to gain weight whilst you’re pregnant, it can lead to issues with body image, confidence and self-esteem. This can in turn lead to developing an eating disorder, or making an existing disorder worse.

      If you have an eating disorder and you discover you’re pregnant, it’s very important that you tell your midwife and your GP - both for your own safety and the safety of your baby. That way, you’ll be able to get the support you need at every step of your pregnancy.

      You’ll probably be offered additional support from your doctor and midwife. They’ll check in with you regularly, help you prepare for how your body will change and support you with maintaining a healthy lifestyle10.

      Anorexia and bulimia during pregnancy

      If you suffer with anorexia or bulimia during your pregnancy, extra appointments may be offered as part of your antenatal care. This will help to ensure that you’re getting all of the nutrition you and your growing baby need.

      It’s very important that you keep all of your antenatal appointments, and talk about how you’re feeling as your pregnancy progresses. Your midwife and doctors are there to support you. Don’t hesitate to lean on them as and when you need to.

      Don’t keep it to yourself

      Every pregnancy comes with its own fair share of stress and anxiety. After all, there's a lot to think about. Talking these worries through with your partner, family and friends can really help you to manage any anxiety. This will help those closest to you to spot any worrying signs and symptoms when it comes to your pregnancy mental health.

      If things are getting on top of you, it’s a good idea to talk to your midwife or doctor. They may suggest counselling, listening to a guided meditation CD or cognitive behavioural therapy, which can help to change unhelpful thinking patterns or behaviour. In some cases, antidepressants may be prescribed.

      The important thing to remember is that there are people who can help you through it and you’re not alone. Below you’ll find some useful resources:

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