The Importance of Good Mental Health to Support a Healthy Pregnancy: A Mum's Own Story
Keeping your mental health in check is important in maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
Before I share my tips on how to ensure good mental health in pregnancy, I need to share with you that maintaining good mental health has not always been easy for me. In 2015, I suffered from my first panic attack. I had no idea what was going on. All I know is my breathing became intensified and my chest tightened. Out of nowhere, almost as if I was experiencing an out-of-body experience, I started screaming and crying.
That was my first experience with a mental breakdown. It was from burnout at work. This happened a handful of times afterward.
Fast forward to 2019, I was pregnant and I expected, with hormones raging, that I would experience a couple of these episodes and I was right.
The first happened on the road when a man tailgated me from home to my office, following me on the same route, making the same turns I did. I panicked and drove around in circles, crying and hyperventilating the whole time. I was four months pregnant at the time.
The next episode happened when my baby's crib was delivered. The delivery men refused to bring the crib into my home to set it up (even though I had paid for assembly) and at 7.5 months of pregnancy, I couldn't handle the stress. I broke down.
It could have been worse. It could have been A LOT worse.
But I think I managed to keep my mental health mostly in check during my pregnancy with this one constant thought: I need to keep my baby safe. Besides that, I also had external help, because as I learned, no, I could not do it all on my own.
Keep your mental health in pregnancy in check: Tips
1. Have a good support system to boost your mental health in pregnancy
Personally, I am willful and independent. I do not like asking for help. Even when things get so overwhelming, I want to do it all by myself. This leads to burnout. Every. Single. Time.
Thankfully, at the time, I had a husband who understood how to handle my panic attacks and would constantly step in to help. Another person I could really count on was my mother, who was present at almost every doctor's appointment with me in place of my husband.
During one of my earlier detailed scans, the doctor scared me with news that my baby's nuchal translucency was a little thick - a sign of Down Syndrome. As soon as I heard the news, my heart dropped, I started crying and spiraling. But thanks to my mother, I was able to calm down before I could enter a full-blown panic attack. My baby turned out fine in the end.
2. Meditate for good mental health in pregnancy
Some people find peace in doing yoga, some find peace in actual meditation and reflection. For me, my meditation was in the form of taking a step back and just breathing through my anxieties.
There's a lot to be anxious about during pregnancy. But to keep your mental health in pregnancy in check, try not to let your mind wander to the worst-case scenarios all the time, and instead, just breathe through it and focus on what you can control, rather than what you cannot control.
3. Continue to exercise throughout your pregnancy
Once the doctor clears you for exercise, you should keep a routine for exercise during pregnancy. I personally enjoyed going to spin classes until my third trimester. Sweating it out really helped to keep me sane most of the time.
Find an activity that is suitable for your fitness level and pregnancy stage.
4. Take care of yourself
One of the things I did not compromise on during my pregnancy and spent thousands on, was self-care. I went for weekly prenatal massages (which became twice a week towards the later part of my pregnancy). The stress of pregnancy will take a physical toll on your body, which can eventually affect your mental health too.
Do something relaxing for yourself and set aside as much time for self-care as possible so your mental wellbeing is also taken care of.
5. Find a doctor whose beliefs are aligned with yours
This was my single biggest mistake and regret during my pregnancy. I did not have an assigned doctor to my case, so I always had different doctors. Though the hospital I chose was pro-natural, in the end I was pressured into having a c-section because the doctor on call the day I went in to deliver felt that with my gestational diabetes, natural birth would be too much of a risk.
This raised my anxiety through the roof as I yo-yo'ed back and forth between my decision to go through with a natural birth or a c-section. I spent at least five hours agonising over my decision but by the time I made up my mind, it was too late. My baby was in distress and I had to go in for an emergency c-section.
Though I can't say I was 100% throughout my pregnancy, I think keeping in check MOST of the way helped to contribute to a healthy pregnancy.
Not letting the naysayers get to me and always focusing on the positive also helped a lot.
We hope these tips have been helpful for you.