May is Mental Health Month. Throughout the month, we will be sharing how and why mental health is such an important factor for living your best life. In the article below, Dr. Lauren Sonderegger explains why taking care of your mental health is important during pregnancy.
Pregnancy is often viewed as a time of emotional wellbeing. However, mood swings are common, and many women find that their emotions can change abruptly in new and often troubling ways. In fact, up to 20% of women suffer from mood or anxiety disorders during pregnancy. Particularly vulnerable are women with histories of depression, anxiety, bipolar or substance use disorders; these can worsen with the emotional and physical stresses of pregnancy. Partners also find they may have emotional swings and mental healthcare needs, as it is a time of change for them too.
Dr. Sonderegger is a Family Medicine Physician at Valley-Wide Health Systems.
It is both important to be aware of and pursue positive coping skills, but also to know warning signs of when seek help.
Activities that promote mental health in pregnancy:
- Exercise: walking, swimming, bicycling, light weights, yoga – all are great options in pregnancy to release endorphins, or “happy” hormones.
- Eat well: eat fruits and vegetables of all colors – this way you know you’ll get the vitamins you need. Nuts, eggs, cheese, meats, beans, whole grains are all nutritious. Stay away from processed foods, soda or sugary/starchy foods – these increase inflammation throughout your body and also affect your baby.
- Sleep and meditation: Sleep at least 8 hours per night – sleep is rest for our mind, body and brain. A daily 10-minute guided meditation decreases stress on you and your baby.
- Pleasurable and relaxing hobbies: Listening to music, journaling, singing, being with loved ones, etc.
However, if you’re feeling worried, sad or nervous, or have thoughts of hurting yourself or others, it is important that you reach out to your social supports–among friends, family, faith etc. Many women benefit from counseling as well.
Importantly, many women need to continue antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications to stay healthy. This can be done safely!! It’s important to remember that mom’s mental health is vital to be able to take care of her baby.
Pregnancy and childbirth can trigger our stress responses. As such, women with substance use disorders are at high risk of using again, or even initiating use. If necessary, your doctor can help reduce harm to you and your baby with medication-assisted treatment.
Pregnancy can be a joyful time, but also can cause stress from significant hormonal, physical and real-life changes. Remember that it’s as important to treat mental health concerns during pregnancy as physical health – a sound mind promotes a healthy baby.
Valley-Wide Health Systems is committed to providing information conducive to a healthy active lifestyle. For more information and to discuss your wellness journey with a provider visit us at vwhs.org.