By Ruby Matley
Perinatal mental health is an important topic and SHOULD be talked about. It is a crucial element of prenatal care. For many women, pregnancy can be an emotional time. We can go through ups and downs as we enter new phases over the nine months, worrying about the transition from work to motherhood, our living situation, our proximity to family and friends, our relationship with our partner or even the fear of giving birth.
We tend to hear about the joy of pregnancy, the anticipation women feel about becoming a mama and bringing a bebe into the world. Implicit in this rosy view of pregnancy is that we know what we’re doing, and that we should feel positive and grateful for the entire experience, yet this couldn’t feel further from the truth. Pregnancy can be a minefield and we may question what we are doing, how our baby is growing and developing and if we are making the right choices along the way.
During the second trimester, many women in Australia will first be formally screened for mental health concerns either with their doctor or through the hospital. This has become a standard part of the booking in process at most hospitals. Most GPs, obstetricians and midwives are very alert to the importance of mental health during and after pregnancy.
If you are experiencing feelings of anxiety, depression or low moods that won’t budge or you are feeling a lack of enjoyment in life it is important to know that you are not alone.
Here are some signs to look out for
1 // Low moods that last more than 2 weeks
2 // Emotions that are negatively impacting your ability to complete everyday tasks
3 // A lack of enjoyment or pleasure in life
4 // Frequently feeling overwhelmed or anxious
5 // Struggling to fall or stay asleep
I found that meeting other mamas-to-be in antenatal classes or prenatal exercise classes helped to ease my insecurities about pregnancy.
MEDITATION and MINDFULNESS are great ways to reduce anxiety. I have never found it easy to meditate on my own, so I decided to try guided meditations through an app (I used Headspace). These can be incredibly helpful, and I found that practicing mindfulness every day for just 5-10 minutes helped to reduce my worries, particularly in the weeks leading up to the birth.
I also had to learn to trust the advice of my doctors and midwives, which was difficult for me. I found that once I let them in and expressed my concerns, I received a lot of ongoing support and encouragement, particularly from the midwives, who really made me feel at ease. If you are experiencing anxiety or depression during your pregnancy or the first year of motherhood, it is very important that you seek professional help. Pregnancy is such a delicate time and a huge transition for every woman. You got this mama!
9 Months by Dr David Addenbrooke and Ruby Matley, RRP $34.99, published by Pan Macmillan.