Pregnancy is a beautiful and happy time for most women, but happiness might not be the only thing you are feeling. Emotions such as stress and anxiety often accompany a woman during this period. One is more likely to feel stressed if it is a first or unplanned pregnancy. At times it is tense for both the partners as this is a change, they may find themselves unprepared for and feel a lack of control over the situation.
Women also feel distress over the new physical and hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy. As pregnancy can be a stressful time, women become vulnerable to certain psychological disorders and experience deteriorating mental health. They are susceptible to disorders such as anxiety disorder, depression, eating disorders and at times even post-traumatic stress disorder and bi-polar disorder.
Anxiety and Depression
As pregnancy is often lauded and glorified in our country, it becomes harder for women to share and confide with people if they are facing any negative emotions and makes them feel guilty over having such thoughts.
In 2016, the National Mental Health Survey reported that every one in ten individuals in India suffers from depression and anxiety. It was further reported that 20% of these individuals were pregnant women and new mothers. Though mood swings are common during pregnancy but one and their partner must remain vigilant to recognise signs of Antenatal Depression and Antenatal Anxiety. They may be;
- If you have been continuously feeling down, sad or hopeless for more than two weeks
- If you have been losing interest in everything and being unable to cope
- If feelings of anxiousness and worry are stopping and worry are stopping you from functioning normally
- Frequent panic attacks
- Sudden development of obsessive or compulsive behaviour
Pregnant women can suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during pregnancy if they have experienced a miscarriage before or have history of sexual, physical or emotional abuse. Women also become more vulnerable if they have a history of psychotic illness. If they are experiencing psychotic trouble during pregnancy, they may become more susceptible to using tobacco, drinking and other substances to relieve stress.
Metal illness in mother is a serious matter as if affects both the mother and the baby. Several studies have shown that psychiatrically ill women can face pregnancy complications such as preterm delivery, low birth weight of the baby and foetal retardation resulting from maternal depression and anxiety.
Role of a Partner
A partner or spouse plays a great role in the life a pregnant woman. During pregnancy, a woman who feels she lacks support or someone who is going through a rough patch in a relationship, may experience stress putting their mental health, physical health and general well-being at risk. Having a companion around can build a strong support system for these women as It creates a safe space for them to share their concerns and thoughts which can help in early diagnosis of mental disorders.
For the safety of both the mother and child it is best to recognise signs of mental illness at the earliest and find a coping mechanism that works for them. Some of them are;
- Consult you General Practitioner if you experience any stressful emotions. Also consult your doctor before taking or terminating any medicinal routines which may be for the treatment of mental illness because at times stopping treatment is much more harmful to the mother and the baby, from the fear of harm to the baby from medicines.
- Talking can solve a lot of your problems. Talking to a therapist, partner or finding a support group can help in dealing with depression and help ease anxiety. Making friends with another expecting couple can increase support.
- Try not make any significant changes in your life that might generate stress such as changing jobs and moving houses. Spending time with people who make you feel positive can also help.
- Maintaining a good and healthy diet maintains a good balance. Many women use exercising to cope with stress such as yoga, pilates, etc after consulting one’s doctor.
Facing a mental health problem during pregnancy need not be a complication for you and your baby. Asking for help when you feel like you need it may be the first step to a healthy recovery.