The Ways Pregnancy Can Aggravate Mental Health | Motherhood and Wellbeing | Unwanted Life

The Ways Pregnancy Can Aggravate Mental Health

A couple of months ago I asked Twitter if there was a mental health topic that often gets overlooked. One Twitter user replied suggested how pregnancy can affect mental health as an overlooked topic. Unfortunately, the person that made the suggestion has a private account, so I can’t credit them. But I decided to follow through on their suggestion, and this article is the result.

 

 

There’s this myth that pregnancy is a very happy and exciting time, and in most cases, that can be true. However, some women will have mixed or even negative feels about their pregnancy. There’s nothing wrong or unusual with that of course, pregnancy is a significant change in your life. Pregnancy can be a difficult time for women because you have to deal with like morning sickness, and if you don’t have support around you then there can be  other things that could be on your mind causing worry and anxiety (Royal College of Psychiatrists), such as:

 

  • The changes in your role (becoming a mother, stopping work).
  • The changes in your relationships.
  • Concerns about if you’ll be a good parent.
  • Fears about there being problems with the pregnancy or the baby.
  • Physical health problems and pregnancy complications.
  • Fear of childbirth.
  • Lack of support and being alone.

 

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Because of the stress and anxiety around such issues, it’s not uncommon for pregnant women to then go on and develop a mental health disorder (NICE). But that’s not the only way pregnancy can affect a pregnant woman’s mental health. If a woman is taking medication for their mental health, they may stop taking it when they find out they’re pregnant for fear that the medication might harm the fetus, or may have to stop taking it because there is a chance that the medication will harm their fetus.

 

Aa pregnant woman who has had previous issues with mental health might have those issues return. Plus, pregnancy could make any current mental health issues worse. Being pregnant can be a stressful and anxious time, and that might have a knock-on effect on the overall mental health of the pregnant woman.

 

According to WHO, any woman can develop mental health issues during pregnancy or in the first year after delivery. Furthermore, extreme stress, poverty, migration, natural and other forms of disasters, exposure to violence (domestic, sexual, and gender-based), emergency and conflict situations, and low social support generally can and will increase risks of developing a mental health disorder.

 

Mental health problems during pregnancy and in mothers can lead to increased maternal mortality, due to adverse physical health problems but also due to suicide WHO (2008). The WHO states that 10% of pregnant women and 13% of those who have recently given birth will experience a mental health condition, which is normally depression. Furthermore, Oates (2003) reports on The Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths 1997 to 1999, finding that suicide accounted for 28% of maternal deaths during that time.

 

The Ways Pregnancy Can Aggravate Mental Health | Motherhood and Wellbeing | Unwanted Life

 

A less common mental health condition that could develop due to pregnancy is psychosis, which can lead to suicide but in some cases, can result in the newborn being harmed (WHO).

 

Here’s a list of some of the other mental health problems that can develop according to NICE:

 

  • The most common are depression and anxiety disorders in all parts of the world.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • Tokophobia (extreme fear of giving birth).
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially after a difficult childbirth.
  • Eating disorders can be antagonised due to changes in body shape.

 

Undiagnosed mental health issues during pregnancy and during the early years of motherhood can cause these women to not function properly, which can negatively affect those around them (WHO). Furthermore, depression and anxiety during pregnancy can increase the risk of obstetric complications and preterm labour (Alder, Fink, Bitzer, Hösli, and Holzgreve, 2007). Depression can also cause a reduction in responses to a child’s needs due to the suffering they’re enduring (WHO).  

 

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Undiagnosed Mental Health Concerns In Pregnancy

 

One of the issues with mental health and pregnancy is that some mental health issues that might have developed can go undiagnosed because symptoms such as fatigue and poor sleep are dismissed as being due to being pregnant and motherhood WHO (2008).

 

Because these mental health issues can go undiagnosed, and because of stigma, dealing with mental health and pregnancy can mean women are less likely to adequately care for their own needs. They’re also less likely to seek antenatal/postnatal care or stick to a health regimen WHO (2008).

 

This lack of mental health support can lead to pregnant women or mothers with mental health problems engaging with high-risk behaviours, such as alcohol and substance abuse WHO (2008).

 

Unfortunately, the stigma around mental health and pregnancy stops women from seeking help. This is largely due to the image we’ve all created about how pregnancy is a magical and happy experience, causing women to feel shame about not having that happy experience that’s expected for themselves (Marcus, 2009). 

 

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Mental Health And Pregnancy

 

Dealing with mental health issues during pregnancy won’t stop you from being able to have a healthy baby with the correct treatment and care, and you shouldn’t suffer through your pregnancy due to fear of being judged. Health professionals are well aware that mental health can be affected by pregnancy and being a parent.

 

But here’s the good news, maternal mental health disorders are treatable. There are effective interventions that can be deployed to help you manage your mental health and overall wellbeing during and after pregnancy. So speak to your doctor if you feel you’re struggling with your mental health as you go through pregnancy and motherhood (and even fatherhood/parenthood too). 

 

Screening

 

Having never been through the pregnancy experience myself, and each country being different, I want to state that it’s important to screen for depression and anxiety in pregnant women and new parents. Using such a screening tool would promote long-term mental health and wellbeing of both the parents and the babies (Biaggi, Conroy, Pawlby, and Pariante, 2016). I think that should be something we should make common practice everywhere if it’s not already.

 

As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences with how pregnancy affected your mental health in the comments section below as well. If you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up to my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications of new posts by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom left corner.

 

Lastly, if you’d like to support my blog then you can make a donation of any size below as well. Until next time, Unwanted Life readers.

 

 

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References

 

Alder, J., Fink, N., Bitzer, J., Hösli, I., & Holzgreve, W. (2007). Depression and anxiety during pregnancy: a risk factor for obstetric, fetal and neonatal outcome? A critical review of the literature. The journal of maternal-fetal & neonatal medicine: the official journal of the European Association of Perinatal Medicine, the Federation of Asia and Oceania Perinatal Societies, the International Society of Perinatal Obstetricians, 20(3), 189–209. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/14767050701209560.

Biaggi, A., Conroy, S., Pawlby, S., & Pariante, C. M. (2016). Identifying the women at risk of antenatal anxiety and depression: A systematic review. Journal of Affective Disorders191, 62–77. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2015.11.014 and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4879174/.

Oates, M. (2003). Perinatal psychiatric disorders: a leading cause of maternal morbidity and mortality. British Medical Bulletin, 67(1), 219–229. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1093/bmb/ldg011.

WHO. (2008). Millennium Development Goal 5: improving maternal health. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/Perinatal_depression_mmh_final.pdf.

Marcus, S. M. (2009). Depression during Pregnancy: Rates, Risks and Consequences. Canadian Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 16(1), e15-e22. Retrieved from https://jptcp.com/index.php/jptcp/article/view/295/243.

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40 thoughts on “The Ways Pregnancy Can Aggravate Mental Health

  1. Thank you for sharing this post. I still remember being alone and overloaded with chores as my husband was very busy during that time, although I didn’t suffer any mental issues but being pregnant still scares me now.

      • This was a very insightful post. I haven’t been pregnant. I have fears of beinf infertile even though I’ve never tried to have a baby. I think it’s partly the myths of being over 30 and the difficulty of getting pregnant. I will be more empathetic and understanding with pregnant women because I always assume it’s such a blessing and overlook what really could be happening.

  2. It’s a miracle that I’m not taking any meds for anxiety/depression. Meds are the last thing I want, but I am considering therapy. I’m currently dealing with a lot of transitional changes (2 upcoming jobs, EDD 05/28/21, a national exam) and I don’t get a lot of support. Keeping a positive mindset is tough and some days my depression is quite bad. I’ll be 18 weeks on Friday with my second baby.

    My husband wants me to work but my mother in-law isn’t being supportive at all. It’s quite upsetting. We don’t have family out here and it’s just me, my husband, and my 4-year old. He travels a lot for work. It’s hard some days, not gonna lie.

    • That does sound difficult not having family around especially with your partner being away a lot for work. I guess it’ll be important to factor in self-care to keep your spirits up and your stress down

  3. A very sensitive and vital issue to write about. Actually the pregnancy is related with fertility, and most of the married couples wants to get pregnant ASAP, but for some as you have mentioned the experience is not as happy and satisfying. Few mothers goes into postpartum depression too, means depression after giving birth. Although it’s a natural process, but sometimes one needs more help than usual. It’s important that we should not just take care of pregnant mother’s physical health but her mental health too, during and after the pregnancy as well. Great post!

  4. I really appreciate you talking about overlooked mental health issues and breaking the taboo. I haven’t been pregnant (hopefully not in the next few years) but I understand how the entire process can aggravate mental health. I agree with the shift of roles, it can get very daunting. Aside from your vagina being ripped wide open, physical and psychological effects can take place and the results differ from every woman. Mommies deserve more praise! God bless you and your family. Thanks for sharing this.

    http://www.lifebeginsattwenty.com

  5. We really need to respect what women go through during pregnancy, and especially recognise that pregnancy can affect the mental health of both men and women as it’s an important process that can have lots of ups and downs. Thank you for sharing x

  6. Very relateable I suffered perinatal depression and post natal with my first child. It’s amazing how much hormones effect our thought process. Thank you for writing this

  7. This is very informative. I don’t think it’s talked about as much as it should be. I would think that being pregnant would have a change on a woman both physically and mentally. And you have outlined that very well. Although I don’t have kids, I’ve watched a friend or family member around me go through postpartum with 1 or more of their children without addressing it and getting some form of help. Thank you for sharing this very important topic.

  8. I would like to think that pregnancy is a time for people to glow and look forward to the changes in their lives, but I know that where there is happiness there is also doubt, so I enjoyed reading this! There is no shame in seeking help and having supportive family to turn to is also a big help. 🙂

  9. This is such a great read because it is a lot of what people don’t necessarily always want to talk about. It can be so hard for them to want to come forward or say something because it almost isn’t the norm. I hope people know that there are resources for them to take advantage of and become more aware of what pregnancy entails, besides having a baby. Thanks for sharing this. (:

    Single Vegas Girl
    http://singlevegasgirl.blogspot.com

    • Thank you. I think it’d benefit society of people would have more conversations about the downsides and potential problems of pregnancy rather than creating an unrealistic image of pregnancy

  10. This is a great post! I never had a first hand experience, but at least someone is showing that there’s also more around pregnancy than what society depicts it. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Ah! I am not a mother yet lol but I have read a lot about pregnancy. After all, I am going to be a mum one day. This is an amazing post. Pregnancy can really affect the mental health. I have had different experiences with pregnant people and I know that the effect of pregnancy on mental health is real. This post covers parts of pregnancy that people try to run away from and I learnt a lot from this post too. Great post x!

    Ruthiee loves Glamour

  12. Thank you for this post. My daughter has history severe anxiety and had been doing well, but is now pregnant and it has been a bit challenging. Especially during COVID, when usual support systems including family or significant other are usually allowed to be in for the office visits.

  13. This is really something not covered a lot but I have soo many friend who’ve had babies and they tell that they feel this way a lot. Thank you for sharing this, I hope it helps lots of people!

    Rosie

  14. Thanks a lot for the tips, although I’m a man and not married yet, I’ll commit them to memory for my future wife.

  15. You hit the nail of the head with this post! I have worked in the medical field for over 35 years, 12 of those years was working for an OB/GYN. You’re absolutely right, becoming pregnant is a time full of joy and excitement. But once the body starts to change and hormones are all out of whack…..well it can really take it’s toll on the new mom to be. Great post! Thanks for sharing.

    • As a man, I’ll never fully know the toll it takes on a woman’s body, but I can at least spread awareness about the effects it can have on mental health so they don’t feel shame if it’s not as joyous as people say it will be

  16. This is such an informative post! I have always heard about women getting depressed after having a baby, but did not realize how common it is for women to be depressed or sad during the pregnancy. It’s always portrayed as such a happy time.

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