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Pregnancy During a Pandemic: How to Look After Your Mental Health

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and with the current global pandemic, it’s understandable that people are feeling more stressed and anxious.

For pregnant women in particular, the uncertainty of Coronavirus combined with the uncertainty of pregnancy can pile on added stress and anxiety. Pandemic-related mental health issues can be brought on from the feeling of isolation and the economic struggles which have occurred. Women may also feel more vulnerable and scared about theirs and their baby’s health.

You may be wondering how do you even recognise the signs of depression or anxiety…

Depression -
Feeling sad or irritable for weeks or months at a time. Some women may have depression before getting pregnant. But it also can start during pregnancy for a number of different reasons.
Anxiety -
Feeling worried or fearful about things that might happen. If you are a worrier anyway, many things can cause you stress during pregnancy.

It is important that you acknowledge when you are feeling depressed or anxious and not disregard it as just another ‘bad day.’

It is particularly important for expectant mums to look after their mental well-being, as it is not just important for you, but also for your baby too. They can pick up on your stress even when in the womb!

Pregnancy is an exciting time for mums-to-be and their families. Though, in times like these, it can be difficult to feel excited.

However, there are some things you can do to help you to feel more in control of your situation.

Talk to Your Midwife

Your first point of call should always be a healthcare professional such as your GP or your midwife.

Anxiety and stress during pregnancy is a common issue shared by many expecting mums, but with lockdown in place, your stress levels may likely be heightened.

It is important to reach out and ask for help if you are struggling.

Suffering with stress alone can exacerbate your stress and anxiety levels, which can manifest as physical symptoms such as sickness, headaches, changes in your appetite or skin problems, such as a rash.

Tell your midwife or GP about how you are feeling. They will help you access the right support and give you reassurance.

Be Kind to Your Mind

Remember that feeling anxious is a natural reaction to what is happening in the world right now.

Don’t feel guilty of not constantly gleaming with happiness. Your response to what is going on in the world will be different from others, and that’s fine.

Take time out of the day to distract yourself from the news. Whether you do something productive like reading or indulging in a hobby is up to you.

Mental health experts recommend a gratitude diary in which you write down five things that you are grateful for.

Meditation can also help to relieve anxiety. Sit in a quiet space and focus on your breathing. Take long, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Deep breathing exercises, such as those used in meditation, are easy to do and can be effective at reducing stress.

Be Kind to Your Body

Try to do some exercise every day, even if it is just a 15-minute walk.

The fresh air, vitamin D and change of scenery will do you good and by doing something to stay healthy, it will help you manage your anxiety levels and make you feel better within yourself.

If you can help it, avoid focusing on the idea that you are exercising. If you are walking through a park, just enjoy your surroundings. Focus on your breathing and your senses, such as what you can see, hear and smell.

Remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your body hydrated.

Focus On One Day At a Time

Practice simple mindfulness techniques to help you live "in the moment". Don’t worry too much about the future. Focus on each day and the life you are growing inside you.

Similar to grounding techniques, mindfulness is about being aware of your own feelings and how you see the world. Remember, the events that unfold in your head are not real and cannot control you.

When you notice your thoughts are running amok inside your head, recognise and counter your thoughts with deep breathing exercises or grounding techniques to remind yourself of where you are right now.

Mindfulness has been found to help relieve anxiety, depression, and stress during pregnancy.

Stay Social

Even though you have to physically isolate, you can still connect with your family and friends.

Whether you have a daily video call, phone call or even just text, the human interaction can help reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, boredom and loneliness.

Moreover, you can talk to other people about how you are feeling. They may be feeling anxious too, so communicating can benefit both you and your contacts.

You could also arrange to meet up with a friend in a public space, so long as you keep social distancing.

Don’t Obsess Over News

Staying informed and keeping up-to-date with the latest developments and guidance is important.

However, constantly refreshing your news feed or reading negative stories and worst-case scenario predictions won’t make you feel any less anxious. Keep it to a limit and try spending your time reading or watching positive birthing stories.

Use social media wisely:

  • Use lists on Twitter to keep organised feeds focused on particular things, such as birthing stories, blogger mums, hobbies and friends or relatives.
  • Unfollow or hide pages and people on Facebook whose posts might impact your mental health.
  • Share positive things and engage in positive and productive conversations.
  • Look for online communities which you can contribute to. Whether you join a Facebook group for expecting mums or engage regularly with an Instagram hashtag, contributing and engaging positively online with like-minded individuals can boost your self-esteem and make you feel involved in something.

Don’t Overdo Things

Staying busy is great but don’t overdo it to the point that you exhaust yourself.

Or to the point where, when you do finally take a breather, you feel overwhelmed again when thinking about what’s happening.

Maintain a healthy balance of doing everything in moderation.

For some people, the pomodoro technique can help boost productivity. Set a timer for 25 minutes to do something – such as cleaning, writing, chasing up emails, decorating a nursery or whatever kind of task you need to get done.

Once the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break. Once your break is over, restart the timer and continue or move on to another task. After you’ve taken 4 short breaks, take a longer break of up to 30 minutes.

Don’t Bottle Things Up

Whether you talk to a family member, friend or professional – it does not matter as long as you talk.

Do not be tempted to keep all your thoughts in your head. Sharing your inner thoughts with someone can help you to cope with a problem that you have been carrying by yourself.

Communication is even more important with the current lockdown in place. As you are not going out and seeing people as usual, it is important not to isolate yourself from human communication.

Depression and anxiety can be common for expectant and new mums. It is important to remember that you are not alone and that there is a lot of support available to you.

Remember, if you are worried about how you are feeling, you can talk to your GP, midwife or health visitor.

You can also put your mind to ease and read through the guidance on the NHS website which includes important information about what to do when you have appointments and scan and what to do if you think you have symptoms of Coronavirus.