Based on a study conducted and published by the National Institute of Health, about 12.7% of pregnant women experience major depression in the course of their pregnancy.
Another study conducted by the CDC using the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) indicates about 1 in every 8 women show symptoms of postpartum depression.
These statistics, however, differ depending on the age, race, and ethnicity.
Perinatal depression is also another concern facing pregnant women. Other than adversely affecting the unborn baby, it takes a toll on the mother to be.
Even so, there is hope after all this because depression is not only treatable but with proper follow-up care, you can also mitigate these emotional disturbance issues.
What Are the Risk Factors for Mental Health Disorders During Pregnancy?
Globally, mental health problems affecting pregnant women are a considerable concern. The statistics from the CDC and the NIH concur with those from the World Health Organization. About 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who’ve just delivered struggle with maternal mental health disorders. And in a first world country like the US, these statistics are even higher.
It’s, therefore, critical for individuals to seek help from a mental health specialist if you start exhibiting symptoms of stress during pregnancy to mitigate adverse outcomes of the condition.
So, what are some of the risk factors for mental health disorders during pregnancy?
Stressors during Pregnancy
Any pregnant woman can face mental health challenges during pregnancy or in their first year after delivery. However, some risk factors increase the prevalence of these illnesses. These factors include:
- Exposure to domestic, gender-based, or sexual violence
- Natural disasters
- Lack of social support
- Extreme stress
- Fear of pregnancy loss, labor, and delivery
- Uncontrollable body changes such as nausea, mood swings, and backaches
Can Stress Affect Your Unborn Baby?
People are exposed to stress every day, and significant amounts do harm your baby. However, chronic stress and anxiety can cause your body to react adversely to your unborn baby’s development and growth.
With exposure to stressful conditions, your body produces cortisol, a stress hormone. Cortisol can transfer to the baby through the placenta. That is why children born to depressed mothers are often more likely to develop mental health disorders such as depression when they grow up.
Too much crying is also not good for your baby.
What Are Some Signs of Stress During Pregnancy?
Every pregnancy has a unique set of changes, and some are not always very comfortable. Hormonal fluctuations, stress, stretch marks, weight gain are just a few. All these factors contribute to the development of stress during and after pregnancy.
So, how do you know if you have stress during pregnancy? The following are some of the common signs of mental health issues during pregnancy:
- Confusion, memory loss, nightmares, and disruption in sleep patterns
- Grief, guilt, irritability, denial, frustration, and loneliness
- Chest pains, breathing difficulties, headaches, rapid heartbeats, increased sweating, and fatigue
- Isolation from friends and compulsion to use drugs
You Are Not Alone
Once you realize that you are developing stress, do not panic. Many pregnant women go through the same. You are not alone in this, and with the right support, you can easily overcome the depression in no time. In this piece, you can find 5 tips to control depression naturally during pregnancy.
1. Talk to someone
Most people underestimate the power of venting. And when you are dealing with stress during pregnancy, you are allowed to talk to someone. This person could be your spouse, best friend, therapist, a support animal, or doctor. There is a comfort level you attain when you know you are not the only one going through these hardships. And discussing your troubles and worry lessens your burden and gives you more time to find a solution to your existing problem.
How do you find the right support group for you?
- Identify the kind of support you need—Financial, mental, health, or emotional
- Speak up—Knowing what you need is one step, and talking about it is another
- Join a group—Understanding that other people are going through the same can push you to find the right help you need
- Accept the support given—It is ok not to do everything yourself, and when someone offers help, it is because they care about you
2. Try your best to enhance sleep quality
Lack of sleep can make you cranky, which only leads to more stress, which translates to problems in your baby’s development and growth. The increased bathroom breaks, change in size, and body shape can also disrupt sleep patterns.
Sleep plays a massive role in your physical and psychological health. And enhancing your sleep patterns during your pregnancy helps you relax and rest properly. So, how do you maximize the quality of your sleep?
- Avoid caffeine, especially when you are about to go to bed
- Eat early- increased digestion close to your sleeping time only disrupts your sleep patterns
- Bask in the day and sleep in a dark and cool room—high temperature and light are some factors contributing to irregular sleep patterns
- Finally, limit your daytime naps so that you do not have to stay up all night
3. Participate in mindfulness-based exercises
Being able to comprehend what you are going through while in this stage is very important. And when you are facing stress during pregnancy, it would be helpful to know the challenges you face without any judgment. These mindfulness-based exercises contribute mainly to the improvement of your mood, interpersonal communication, and anxiety.
What are some of these mindfulness-based practices?
- Breathing exercises—do not underestimate the power of deep breaths. When you take deep breaths and release air slowly without trying to control these patterns—this simple trick brings about a much-needed calmness
- Label your feeling—remember awareness is the first step to treating the underlying problem. So, rather than getting stuck in an emotional distress rollercoaster, label your current mood or feeling and take note
- Try having a digital assistant—and yes, that is an app. These apps help guide you through the mindfulness-based practices
Pregnant women should not fear choosing “self-love” over anything else. You have a tiny human being growing inside you for Pete’s sake. If you are getting stressed at work, feel too tired, or are on the verge of a mental breakdown, take a break.
4. Exercise as much as you can
Taking a 20-30 minutes’ walk every day can be a real stress reliever for pregnant women. Also, the little time invested in your exercises helps you with your sleep quality. Now, you can even join a prenatal yoga class and do some fun exercises. Do not exhaust yourself trying to fit in hours of exercise when you are pregnant. In this case, a little goes a long way.
5. Keep healthy
Having regular checks at your doctor’s office gives you comfort. Knowing that both you and your baby are doing fine could be the solution to the fears of miscarriage and nightmares. Also, maintaining a healthy diet and eating patterns helps you realize a balanced and healthy life.
Stress during pregnancy is not something to shy away from, since it affects many people. However, not seeking proper help could affect you and your unborn baby. And despite everything, you can recover from these mental health challenges. You don’t have to face everything on your own. Reach out today and have a better and healthier pregnancy.
Sara Anderson is the head of content for the EzCare clinic, a medical clinic that provides world-class health care services. She has been associated with the health care industry for 10+ years and specializes in health care and medical content.