Some weeks ago, we had a counsellor talk to our communities about mental health during pregnancy and after birth. The counsellor, Rebecca Wamwene offered expert advice and answers to questions asked in the chat. In this article, we’ll share answers to questions on taking care of your mental health during pregnancy.
Does depression or sadness when pregnant affect the babies emotional well being after it’s born?
Yes, babies can feel your emotions, sometimes with rather surprising accuracy. And just like a bad mood can be contagious among adults, negative emotions expressed around your baby can affect her too. Pregnancy involves some significant physical changes. Hormonal shifts are also a hallmark of pregnancy sometimes even serving as the cause of physical symptoms.
Some women experience a range of emotions from happiness to sadness and everything in between. These fluctuations can cause changes in brain chemicals that regulate moods. Having an occasional crying spell isn’t likely to harm your unborn baby. More severe depression during pregnancy, however, could possibly have a negative impact on your pregnancy.
Mental health issues like anxiety, distress and depression during pregnancy may increase your chances of preterm birth and low birth weight. A depressed mother may not take care of herself during pregnancy as much as she would otherwise. Not eating enough or getting enough nutrients, skipping prenatal appointments, or not moving around, may indicate lack of care of the unborn baby.
Depression is not your fault, and neglecting your health is a side effect of untreated depression rather than a conscious choice.
Why is it difficult to recognize or admit to being depressed or anxious during pregnancy or postpartum?
I am not sure if someone would actually tell when they are starting to lose their mind, but as a family, if you notice someone detaching from their baby, excessive mood, mania like depression should seek or consult a doctor or counsellor. Women need to be educated about complications of birth before birth and during their prenatal period.
Basically all women, rather most women experience maternal blues/ baby blues.- excessive emotions, tearfulness, anxiety, lack of sleep etc. Some people experience a worse form of it which is termed as Puerperal psychosis or depression. Good prenatal care with a gynaecologist and psychologist should identify maternal stressors during pregnancy or history of such mood disorders or psychological issues before. That way a follow up on the same immediately after childbirth would help with early diagnosis.
Do you think that COVID caused adverse mental issues especially with pregnant women during this pandemic or those who gave birth just as it was starting? Do you think the mental stress has lessened as the months have gone by?
Covid 19 being one of the worst pandemic experiences worldwide caused a lot of anxiety to all humankind. Some of the worst-hit were pregnant mothers and new mothers. It may have increased with the current changes because of financial constraint and the fear of the second wave. However, this depends on individuals.
How can you manage your anxiety levels especially when you’re about to give birth at a time like this where there is still a fear of going to the hospital?
Talk to someone about what you are feeling and especially a counsellor. Also, watch your mental diet. Try to avoid watching horrifying news, instead, occupy your mind with fresh and hopeful input.
What’s the key difference between a Counselor and Psychologist? How can one determine whom they should see?
Counsellors and counselling psychologists perform similar duties, but there are some key differences between the two professions. Both help people live better lives, but counsellors and counselling psychologists have different educational backgrounds, areas of focus and specialization, and work settings.
Is it safe to take mental health medications while pregnant?
Some medications of whatever type may have side effects on the baby’s health. Growth and development of a child. Kindly when you have any underlying disease whether mental or any other. Walk with your doctor/gynaecologist for safer medication and options.
Can one self-diagnose on Depression and take medication?
No. You can’t and shouldn’t self medicate. See a doctor and a counsellor.
Stress: In medical or biological context stress is a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. Stresses can be external (from the environment, psychological, or social situations) or internal (illness, or from a medical procedure). Stress can initiate the “fight or flight” response, a complex reaction of neurology and Endocrinol systems.
Stress can cause or influence the course of many medical conditions including psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety. Medical problems can include poor healing, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure, poorly controlled diabetes and many other conditions.
Kindly seek advice from a counsellor or a doctor who will do a psychological Assessment Test to help you know where you are at.
Is there a preferred mode to treat mental health issues i.e. medication vs therapy?
This can only be prescribed by an expert. Either a doctor or a counsellor/therapist.
Do you have advice on some questions we can ask someone to make sure they’re mentally okay? That they’re not struggling or suffering?
I would like to bring to our attention the seriousness of any word spoken or actions done to a person who is mentally unstable. What you think is a simple statement is enough to throw them off balance. An expert will be able to ask questions that are not offensive.
How much exercise should one do in the 3rd trimester and some examples, please?
Modified recommended exercises that will not bring early delivery. Some people do Yoga, but it depends on the individual. Only make sure you don’t risk both your life and baby. Like a quick change of style, push-ups that risk the separation of the baby and the placenta, little squatting etc. Make sure you consult the doctor and a gynaecologist for advice.
How does someone going through anxiety or depression ask for help? Especially if they’re scared of the stigma attached to this?
Just gather courage and talk to someone. It’s more about your wellness than the Stigma that may be attached to it.