Understanding Perinatal Mental Health

Table of Contents

Introduction

During pregnancy and the period after you have given birth, it is just as important to pay attention to your mental health as it is your physical health. In the sections below you will be shown some common symptoms, feelings and thoughts you might experience during pregnancy and some that might be more present after giving birth.

As always, it is important that you seek professional support if you feel this would benefit you. This type of support can be found by looking through the Managing… section of this module or by using the signposting information on the Individual Support page.

General Symptoms

The following symptoms can be experienced both during your pregnancy and after you have given birth:

Feeling Sad

Experiencing persistent sadness or frequent crying.

Anxiety and Worry

Feeling overly anxious or worried about everyday things or specific concerns.

Anger or Irritability

Becoming easily frustrated or experiencing sudden mood swings.

Uncertainty

Struggling to make decisions or feeling unsure about what to do.

Feeling Overwhelmed

Struggling to enjoy anything or feeling like you can’t handle day-to-day tasks.

Intrusive Thoughts

Experiencing scary or unwanted thoughts about yourself or your baby.

Symptoms during Pregnancy

You can experience the following symptoms during your pregnancy:

Difficult Feelings Toward Pregnancy or Baby
You may find it challenging to bond with your baby during pregnancy or after birth, which can feel unsettling if you expected a different emotional experience. Sometimes your feelings might not match the excitement and joy you thought you would feel; instead, you may feel ambivalent or uncertain about your baby. This disconnect can lead to guilt or shame if you believe you should feel a certain way.

If these feelings persist, speaking with a healthcare provider can help you understand your emotions and find ways to strengthen your bond with your baby.
Anxiety About Labor
The thought of labor can bring about anxiety, particularly if you’re unsure what to expect or if it’s your first time giving birth. Concerns about the safety of yourself and your baby during labor and delivery can add to this anxiety. If you’ve had a difficult or traumatic labor experience in the past, you may worry about encountering similar challenges again.

Learning about labor and discussing your concerns with a healthcare provider can help ease your anxiety, as can creating a birth plan and having a supportive person with you during labor.

Symptoms after Giving Birth

You can experience the following symptoms after giving birth:

Trouble Sleeping

You might experience difficulty sleeping even when your baby is resting well, or you may wake up frequently throughout the night. This can leave you feeling unrested and fatigued, which can interfere with your daily activities. These sleep disruptions might be due to your mind being preoccupied with concerns about the baby, changes in your body, or the stress of adjusting to your new routine.

Doubting Yourself

You may find yourself questioning your abilities as a parent or partner, wondering if you are doing things right or if you are adequate for the tasks at hand. This self-doubt can weigh heavily on your confidence and may lead to a constant worry that you are not good enough. Remember, many new parents and even experienced parents feel like this and seeking support can help you navigate them.

Anxiety after Labour

If you’ve had a difficult birth experience, you might struggle with ongoing anxiety as you come to terms with what happened. You may replay the event in your mind or worry about potential long-term impacts on yourself and your baby. Processing your experience with a healthcare provider or therapist can provide comfort and help you cope with the emotional aftermath.

Feelings of Loss

As you adjust to your new role as a parent, you may experience grief or loss related to changes in your life and identity. This can include missing aspects of your pre-birth life or struggling with shifts in relationships. These feelings are a natural part of becoming a parent and can be addressed with support and understanding as you transition into this new chapter.

Myths or Facts?

When it comes to mental health during pregnancy, there are many misconceptions and myths that can create confusion and even hinder individuals from seeking the support they need. Understanding the difference between myth and fact is crucial for maintaining your emotional well-being during this significant life change. By dispelling these myths, you can make more informed decisions about your mental health and feel more empowered to seek help when needed.

Myth: While pregnancy can be a joyful experience, it can also bring emotional challenges such as anxiety, depression, and mood swings. It’s normal to have mixed feelings during this time.

Fact: While some medications may need to be adjusted, there are many safe treatment options available during pregnancy. Always consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to your treatment plan.

Myth: It’s important to seek support if you’re experiencing mental health challenges during pregnancy. Left untreated, these issues can continue after you give birth and may impact your ability to care for yourself and your baby.

Myth: Mental health challenges do not reflect your abilities as a parent. Seeking help shows that you care about your well-being and that of your baby.

Myth: While stigma still exists, there is a growing awareness of the importance of mental health during pregnancy. Many healthcare providers and support groups offer non-judgmental help and understanding.

Discover practical tips & strategies to help manage your symptoms in the next part of this module

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