Simple Ways to Have An Emotionally Healthy Pregnancy
Every pregnancy is different, but for many women, it brings up a range of emotions that may be overwhelming. Pregnancy changes, fear, stress and morning sickness can make this stage of life exhausting.
"Pregnancy is a time when so much is asked of a woman. She is expected to comply with dietary limitations, frequent clinic visits, a changing body and numerous physical symptoms," said Jennifer Reid, M.D., a psychiatrist and writer in Philadelphia who also hosts "The Reflective Doc" podcast.
A lot of alternatives are available to help you increase your energy and improve your well-being and peace of mind during pregnancy.
First, it is essential to visit a healthcare provider for pregnancy monitoring. You can combine this follow-up with other practices for your mental and emotional health.
It's important to remember to get your doctor's approval before doing any activity, and look for certified professionals to help you with alternative strategies.
"Just remember that you are not alone and you don't have to do it all by yourself. Asking for help is difficult, especially for a woman, but we also need support from a person we love," said Tamara De Zotti, a trauma-informed certified doula and nutritional advisor based in Oslo, Norway.
If you have depression or anxiety or feel overwhelmed, it is advisable to be guided by a specialist.
"Trained providers can offer a number of nonmedication options, if that is desired, with a clear benefit, such as interpersonal and cognitive behavioral therapy," Reid said.
If needed, medications can provide relief as well, allowing you to experience this time in your life with joy and anticipation, she added.
During pregnancy, using methods to calm your mind and live in the moment can be essential to relieve stress, anxiety and fear of what is to come.
With her clients, De Zotti recommends mindfulness exercises, such as the five steps of the Happy Human Formula Self-Centering System, a program devised by Elizabeth Menzel, a trauma healer.
"I consider this method the first thing on my list, then everything else comes," De Zotti said.
She explained how this method works:
- Bring. Remember to bring attention to yourself when you feel tired, nervous, drained, irritated or overwhelmed.
- Breath. Paying attention to your breathing is one of the best ways to send oxygen to your body, regulate your heart rate, bring calm and release stress.
- Body. Provide the body with the things it needs at this moment, such as nutrition, exercise or hydration.
- Be. Stop for a few minutes to do nothing and just be.
- Bold. Find something that makes you feel good and do it. This act may be drinking a cup of tea, gardening, dancing, singing, reading or meditating.
Improve your balance with yoga
Yoga can create emotional, mental, physical and spiritual balance, said Pao Strickland, founder of the fitness format LatinFitFlow TM, a certified yoga and Latin rhythmic dance program, and a Reiki master teacher based in Atlanta.
"Yoga has been shown to lower stress hormones in our bodies while simultaneously increasing beneficial brain—feel-good—chemicals that help decrease anxiety and improve the mood," Strickland explained.
She benefited from modified asanas, a yoga pose, during her pregnancy that helped to support her emotional balance.
Get your rest
"High-quality sleep serves the pregnant woman in so many ways," Reid said. "She will be better able to fight off illness, lower her risk of excessive inflammation, and support the enormous job of growing a new human being."
Good sleep lowers the risk of anxiety and depression, too, according to Reid. The benefits extend to both pregnancy and postpartum life.
"In some cases, I even recommend a night nurse to help prevent a recurrence of these issues in the postpartum period," Reid added.
Reiki is a Japanese technique used to achieve a sense of calm, well-being, strength and deep relaxation, Strickland explained. Reiki practitioners use their hands to deliver energy to your body. The sessions work to support conventional healthcare, lifestyle changes and natural remedies.
"Reiki is easily adapted to most medical conditions and is safe for children, pregnant women, surgical patients, the elderly, plants and pets," Strickland said. "It's another way to create this bridge of relaxation and connection between the baby in the womb and the mom to be."
"Reiki is a safe practice, also practiced in some hospitals in support of Western medicine," De Zotti added.
The benefits for pregnant women, based on De Zotti's experience, include the following:
- Reducing stress
- Bringing deep relaxation to the body
- Bringing positive energy and energy balance
- Allowing a deeper connection with the baby in her belly
- Relieving physical symptoms, such as back pain, tiredness and aching joints
- Allowing for emotional release
- Helping process traumas, losses and separations
- Helping mend personal or professional relationships
- Providing mental clarity
Get a massage
You may experience weight gain, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, anxiety and stress during pregnancy. De Zotti suggested a good massage to relieve stress as well as tension in the back and hips, and to reduce swelling of the legs and feet.
"Often, women in the last trimester who have had a massage from me also report feeling more energy in the following days, that the pain in the lower abdomen or back is gone," De Zotti said.
Move your body
Music and movement can change your energy. While exercising and having fun, you are releasing endorphins such as dopamine and serotonin. Dancing can help reduce backaches and bloating, and improve your mood during your pregnancy, Strickland explained.
"While I was pregnant with my son, I taught all my cardio dance fitness classes until one week before giving birth, and let me tell you, it was an easy delivery, not painless, but yes, fast," she said.
Strickland added that some additional benefits of dancing include the following:
- Strengthening your cardiovascular system
- Improving your endurance
- Getting more restful sleep
- Developing better muscle tone
- Allowing for less exertion with everyday tasks
- Bringing more energy throughout the day
Nourish your body
Good nutrition is always important. In pregnancy, it helps maintain the health and vitality of both mother and baby.
De Zotti listed some reasons your body needs all of these nutrients and vitamins:
- Folic acid and vitamin B12 improve symptoms of depression.
- Low selenium is known to increase the risk of preeclampsia.
- Zinc deficiency has been linked to depression.
- Magnesium deficiency has been associated with agitation, anxiety, irritability, sleeplessness and headache.
- Iron plays an important role in the healthy functioning of the brain.
- Fiber is a key contributor to overall well-being.
- Vitamin D may protect against perinatal depression.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are important for healthy brain function and the prevention of perinatal depression.
Loneliness can play a role in poor mental health. The restrictions due to COVID-19 highlighted how necessary the company of your loved ones is during the pregnancy process, De Zotti said.
"A positive birth is also determined by having people around us who love us and with whom we feel safe," she explained. "Physical contact and feeling heard and seen are also essential for a woman's mental well-being during pregnancy, birth and after."
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