The journey to pregnancy and becoming a parent is rarely straightforward. It can be both exciting and scary, joyful and stressful, life-giving and tiring all at once! Mixing a heavy mental load with soaring hormones and sleep deprivation can cause your mental health to suffer.
Perinatal mental health problems affect between 10 to 20% of women during pregnancy and the first year after having a baby1https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/better-mental-health-jsna-toolkit/4-perinatal-mental-health#fn:1.
In aid of Maternal Mental Health Week, here are some tips on how you can practice a little self-care and support your physical and mental wellbeing during pregnancy, birth and beyond –
1. Drink Kefir
Before: A scientific literature review found that probiotic use for fertility is helpful in a number of ways: suppresses pathogens, supports the immune system, boosts conception, reduces the risk of infection, and lowers the risk of pregnancy complications2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23414386.
During: As a precaution, the NHS usually advises against the use of antidepressants for most pregnant women, especially during the early stages of a pregnancy3https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/talking-therapies-medicine-treatments/medicines-and-psychiatry/antidepressants/considerations/#:~:text=to%20advise%20you.-,Pregnancy,you%20and%20your%20baby’s%20wellbeing.. Researchers have found that some birth defects occur approximately two or three times more frequently among babies born to women who took certain types of SSRI medications early in pregnancy4https://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/meds/treatingfortwo/features/ssrisandbirthdefects.html. Kefir is a safe, natural psychobiotic, containing high levels of tryptophan, a precursor for serotonin, known as the ‘happy hormone’. As well as working to prevent common gastrointestinal issues, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia during pregnancy, it will help boost your mood and improve symptoms of depression5https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170523124119.htm.
After: Kefir can help prevent anxiety and depression post-birth, without dangerous chemicals that can leach into breastmilk6https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110829164601.htm. In fact, studies have demonstrated that taking a probiotic supplement, such as Kefir, helps maximise the positive digestive and immune system effects of breastmilk7https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16126047. All Mamas will be pleased to hear that it also boosts the immune system and reduces inflammation, helping to speed up your recovery time 🙂8https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140310111541.htm
2. Take up yoga
Suitable before, during and after pregnancy, yoga is a low-impact exercise, shown to lower stress hormones in the body while increasing beneficial endorphins. These feel-good chemicals help decrease anxiety and depression, and improve mood9https://www.houstonmethodist.org/blog/articles/2021/sep/the-benefits-of-yoga-how-it-boosts-your-mental-health/#:~:text=Yoga’s%20physical%20benefits%20to%20the,decrease%20anxiety%20and%20improve%20mood..
Be sure you take precautions throughout, avoiding or adapting certain postures during pregnancy.
3. Practice hypnobirthing
Hypnobirthing aims to reduce fear, pain and anxiety during pregnancy and childbirth. It involves breathing techniques, deep relaxation, guided mediation, visualisation and positive affirmations.
A systematic review of hypnosis-based interventions during pregnancy found that it improved childbirth experience by reducing fear and pain and enhancing a sense of control.
Now, there are no guarantees for a pain and stress-free birth, but a review shows that hypnobirthing may improve the emotional experience and outlook towards birth with less anxiety, increased satisfaction, and fewer birth interventions10https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32087396/.
4. Reach out
The overall theme of this year’s Maternal Mental Health Week is ‘The Power Of Connection’ – reaching out to others and helping families access the information and support they need.
Here are some resources that may help you on your journey through parenthood –
- Support for Mums and Families – maternalmentalhealthalliance.org
- Association for Postnatal Illness – apni.org
- Action on Postpartum Psychosis – app-network.org
- Tommy’s – tommys.org
From one Mama to another – take care, you’ve got this! 😘