There is no one right mindset during pregnancy. It’s important to remember that the journey to parenthood is a highly individual process. And while pregnancy can be filled with joy and excitement, it also can encompass a range of different emotions. We refer to this as the ambivalence of pregnancy, which simply means that it is perfectly normal and okay to experience opposing feelings at the same time, like both excitement and dread about the prospect of becoming a new parent. We assume that uncertainty only occurs in patients experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, but I have found that even parents that have been planning to become pregnant or obtained reproductive assistance technology, like IVF, may still feel panicked. For many, especially those who have an anxious baseline, prior history of loss, or difficulty conceiving, fears, and worries around miscarriage during the first trimester can feel overwhelming. There is also a significant rise of hormones during early pregnancy that can be both physically and emotionally taxing for expecting mothers. Being kind and accepting to yourself during this stage is the first step to navigating the emotions that show up.
Read on for more research-backed tips below.
Talk to Family and Friends
I’ve found that talking to family and friends about the pregnancy early on can actually be more helpful than harmful. Too often we conform to traditions of waiting until the second trimester of pregnancy to share the news, but that leaves many feeling alone during potentially challenging times. Some people are particularly worried about sharing their pregnancy in case they experience a loss, but it’s often the silence that makes a miscarriage more difficult. Support groups during pregnancy can also be a nice way to share experiences with those who are going through it at the same time. You can join them online or in-person.
Give Yourself Permission to Rest
Your body is going through a lot physically and emotionally due to significant hormonal changes and you may be experiencing significant fatigue, even if you’re lucky enough to not have any morning sickness. It’s okay to give yourself a break from an intense work schedule, busy social calendar, or stringent exercise or diet routines at this time. Doing so will allow your body to recharge, which can decrease feelings of stress and anxiety.
Use Movement as a Mood Booster
Regular movement can boost neurotransmitters that decrease depressive symptoms and reduce anxiety by decreasing muscle tension and making your fight or flight response less reactive. It can be as simple as a brisk walk, or you can even continue your normal exercise routine if you have the energy. Breathwork and meditation will also help calm your nervous system and can be done on your own or as part of a prenatal yoga class.
Add Supplements to Your Daily Routine
If you haven’t already, start your prenatal vitamins and focus on nutrition. Many moods and anxiety issues can be worsened by vitamin deficiencies so it’s essential that you are getting the recommended doses.
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Knowledge is Power
Start making a list of recommended books to read throughout your pregnancy, especially if you are a first-time parent and not sure of what to expect. I find that knowledge is power and being armed with information may help you feel more in control during an uncertain time. Some of my favorites include Expecting Better by Emily Oster and Mindful Motherhood by Cassandra Vieten.
Know When to Seek Professional Help
In the mental health field, we once thought that pregnancy was protective against mental health issues but we now know that some women are more susceptible to hormonal changes and can experience mood and anxiety challenges in pregnancy that we once thought were more characteristic of the postpartum period. A more serious form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum can cause regret about the pregnancy or more depressive symptoms to develop. If you feel as though you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider for guidance on effective treatments.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.