My maternal mental health has been a little bit of an issue for me during this pregnancy. As someone that already openly suffers with anxiety, emotional issues and depression it’s no wonder my pregnancy hormones have offset things quite a bit. I’ve learned a lot of coping mechanisms over the last few years that have really helped bring me back up from such a low mood. Your mental health in pregnancy can suffer, even if you don’t already have any form of depression. During pregnancy we are not at a state of balance and so our maternal mental health can become quickly affected. My advice would be to make maternal mental health part of your pregnancy care and if there is anything you’re concerned or worried about, speak to someone. Your Midwife, GP, Partner or a mental health helpline are all great places to start when you’re feeling a bit low.
My Maternal Mental Health
Looking back at my previous pregnancy I don’t really remember getting as emotional or struggling as much however I was in a very different place emotionally. I did, however, get pregnant just seven or eight months into my relationship with my ex and was just 20 years old when I found out. It was unplanned, unexpected and brought on a surge of emotions. I think I felt that finally someone would love me unconditionally and so, in turn, I would always have someone in my life. I was far away from family, my ex was not a supportive or nurturing person and I remember feeling really quite alone. I was quite cautious during my pregnancy, alone most of the time as I wasn’t working and dropped out of University and I think all those feelings of general unhappiness were just at the same level really. I was anxious and depressed, I see that now, but at the time I was just very unhappy and didn’t really think it was anything else.
Looking back at the time after my pregnancy and a traumatic birth with my daughter I do think I may have suffered with post natal depression and I think that just continued to manifest during a toxic relationship, not being close to my family and then being a single parent and living in a hostel. It’s no wonder my maternal mental health has been affected so negatively over the years. Not just during pregnancy, but as a parent to my now seven and a half year old daughter.
My mental health, as a mother and as a woman before pregnancy and parenthood has been up and down since my early teenage years, perhaps before that. I was quite an angry girl after my parents divorced but instead of being helped, I was constantly told that I just had “an attitude problem” and was a hormonal, emotional girl. I had a horrible relationship with my step dad that didn’t improve until I moved out. In fact, I think it’s improved quite a lot over the last few years, since I returned home with my daughter and that is because, as a parent I have a lot more respect for my own parents. I also met Adam when he was 21, the same age my step dad was when he met my mum. Both him and Adam have had to take on parenting someone else’s children. That takes a lot from someone to give. During my teenage years my dad also suffered quite badly with depression, which had an affect on my own mental health too. My mum has even said that when I was younger she didn’t really get mental health, she couldn’t understand when people said they were depressed, why they couldn’t just not be depressed. She didn’t have that low mood. It wasn’t actually until my youngest sister was suffering that my mum started to understand it more.
For me, having abandonment issues, general anxiety, maybe having some emotional balance issues, low self esteem, low self confidence, weight issues, being a victim of sexual assault, pregnancy, a traumatic birth, domestic violence and being homeless have all been huge trigger points in my life.
What’s Different Now?
Quite a few things really, I am in a stable and loving relationship with my partner and we have been together a lot longer. We are both much more mentally prepared for growing our family. I’m close to family and I see friends regularly. I am earning my own money and do not feel restricted. I also have that unconditional love from my daughter and all of those are amazing contributing factors which have greatly improved my mental health and have had a positive impact on my maternal mental health during this second pregnancy.
However, that doesn’t mean that my past and my own issues haven’t affected me and my maternal mental health. I am coping better, but I also think it’s really important to acknowledge that sometimes I haven’t been okay. I’ve felt pain, exhaustion and a general low mood. The difference is, I understand myself much better, I can cope better and I know I will get better.
Keeping Your Maternal Mental Health In Balance
- Even if you have other commitments, work, kids, family – whatever. Make time for you. It doesn’t have to be all the time but small things that make you feel relaxed, refreshed and recharged are important.
- Speak to your midwife or GP if you’re concerned about any thoughts or feelings you have.
- Self care is really important. A bath, a hot cuppa, meditation, five minutes more in bed – whatever it takes. The little things matter.
- Make sure your support team during your pregnancy care are aware of any past issues and make sure they are positive about your mental health
- Consider hiring a doula who will be of great help and emotional support during your pregnancy or post natal
- It is okay to sometimes do absolutely nothing, eat what you want and not speak to anyone. If that helps you, and you need time to just be, then do it.
- Exercise really helps. I love Aquafit and Swimming the most
- Remember that this is your pregnancy, your baby and your body. You are important.
Have you suffered with maternal mental health? How did you cope?