Coping with the Emotional Impact of Pregnancy
Whether a pregnancy is planned or unplanned and whilst the thought is that pregnancy should be a happy time, it can bring about a lot of stress on the mind as well as the physical toll of carrying a baby.
The good news is that Mental Health is being recognised more widely on a global scale and greater emphasis is being placed on both identifying and tackling the short term and long term effects.
Pregnancy can cause tremendous changes in a person’s life, from physical and hormonal shifts to lifestyle changes, work and even relationships. It is therefore essential that the emotional wellbeing on an expectant mother is given as much consideration as her physical health and of course the healthy development of the unborn baby.
A pregnancy is defined as the time between conception and birth which is usually around 40 weeks if the pregnancy goes to full term and often longer if the baby becomes overdue. As much as this is an exciting time for some it can bring with it its fair share of stress, so here we look at different stages and events of pregnancy and how this can have an effect mentally.
When you decide to start or extend a family by having a baby it is an exciting time but if the result of a positive pregnancy test is not coming as soon as you had hoped it can make you feel discouraged. Infertility is when a couple can’t conceive whilst having regular unprotected sex. It is reported that 1 in 7 coupes might have problems with conceiving.
You might start to worry that there is an underlying problem as to why you are not conceiving. If you find yourself beginning to panic or are feeling stressed that you are not falling pregnant, it is advisable to seek medical advice from your GP. Further tests will help determine whether there is anything that warrants further investigation.
When many couples find out they are pregnant it is normal that, despite your excitement, you keep your pregnancy under wraps until your 12 week scan to know your baby is healthy. It is estimated that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage with every 3 in 4 miscarriages occurring in the first trimester.
It is advised if you have any concerns regarding your pregnancy in these early stages, you consult a health professional. Depending on your symptoms you could be seen for an early scan. Many miscarriages in the early trimester are said to be caused by chromosomal abnormalities or with no underlying causes, meaning the baby was unable to develop.
Ectopic pregnancy is the term for when an egg has been fertilised and implants itself outside of the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes. It has been reported that 1 in every 80-90 pregnancies is ectopic with the symptoms including abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding. In such cases, it can be hard not to feel responsible, but it is important to understand that these circumstances are often unavoidable and not a result of anything the mother has or hasn’t done.
Well-being of your Unborn Baby
Throughout a pregnancy with all going as planned, you will have a midwife allocated to monitor your care and development of your baby. With routine appointments scheduled at specific times throughout your pregnancy, it is their job to check the progress of your pregnancy and talk with any worries you might have.
Ultrasound scans are also available throughout your pregnancy are available at 8-14 weeks, known to most as your dating scan and 18-21 weeks focused on looking for structural abnormalities. Although these scans are seen as an exciting time to have a first look at your baby, your sonographer is highly trained to look at the health of your developing baby. Depending on your baby's health, you might be offered more scans throughout your pregnancy. If you have any concerns it is important to speak to your midwife or a healthcare professional.
With a recent emphasis on Mental Health awareness, it is important not to overlook how this can affect a person through pregnancy. Perinatal Mental Illness is a term used for Mental Health in pregnancy to include depression and anxiety disorders with some women experiencing both.
Hormones can be at a high level during and after pregnancies with a common misconception of the ‘baby blues’ but this can lead on to a more serious condition Postpartum Psychosis.
Symptoms include depression, hallucinations and confusion. If you think yourself or someone you know might be suffering, it is important they seek help from a medical professional to prevent the risk of harm to themselves or their baby.
If things Don’t go to Plan
You can put all the plans in place for your baby’s birth but the truth is no one can predict how a labour will pan out but the safe arrival of your baby is most important. If you or your baby becomes distressed during labour, the midwives and healthcare professionals may have to aid you in delivering your baby.
An unplanned (emergency) caesarean will be undertaken in theatre. The recovery period for this will be longer and will limit your day to day activities such as driving and lifting.
Forceps or Ventouse (Vacuum-Assisted Vaginal Delivery) can be used to assist birth. And if you are in the position where you are needing stitches after delivering a baby, these will take time to heal.
The most important aspect for any birthing plan is the safe arrival of your baby. But if you feel you have suffered due to the negligence of midwives and healthcare professionals, depending on the circumstances, it is advisable to speak to a legal adviser who can offer you professional advice, particularly if there has been a lasting impact on yourself or your baby.
All in all, remember that every pregnancy and birth is different and it is natural to feel a mix of emotions, some positive and some negative. It is completely natural to have feelings of stress, anxiety and depression, particularly in the early stages when you are sleep-deprived and adjusting to a new routine.
It’s important to let friends, family and medical professionals know if you are experiencing these symptoms so that they can be tackled early. Never suffer in silence and know that for most cases, any negative feelings are temporary and with the right help, support and treatment, will pass over time.