Common mental health symptoms in pregnancy
Pregnancy comes with many symptoms – both physical and emotional – and sometimes the line between the physical and emotional can seem a bit blurry. So, how do you know if the symptoms you are experiencing are a normal part of pregnancy or something else?
What is normal?
It is normal to feel emotional at times in pregnancy and/or have feelings of anticipation as you are coming closer to a new beginning with the arrival of your baby. It is also quite understandable to have some concerns about the baby, giving birth and how you will adapt to the new addition.
However, if you are feeling sad, have lost interest or enjoyment in things that you once enjoyed or find yourself worrying over things to the point that it is causing you to feel distressed, this could be a sign of antenatal depression or anxiety.
Common mental health symptoms:
1. Sleep disturbance
For women, particularly, it is perfectly understandable if your sleep is affected while you are pregnant – particularly later on in pregnancy when the size of your belly can negatively impact your quality of sleep. However, sleep disturbance, which includes both not being able to sleep and wanting to sleep constantly, can be a sign of a mental health condition, like antenatal depression and/or anxiety.
Continuing to struggle with sleep could negatively impact your emotional wellbeing and increase your risk of developing a mental health condition or worsen any conditions that you may already be experiencing.
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2. Changes in appetite
Another common symptom of a mental health condition that often feels like a physical symptom is eating less, being disinterested in food or on the other end of the scale, using food as a source of comfort and therefore, eating significantly more than before pregnancy.
Good nutrition is especially important for you and your developing baby, but your appetite should not change too dramatically just because you are pregnant. Whilst later in pregnancy you may need to eat smaller amounts more often, the calories and volume of food that you consume should only be slightly more than before you were pregnant – not double or triple that amount (no matter how much you want to indulge in those cravings!)
So, if you are finding that your appetite has changed drastically, it can actually be a symptom that something may not be fully right with your mental health.
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3. Drinking more alcohol, smoking or taking other drugs
It is not uncommon to unwind with a drink or a cigarette at times when you might feel stressed or seeking relaxation. However, this can become a trap, as whilst there may be short-term benefits, this does not help in the long term and can make things worse.
Drinking, smoking and taking drugs have negative impacts for both women and men during pregnancy. This will only make the problem worse and have negative direct or indirect impacts upon your developing baby. It is important to seek help early for yourself or your partner
4. Ongoing stress leading to distress
Whilst it is quite normal to be aware of your baby and be concerned for their health, if you are constantly feeling nervous, having anxious thoughts or worrying that something is wrong or will go wrong, it may be an indication of antenatal anxiety.
5. Frequent ups and downs
If you are finding yourself having ongoing mood swings that last for two months or more, this is not something to just dismiss as relating to a change in your hormones. Rather, it could be a symptom of antenatal depression and you should speak to your health professional about it.
Something not quite right? Check it out early.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms in a way that is ongoing and impactful to your ability to carry out everyday activities, it could very well be a sign that something is not quite right. It can be easy to be tempted to ignore these symptoms, to attribute them to other aspects of pregnancy or simply try to ride them out. However, this will prevent you from identifying the problem and managing these symptoms with help from a health professional. Moreover, the failure to get help early can lead to worsening of your symptoms both in pregnancy and once your baby arrives.
So, instead, try to pay attention to how you are feeling, the symptoms you are experiencing and how long you have been feeling this way. Then, bring this information to your health professional, who can best assess whether you are possibly experiencing the symptoms of a mental health condition. It’s never fun to feel down, especially while bringing a new life into your world. Take the first step and get some help to get back on track to your true self.
Dr Nicole Highet Follow +
Dr Nicole Highet is the Founder of COPE. As well as the Executive Director of COPE (the Centre of Perinatal Excellence). COPE is a not-for-profit organisation devoted to reducing the impacts of emotional and mental health problems in the pre and postnatal periods.
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