Emotions become heightened during pregnancy – ranging from great joy to excessive anxiety. But Mediclinic's support services for mothers are there to provide support, says Harsha Maharaj, a clinical psychologist at Mediclinic Sandton.

The emotional side of pregnancy
People usually think moms-to-be should be feeling excited and joyful during pregnancy. But you’re also likely to experience a range of emotions other than excitement. Becoming a mother means your role as a woman will also change. You’re still expected to fulfil your everyday life and work responsibilities, but now you’re also accountable for another human being who will depend on you completely as soon as they’re born.

Such thoughts can evoke feelings that affect your overall emotional wellbeing. But because of society’s expectations, prospective mothers often experience a large dose of “mom guilt” for not feeling what they think they’re “supposed” be feeling. That’s why being psychologically prepared for pregnancy is as important as preparing physically.

Assessing your emotional wellbeing
Impending parenthood can cause emotional upheaval for even the calmest of people. If you feel you’re not coping during pregnancy, you may be experiencing perinatal depression. While people may be familiar with the term postnatal depression, which occurs after the baby is born, mothers-to-be can also experience a similar condition called perinatal depression – both during pregnancy and shortly after the baby is born. This affects both their emotional wellbeing and ability to bond with their baby.

If you have a history of mood disorders, you’ll generally be more susceptible to perinatal or postnatal depression and it’s advisable to consult your gynaecologist and psychiatrist to discuss medication during pregnancy. But even if you don’t have a pre-existing mental health condition, you may still be at risk during or after pregnancy.

Because of society's expectations, prospective mothers often experience a large dose of 'mom guilt' for not feeling what they think they're supposed to be feeling.

Possible symptoms of perinatal or postnatal depression

  • Anxiety about being able to take adequate care of your baby
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Problems with focus and concentration
  • Not taking care of yourself
  • Poor coping mechanisms
  • Excessive drinking and/or smoking after the birth
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Feeling unsupported by your partner
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Therapy and medication are usually the best ways to treat these symptoms. Medication helps regulate chemical imbalance, while therapy provides the psychological and emotional support to help an expectant or new mother cope with what she’s experiencing.

Pregnancy and postnatal support

If you feel like you may be at risk of such conditions, or are experiencing any of these symptoms, you’re not alone. Always speak to your obstetrician/gynaecologist first. It’s also helpful to share your fears and feelings with other expectant and new mothers through programmes like Moms and Babes or Mommy and Me.

Throughout your pregnancy and baby journey, Mediclinic also has you covered. Both expectant and new mothers may benefit from joining the Mediclinic Baby Programme, which offers tangible psychological support to women and their partners. The programme offers expert advice through all phases of pregnancy, as well as after the birth of your child.

Mediclinic’s multidisciplinary teams, consisting of obstetricians, midwives, paediatricians, psychiatrists and psychologists, are also on hand to ensure that expectant and new mothers, as well as their babies, receive the best support and care.

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