BENGALURU: Preparing to have a baby come into your life can be an exciting time and a challenging one. About 15 per cent of women experience depression or anxiety during pregnancy and even larger number during the postnatal period. Depression and anxiety are the most common conditions. Up to one in 10 women and 1 in 20 men experience antenatal depression.
When you are pregnant, your baby is exposed to everything you experience. This includes the sounds in the environment, the food you eat and the emotions you feel. Emotions like stress, anxiety can increase particular hormones in your body, which can affect your baby’s developing body and brain. You might feel like hiding your struggles because you feel embarrassed or ashamed. It is normal to have occasional negative thoughts, unpleasant emotions. Many things can make you feel this way, like having worries about the birth, lack of sleep, environmental stress, worries about how you are going to be as a parent.
Becoming a father also brings out emotional changes. Even though some fathers are preparing throughout pregnancy, some fathers can feel overwhelmed by the process or the reality of having a newborn. Fatherhood is just as challenging as motherhood is but for different reasons. Some of the things fathers could struggle is work life balance or not knowing exactly how to help the baby.
It is normal and common to feel stressed, confused and out of your comfort zone when you are first time parents. Most of the new parents need extra support from family and friends, especially at the beginning. Emotional support is also needed – just having someone to listen to you. If you are a single parent, having a good social network is essential.
Symptoms that indicate you are depressed
Feeling sad, helpless and hopeless
Negative thoughts about yourself
Not sleeping well due to your negative thoughts
A lack of interest in activities you used to find interesting
Loss of appetite
When to seek professional help?
When you are experiencing the above mentioned signs and symptoms for two weeks or more. But if you are able to identify earlier then seek help at the earliest sign of it.
Ways to improve mental health
Set realistic expectations from yourself
Take rest when you need to
Avoid changes like moving houses or jobs as it can be overwhelming
Eat healthy and stay hydrated
Avoid alcohol, tobacco, etc
Keep yourself physically active (check with your doctor before starting an exercise programme)
Make connections with other expecting parents, to support each other
Accept help when it is offered or ask for help when you need it
(The author is a counselling psychologist, Fortis La Femme Hospital, Richmond Road, Bangalore)