Written by Kelly Polci, MSW, RSW, a social worker in Sunnybrook's Women & Babies Program.
People often talk about how much they enjoy being pregnant. The image of a smiling pregnant woman rubbing her belly comes to mind. Or, when you least expect it, the older woman on the subway or better yet the older woman in your life (read: your mom), tells you how nostalgic they are for that time of their life. There are frequent reminders that this is a special time you are meant to cherish.
However, I can't tell you how often women come into my office and talk about how they are not enjoying pregnancy; and that this feeling leaves them isolated. Pregnancy is a unique time in your life where we then tend to get stressed about being stressed for fear of its impact on your unborn child. As a social worker, my job is to try to validate their emotional experience, to destigmatize coping difficulties or mood changes in pregnancy, and reassure someone that they are not alone.
Here are just a few reasons why pregnancy may not be the best of times:
- Your expectations and the societal pressure to enjoy it. You and your partner excitedly start planning for a family and with time, you conceive. Perhaps you expected to love it and expected it to be a nine-month celebration of what was to come. Perhaps you know someone who is struggling to conceive and you feel you must not take your pregnancy for granted.
- The symptoms and complications. Nausea, changes to skin, hair, weight gain/bloating/water retention, constipation, joint pain, inability to sleep comfortably. I could go on! Talk to your health-care team, they will have good suggestions on how to cope with many of the discomforts.
- Pregnancy restrictions and all the no-no's of pregnancy. You may be wondering about that morning cup of coffee you always look forward to, or your weekly sushi meal. Maybe your doctor is asking you how strenuously you work out. Perhaps you are too tired to socialize with friends to the extent that you normally would. So, your go-to coping mechanisms are suddenly taken away and you are left scrambling to identify how to cope with stress.
- You feel unprepared or worried about what's ahead. Many women that I've met simply question, "Will I be a good mom?", "Will the baby be okay?", or "Are we ready?" It is a time of transition when we will soon assume a significant new identity which has broad-reaching impacts on your life. Anticipating the change can be a really overwhelming exercise.
- It's possible that you just don't feel like yourself when pregnant. "Depression occurs in about 15 per cent of women in pregnancy or postpartum. Anxiety may be more common," says Dr. Cara Brown from the Women's Mood and Anxiety Clinic: Reproductive Transitions at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. You may be more irritable or feel like crying. And despite your best efforts, it's difficult to shift your mood. Please speak with your doctor or another member of your health-care team. This is important as depression and anxiety in pregnancy can put you at increased risk for postpartum depression.
Here are some tips for getting through those nine months and maintaining your sanity:
- Tell someone. In addition to your family doctor, your obstetrician or midwife, it can feel helpful to confide in your partner or a trusted friend.
- Consider counselling. Hospitals with maternity services usually have a perinatal social worker available to you. Or try your workplace employee assistance program (EAP).
- Consider all those fundamentals of effective coping - good sleep, good nutrition, and exercise as approved by your physician. Take some time to consider new ways to take care of yourself or ways that have proven effective for you previously.
- Be kind to yourself. You are entitled to your feelings and to your experience of pregnancy.
Read more women's health tips and information from Sunnybrook experts at health.sunnybrook.ca
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