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Happy mother, healthy baby
Mental and emotional well-being can help ensure a healthy pregnancy
So, you just found out you are pregnant. Now what?
Well, if you are like most expectant moms, the first thing you are going to do is identify ways to make sure your pregnancy is as healthy as can be. After all, a healthy pregnancy will help ensure you have a healthy child.
Health experts agree that the best way to ensure you have a healthy pregnancy is to take care of yourself. For most women, that means eating a balanced diet, making sure you are getting the proper dose of folic acid, and staying active. But while the physical changes of pregnancy may be more obvious, a healthy pregnancy doesn't begin and end with taking care of your body's needs. Taking care of your mental and emotional needs is equally important. And that's not always an easy thing.
While having a baby is one of life's most amazing experiences, the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy can take a toll. Along with excitement and anticipation, many women experience apprehension, mood swings, anxiety, stress, and even depression during pregnancy.
All pregnant women can expect to feel a range of emotions from exhilarated to exhausted. Some of these emotions are brought on by the physical changes such as hormone shifts, nausea, fatigue, weight gain, heartburn, etc. Emotional upheaval may also be part of the psychological process of preparing to become a mother. You may be feeling some doubt about whether you are up for the job of parenting. Will I be a good parent? Will my baby be healthy? Much like approaching any major life change, there are likely to be times when you will feel overwhelmed by the prospect of giving birth to - and being responsible for - a child.
All of these feelings are normal. Research tells us that pregnant women go through a process of preparing for motherhood by thinking about a number of things. They may reflect on how they were parented and how they would like to parent. They are likely to think about how becoming a mother will change how they see themselves. Pregnant women also think about the potential for changes in their relationships with others, especially their partner. This, along with the fact that up to one half of all pregnancies are unplanned, means it's no surprise that pregnant women may encounter some challenging emotions and reactions.
Unfortunately, the expectations of joy surrounding pregnancy often make it difficult for women to share these less positive feelings. Women may feel relieved just knowing that this process is part of a healthy pregnancy, but they also benefit from talking to supportive people in their lives about how they are feeling.
Health experts agree that it is important for women to be aware of their emotional well-being. Stress can be hard on anyone, and it's no different for an expectant mom. Excessive stress drains our energy, diminishes our ability to go about our day and wreaks havoc with our mood.
It's vital for pregnant women to manage stress for their own benefit as well as their baby's health. The basics are essential: get your sleep and take frequent rest breaks. A woman's body is working hard during pregnancy and needs adequate rest to cope with the extra demands. What we eat affects our mood. Stick with healthy choices most of the time, drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine, sugar, salt and alcohol. Find ways to soothe challenging emotions such as walking around the block, talking to a friend or spending time on a hobby you enjoy. Develop a habit of recognizing your signs of stress and learn to respond with two or three key strategies that work for you.
The most important thing is to not ignore your feelings. It is important to reach out when you are feeling stressed or down. Recognize that this is a helpful and necessary part of the process toward becoming a parent. Talk with other parents who have been there. Take things one day at a time, take good care of yourself and enjoy this special time, you are embarking on an amazing journey.
Laurie McPherson is a mental health promotion co-ordinator with the Winnipeg Health Region.
*Five ways to a happy, healthy pregnancy
* Help for new parents
* Signs of depression or anxiety
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(1 of 10 articles for this year)06/12/2013 11:43 AM 0