Happy mother, healthy baby
Mental and emotional well-being can help ensure a healthy pregnancy
BY LAURIE MCPHERSON
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, May / June 2012
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
While having a
baby is one of life's
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
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
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.
Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.
Read the May / June 2012 issue of Wave