When a woman becomes pregnant she often rushes to her doctor or health care provider to find out what she can do to take care of her body during pregnancy. Women are advised to make dietary changes, start taking nutritional supplements, and to avoid environmental toxins. Rightfully so, there is a lot of focus on the physical health of the mother to be and her baby.
But physical health is only one piece of the puzzle. Research shows that the emotional state of a pregnant woman profoundly impacts the health and wellbeing of both mother and child. Yet we often dismiss this important issue. If a woman’s emotional state during pregnancy is brought up it is dismissed as ‘just hormones’ or joked about. For instance we all know the stereotype of the pregnant woman who starts crying during an ad for washing powder. We tend to reserve our concern for women’s emotional wellbeing until after the baby is born. However, women with depression during pregnancy are at greater risk of postnatal depression, so it makes sense to support women’s emotional wellbeing during pregnancy.
If you are pregnant, I encourage you to make your emotional wellbeing a priority now. It is much easier to maintain these healthy habits once the baby arrives if you have established them during pregnancy. It will be easier to cope with the demands of motherhood and these habits will serve you for life.
Here are my top tools for establishing and maintaining emotional wellbeing during pregnancy:
Mindfulness is a hot topic right now – and for good reason. Mindfulness has been shown to provide physical and emotional benefits to those who practice it. Mindfulness is something that anyone can fit into their life. It can be described as paying attention to the present moment without judgement. This can be done in as little as one minute. Being in the now provides perspective and comfort while giving you a time out. Focusing on something that brings you joy reminds you of what is great about your life. Some ideas for practicing mindfulness include:
• Focus on your breath as you breathe normally
• Put one hand on your belly and your other hand to your heart while you focus your attention on your baby
• Eat mindfully – put down the tablet, phone, or magazine and really take in all of the sensations of eating
• Walk mindfully – take off the headphones and notice nature around you as you are walking
Don’t worry if your mind wanders. Remember, this is not a time to judge. If you notice you are thinking about the past or the future, just acknowledge your thought and let it drift away.
2. Positive Affirmations
It’s commonly known that we have upwards of 50,000 thoughts per day and many of these thoughts are habitual, negative thoughts. Many of us are not aware of the negative messages that we are reinforcing in our own minds. We can counter these negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Positive affirmations are phrases that you tell yourself to affirm what you want or how you want to feel. I have created Affirmations for Pregnancy audio programs and I also have many written affirmations on my website www.mindful-pregnancy.com. You can also create your own affirmations by doing the following:
• Make a conscious effort to pay attention to what you are thinking.
• Take note of any negative thoughts that recur.
• Write something to refute your negative thinking. Be sure you are writing in the present tense, as if what you want is already happening.
For instance, if you notice that you often think “I don’t deserve this baby,” you can use the affirmation “I am a wonderful mother and I deserve this blessing.”
I highly recommend that you keep a pregnancy journal. You don’t have to do anything formal. All this requires is a pen and paper but if you choose you can find journals designed specifically for pregnancy. You can even find pregnancy journal apps!
Journaling during pregnancy can help you release stress. Getting into the habit of writing can help you bring feelings to the surface so you can let go of things that are bothering you. If you know your journal will not be read, it’s a great place to get everything out without judgement.
Journaling is not just for stress relief. You can use your journal to set your intentions, express gratitude, write out your affirmations, and connect with your baby. If you keep a journal to connect with your baby, it can make a great gift for your child when she is older.
You can use your journal to record your experience of pregnancy, taking note of that first flutter and anything you experience physically. This can be helpful to look back on next time you are pregnant.
4. Establishing a Support Network
It is important to feel supported during pregnancy. In the past we could rely on the women in our extended family and in our neighbourhood to provide this support during pregnancy and parenting. Nowadays many of us do not live close to our extended families and aren’t as friendly with our neighbours. The good news is that we do have technology to put friends and family at our fingertips. If you have a hard time reaching out for help ask a close friend or family member to check up on you at a scheduled time each week.
You can seek out support through online pregnancy and parenting communities or Facebook groups (be careful that you do not join communities where negativity runs rampant). You can also ask your pregnancy care provider for assistance in finding community support organisations or groups.
In my opinion, taking time for yourself is not a luxury. It’s a necessity. By making your emotional wellbeing a priority, you are well on your way to being an amazing mother.
As one of my favourite affirmations for pregnancy goes“Meeting my own needs allows me to meet the needs of my baby.”