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As you embark on your pregnancy journey, the flood of emotions and thoughts can be overwhelming. You might already be dreaming of your baby’s future and planning for everything from their name to their nursery decor. But amidst all of this excitement, have you taken a moment to consider the impacts of pregnancy on mental health? Your mental health and pregnancy journey are deeply intertwined.

It’s important to remember that the course of 9-10 months will bring both minor and major changes to your life. As such, taking the time to prepare and educate yourself on how to feel supported and mindful of your needs is crucial.

In this article, we’ll explore some ways new or experienced mothers can achieve this while maintaining other important aspects of their lives. These include:

  • getting adequate sleep or rest,
  • engaging in movement or exercise,
  • proper nutrition,
  • discussing Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) with healthcare providers,
  • and identifying a support plan both during pregnancy and postpartum.

Sleep Hygiene

Let’s delve deeper into sleep hygiene. This is a comprehensive set of practices aimed at identifying and optimizing your sleep schedule, pre-bed routine, and habits that could be either beneficial or detrimental. Although the early stages of postpartum can be very challenging with a newborn baby waking up frequently, it is still essential to be mindful of your sleep hygiene. The following are some suggestions to help you improve your sleep hygiene:
  • Eating a protein-packed snack before bed.
  • Following a bedtime ritual like taking a shower, skin care routine, or any other activity that you enjoy and is consistent.
  • Going to bed only when sleepy.
  • Avoiding electronic devices 30-60 minutes before bed.
  • Avoiding alcohol or caffeine.
  • Ensuring a peaceful and dark sleeping environment.
  • Addressing any outliers like pets that could cause sleep disturbances.
  • Night shifts for parents, if feasible.
  • Making time for yourself and your significant other.

Sleep plays a critical role in mental health, concentration, productivity, irritability, and communication. Addressing poor sleep habits during pregnancy can help you set up your family for success even before the baby arrives or adding another little one to your family.

It has been shown that sleep challenges can create a decline in mental health and cause issues in many other areas such as concentration, motivation/productivity, and an increase in irritability/ineffective communication. Addressing poor sleep habits while pregnant can ensure that you set you and your family up for high levels of success prior to baby arriving or adding another little to your family.

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Movement and Exercise

As a new mom, you might feel overwhelmed and stressed at times, and exercise can help alleviate these feelings. Exercise can also help you regain your pre-pregnancy body, increase your energy levels, and improve your sleep.

Finding time for exercise and movement can be challenging when you have a baby, but there are plenty of convenient and easy exercises that new moms can do:

  • Walking: Walking is a simple but effective way to get some exercise while also spending quality time with your baby. You can use a stroller or baby carrier to take your baby for a walk around the neighborhood.
  • Yoga: Yoga is a great way to strengthen your body, increase flexibility, and reduce stress. You can take a class at a studio, or you can follow online videos from the comfort of your home.
  • Dancing: Dancing is an enjoyable way to get your heart pumping. You can put on your favorite music and dance around the house with your baby.
  • Kegel exercises: Kegel exercises can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which can help with postpartum recovery. You can do these exercises while nursing or holding your baby.
When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which reduce stress and boost your mood.
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Proper Nutrition

As a new mother, proper nutrition plays a critical role in maintaining your mental health and overall well-being.

The demands of caring for your newborn may leave little time for self-care, but making healthy dietary choices can help keep your body and mind healthy.

Here are some ways that proper nutrition can benefit new moms like you:

  • Mood regulation: Eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help regulate your mood. This is especially important for new moms who may be experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety.
  • Increased energy: Good nutrition provides the energy you need to get through your busy day, and can help prevent fatigue and exhaustion.
  • Boosted immunity: Eating nutrient-rich foods can help boost your immune system, which can help protect you from getting sick.

With your busy and hectic schedule, you may be wondering how to incorporate proper nutrition into your life. Here are a few ideas:

  • Meal prep: Spend a little bit of time each week planning and prepping your meals. This can help you make healthy choices even when you’re pressed for time.
  • Snack smart: Keep healthy snacks on hand, such as fresh fruit, nuts, and veggies with hummus. This can help prevent you from reaching for less healthy options when hunger strikes.
  • Hydrate: It’s easy to forget to drink enough water when you’re busy, but staying hydrated is essential for good health. Keep a water bottle with you throughout the day to help remind you to drink enough.

Discussing Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) with Healthcare Providers

As a new mom, you have a lot on your plate. Between feeding, diaper changes, and soothing a fussy baby, it can be easy to put your own mental health on the back burner. However, discussing Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) with your healthcare provider can help you achieve good mental health during pregnancy and postpartum so you can ensure you are maintaining other important aspects of your life.

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First and foremost, talking to your healthcare provider about PMADs can help you identify if you are experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders. Your provider can then offer resources, support, and referrals for treatment. This not only helps you feel better mentally, but it also has positive impacts on your physical health and your ability to care for your baby.

Here are some specific ways discussing your pregnancy and mental health concerns with healthcare providers can benefit you:

  • It can reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and encourage seeking help.
  • It can provide education on how to recognize and manage PMAD symptoms.
  • It can help identify risk factors for PMADs and offer prevention strategies.
  • It can improve communication between new moms and their partners, as well as with family and friends.
  • It can help new moms create realistic expectations for themselves and their babies.

Here are some ideas on how you can discuss pregnancy and mental health concerns with healthcare providers:

  • Schedule a separate appointment with your healthcare provider to specifically discuss maternal mental health
  • Ask your healthcare provider about resources or support groups in your community that specialize in perinatal mental health
  • Be honest and open about your emotional well-being during routine prenatal and postpartum visits
  • Use telehealth services to consult with healthcare providers virtually

Ultimately, discussing PMADs with healthcare providers is an important step in achieving good mental health as a new mom. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek support. Remember that taking care of your mental health benefits not only you, but also your baby and your entire family.

Creating a Support Plan Both During Pregnancy and Postpartum

Creating a support plan during pregnancy and postpartum can be essential to maintaining good mental health as a new mother. By having a support system in place, you can navigate the challenges of motherhood while also continuing to focus on other important aspects of your life. Whether it’s family members, friends, or healthcare professionals, having people in your corner who can provide practical and emotional support can be crucial.

If you have specific cultural or religious practices that you want to be mindful of during this time, it’s important to voice these to your provider or healthcare team members prior to birth. This can help ensure that you feel respected, heard, and understood regarding you and your family’s needs. It can also help you to feel more confident and supported as you navigate new motherhood.

Additionally, it’s important to be aware of your workplace policies regarding maternity and paternity leave. Understanding your options, such as filing for disability or family and medical leave (FMLA), can help you to feel more informed and prepared for what the postpartum timeframe may look like for yourself and your family. It can also help you to plan for potential needs for childcare, as you transition back into the workplace.
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Some examples of ways to identify and create a support plan during pregnancy and postpartum include:

  • Connecting with other new mothers in your community through support groups or online forums.
  • Talking to your healthcare provider about resources and support options available in your area.
  • Discussing your needs and concerns with your partner, family members, and friends, and asking for their help and support.
  • Exploring options for postpartum doulas or other professionals who can provide specialized support and guidance during this time.
  • Developing a self-care plan that includes activities such as exercise, meditation, or spending time outdoors to help manage stress and support your mental health.

By taking the time to identify a support plan during pregnancy and postpartum, you can set yourself up for success as a new mother. With the right support and resources in place, you can navigate the challenges of new motherhood while maintaining your mental health and overall well-being.

While this information may only scratch the surface of feeling prepared, it can serve as essential building blocks to create effective communication, enhance understanding and support, and ease the transition into parenthood. Should you require assistance during any stage of this process, whether it be during pregnancy or postpartum, a therapist can help you navigate your emotions and gain clarity regarding your desires and challenges.

Begin Therapy for New Parenthood in New Bern, NC

The demands of pregnancy and new parenthood can create a variety of challenges. Our team can offer support as you learn and grow as parents. You can receive support from our New Bern, NC-based practice:

  1. Complete our consult form
  2. Meet with a caring therapist 
  3. Start enjoying your new family!

Other Therapy Services Offered With Renewed Wellness Counseling

Our team understands that you may have more than one mental health concern as a new parent. This is why we are happy to offer multiple online mental health services. Our therapists specialize in therapy for military familieschronic illness counseling, and addiction counseling. We also offer life transition counseling and trauma therapy.