Psychological Changes During Pregnancy

Reviewed on : 22 August 2016

When a woman first learns that she is pregnant, she experiences immense joy. The thought itself of bringing life into this world is an amazing feeling, but at the same time it can also be quite  scary. While most women deal with this situation easily , some find it hard to cope with.  Pregnancy also comes with its own set of physical issues which can cause mental stress. Sometimes the expecting mother is overwhelmed by the idea of raising the  child, which in turn increases her anxiety level. Questions like – Will I be able to raise my child well? Am I ready to become a mother? Will I be a good mother? Are my surroundings suitable  for a child? – can  plague a soon-to-be mother, once she learns about her pregnancy.

Pregnancy has a major psychological effect  on the expecting  mother , especially since she has to juggle and manage many tasks.  It is hence obvious that no one else will perceive the news in the same way as she does. According to Laura M. Glynn, psychologist at Chapman University, “Pregnancy is a critical period for central nervous system development in mothers”.

During pregnancy, hormonal fluctuations in a woman’s body are quite extensive . These have different effects  on different women. While these hormones work primarily to make the brain ready for motherhood, the secondary impacts on the brain can be both positive and negative. Anxiety, a common emotion during pregnancy, varies from person to person. Sometimes, anxiety can make an expecting mother feel overwhelmed and scared and in  severe cases, this can lead to depression and withdrawal.

Furthermore, these psychological reactions can extend to self-esteem issues, emotional instability, body image concerns and loss of control. Mood swings are experienced by almost every pregnant woman as they are also a result of the hormonal changes. In most cases, after childbirth, the state of the brain goes back to normal, as the hormones resume their original balance, with only a marked change in priorities.

Pregnancy and childbirth are wonderful experiences, that also result in psychological effects. In the end, however, when a mother holds her newborn for the first time, then all this seems worthwhile. The important  aspect of this whole situation is for women to be aware of their feelings and understand that the reason for this change is because of the process of the pregnancy and that  their feelings are completely normal.

After childbirth, most women are able to overcome their fluctuating emotions and the negative feelings that might have been swirling in their brain. In some cases however, women may  feel cold and distant  towards their newborn. Even this is not a reason for worry as there are various options that can help a woman through this phase.

Dealing with Psychological Effects of Pregnancy

There are several ways in which an expecting mother can overcome the psychological effects of pregnancy. Sometimes on her own and sometimes, with the help of others. There is no shame in seeking or asking for help and talking about one’s mental state. One should not think too much before asking for support, both physical and mental, as it  is well known that pregnancy takes a  toll both on the body and the mind of the expecting mother.

If things like household chores are a worry for some, then they should keep in mind that the priorities are bound to change at this stage. One should not stress about keeping the house spotless or completing all the household errands. The father-to-be can also support and help out in this area. One should focus on bonding with the baby. Even if a woman cannot rely on her partner, any other family member should  be available and glad to offer help.

Value of Sleep

A pregnant woman won’t be able to sleep as blissfully as she may have slept before conceiving. During pregnancy, an expectant mother may need to get up in the middle of the night, quite possibly several times, to go to the bathroom. A mom-to-be should hence sleep whenever she has time to spare. After  childbirth too, she will have to cater to the needs of the baby, sometimes several times during the night. Here as well, a woman can ask her partner to sometimes take care of the baby so that she can get her minimum necessary sleep. A mother should try to get some sleep whenever the baby sleeps. Adequate sleep is also necessary when a woman is breastfeeding.

Other Measures

Another important step in relieving stress is to engage in an activity, that one enjoys, for at least half an hour daily. It could be reading, listening to music or simply going for a leisurely walk. It is also important to engage in moderate exercise for 30-45 minutes daily, provided the doctor has permitted it. Swimming, yoga and pilates are usually safe exercises for most and also act as great stress relievers as they help in the release of endorphins in the body. If the depression or mood swings are persistent, despite the various corrective actions, then it is important to consult a doctor without delay.

Being Aware of Body Image

Numerous changes in the body that come with pregnancy require some time to disappear. She should not worry about the weight gain or the bigger feet or the skin tone changes. A few months after a woman delivers, her body will revert itself back to its normal state. A woman needs to only make sure that she is consuming the necessary amount of nutrition during this time.

A new mom might feel the urge to quickly lose weight after giving birth. However, what the mother needs to keep in mind is that her body took nine months to change the way it has and she cannot bring it back to normal as quickly as she might want to. Acknowledging this fact will help her overcome the emotional stress of getting back in shape.

New moms might hear from several women that they got back in shape shortly after delivering. This does not need to bother a new mom as every person’s metabolism is different and the normal process of getting back in shape is always better than vigorous exercise and excessively strict diet control. Yes, a mother will have to put in some extra effort to get back in shape but taking the appropriate amount of time is also quite essential.

One must only understand why the psychological changes are taking place, talk to others who might have felt the same and most of all, believe in oneself.

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