Pregnancy and new motherhood can be as terrifying as they are exhilarating.
Pregnancy and new motherhood can be as terrifying as they are exhilarating, writes psychiatrist Lucy J. Puryear, M.D., Ph.D., in Understanding Your Moods When You're Expecting: Emotions, Mental Health, and Happiness—Before, During, and After Pregnancy. From hormone-related memory loss to adjusting to the responsibility for a newborn, the process is not the joyride many women imagine.
It's important that expectant moms deal with burgeoning emotions as they do physical changes, according to Puryear. Though there's been progress in erasing the stigma of mental illness, especially postpartum depression, it's not the norm for OB-GYNs to discuss emotions. And there's one potentially lethal myth that won't go away: that pregnant women are "protected" from depression and other serious mental health problems. The sense of loss—of your former life, your relationship as it was, control over your body—can be profound. Some women feel shame for being upset when they expected to be joyful; couples may struggle to reconcile vastly different fears (men often worry about money and the baby being an "interloper"; women fear they'll be a bad mother). While medication ought to be a last resort during pregnancy, she writes, sometimes it's necessary.
MOST VALUABLE TIP: Sleep deprivation is often implicated in postpartum depression; put a good night's sleep on your priority list. (Houghton Mifflin, $24)