The bigger I got, the more emotionally challenging pregnancy became for me. I always pictured having a partner beside me every night in bed, ears and hands glued to my burgeoning belly, reassuring me that I looked beautiful while fetching me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the middle of the night, but instead, I was totally alone, sleepless and feeling fat, ugly and unloved.
The majority of moms-to-be—about 90 percent—take at least one medication during their pregnancies. Additionally, more than two-thirds of pregnant women take a prescription medication during the first trimester, a crucial period of fetal development when medications are more likely to affect your baby.
As if the unrelenting melancholy of depression isn't bad enough, deciding whether or not to take (or stay on) antidepressants during pregnancy is one of the hardest decisions a mother can make. On one hand, high levels of stress hormones may have harmful effects on your baby. On the other, antidepressants may have their own consquences, says a new review published in the journal PlOS One.
Between 14 percent and 23 percent of pregnant women experience depressive symptoms— overwhelming anger, sadness, irritability, guilt or hopelessness. But 2012 research regarding the most commonly prescribed antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSris), didn’t bring good news for these moms-to-be: new studies suggest a heightened risk of complications from taking SSris (which include Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft) during pregnancy.
In Milton, Ontario, Canada, where Janice Smith lives, a February day might reach 5 degrees and darkness sets in well before the workday ends—conditions that trigger Smith’s yearly bout with seasonal affective disorder, aka SAD or winter depression. “In winter, I can barely get out of bed in the morning, and I typically retreat from my friends,” she says.
When you’re pregnant, a little stress goes with the territory. You’re worried about your stretch marks and whether you’ll ever get your body back. Or you’re frazzled because you have to take pee breaks during important meetings at work.
These concerns won’t do any real harm, but chronic stress during pregnancy is linked to lifelong risks for children, including anxiety, aggression and learning disabilities. The good news is that you can safely get a handle on it.
Here, experts offer their best advice on dealing with four major sources of stress during pregnancy.
Alana is 13 weeks pregnant with twins. It’s her first pregnancy and a planned one yet she’s caught by surprise - not just because she’s having two babies, but because she’s feeling ambivalent about becoming a mother. She always thought she’d feel excited about being pregnant, but that’s not how she feels at all. It’s not that she’s sad or upset about it. She just feels kind of…meh. Alana wants to know if this is normal though she suspects not many women feel this way.
After the drama of the last couple weeks’ blogs, I’m happy to tackle something simple, like a couple great questions. Jessica wants to know what causes “labor shakes” and Brianna wants to know why she’s not super excited about her pregnancy. The short answer to both is: hormones. Of course, since hormones are probably responsible for a lot of the drama in the world, maybe this won’t be so simple after all.
Early in her pregnancy, Deborah Johnson (not her real name) started having on-and-off light bleeding. “At first I was really freaked out,” she recalls. “My immediate reaction was, ‘Oh, this can’t be good.’ ”
She called her doctor, who was concerned but calm. “She said she was going to play it safe by giving me progesterone, but that if the baby wasn’t meant to be, no amount of progesterone was going to make a difference,” Johnson says. Though the spotting continued throughout her entire first trimester, Johnson gave birth to a healthy baby boy six months later.
Blissful. Joyful. Glowing. These are words that typically describe moms-to-be. But what about the other possibilities: blue, anxious, pregorexic? Pregnant women’s struggles may slowly be coming out of the closet, but many moms-to-be still suffer in silence with emotional issues, and the majority are never diagnosed or treated. The result can be problematic for their babies as well as themselves.
Anne’s daughter was less than an hour old when she asked: “Do you think she’s autistic?” Her question didn’t surprise me. A lot of parents ask about autism these days as they face one of their biggest fears. This was Anne’s first baby and I told her what I know to be true: “She looks perfect to me. Odds are she’s a healthy, unique little girl.” Odds are, she won’t be autistic either, but you can’t tell right from the start.
Many pregnant women fret too much about the wrong things, and pay too little attention to issues that can genuinely harm their pregnancy and baby. See how your concerns compare to other women’s, then learn whether or not your fears are well-founded and—the bottom line—what you can do to have a healthy and happy pregnancy.
Many women who whole-heartedly want to be mothers dread the prospect of having to actually deliver a baby. In fact, while just about every woman feels some anxiety about giving birth, 6 percent to 10 percent of pregnant women suffer intense fear. This can manifest itself in such symptoms as nightmares, heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath, a racing pulse and difficulty concentrating.