Pregnancy is a time of hope and excitement, but for many women it is also a nine-month-long, emotional-roller-coaster ride—much of it downhill. “Mood swings, mixed feelings, anxiety and irritability are all normal,” says Ariadna Cymet Lanski, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist with the Chicago School of Professional Psychology who specializes in prenatal and postnatal counseling in her private practice.
Feeling exhausted, moody and anxious is all part of having a newborn, right? Maybe not, says Maureen Groer, Ph.D., a professor of nursing at University of South Florida College in Tampa and author of a study on postpartum thyroiditis (PPT). This inflammation of the thyroid gland is diagnosed after pregnancy in 5 percent to 10 percent of U.S. women, but Groer believes it’s far more common. “Many women ignore the symptoms because they think it’s a normal part of being a new mom,” she says. To help detect PPT, Groer recommends that all new moms do the following:
When our first child was a few weeks old, my husband and I were struggling to get dinner on the table. Exhausted and overwhelmed, he looked at me and said, “How do parents get anything done?” How indeed, I wondered for weeks, struggling at home without help. I felt tired, lonely and a tad frustrated with my husband. Turns out these feelings are all too common. They can be dangerous, too.
Exercise shapes your body, but it may also shape your mental health during pregnancy. Researchers studied 230 women during and after pregnancy, asking about their current and previous exercise habits, depression and body image. They found that pregnant women who reported feeling depressed felt worse about their body, while those who had exercised before pregnancy were more satisfied with it. The researchers also found that women who said they had been depressed in the first trimester exercised less than women who had few symptoms of depression.
Eileen wonders how mental attitude affects pregnancy and parenting. Since I’ve been distracted in other parts of the world lately, I thought this question was an excellent one to bring this blog back home.
Six weeks ago:
"I don't want to go, Mama!" Julia is bawling. Flailing. Fighting me as I struggle to buckle her into her car seat. Every time I get an arm under a strap, she yanks it back out again before I can click the buckle into place.
Her chest is heaving. Her cheeks are glazed in snot.
I try to put on a brave face: "Julia, it'll be fun, you'll see! You'll get to splash in the pool, and paint, and play in the sandbox, and be with all the other kids..."
My 28-weeks-along reader (no name given so let's call her Sarah) wrote wondering what to do about anxiety, her doctor's unsupportive attitude about anxiety and her worry about taking anti-anxiety medication during pregnancy. Sarah, you and just about every American alive is feeling anxious right now. The economy, election and general state of our society is making everyone edgy. Add on a pregnancy and a predisposition for anxiety and you're right in step with the rest of the country. I get it. I've been there and I think I can help you out a little.
It's going to be a long one this week, ladies, because I know this is going to hit home for a lot of you. A reader, I'll call Claire, sent me the most heart-breaking email. She has the toughest time with vaginal exams. Though she prepares herself as best she can, she's totally traumatized, has panic attacks and cries whenever she has to get "checked." She thinks she's the only woman in the world who feels this way and worries about all those cervical exams that come toward the end of pregnancy at her prenatal visits.
Suzanne Kerns has just finished her first trimester, a time she’d always thought would be radiantly happy. Instead, the 28-year-old psychology student from Columbia, S.C., finds herself feeling sick, tired and blue. “I wanted so much for it to be a happy time but it’s not,” she says. What has made it particularly difficult, Kerns adds, is other people’s enthusiasm. “Friends get so excited when you tell them the news, but you don’t respond the same way—after all, you have just finished throwing up,” she says. “It produces so much guilt.”
Routine prenatal screening tests can understandably cause expectant parents a good amount of worry. But it’s reassuring to know that despite the possibility of scary results, the vast majority of pregnancies end in the birth of a healthy baby.