Mental Well-being in Pregnancy
This page is private and accessible only in association with Vicky Warr’s Beez Kneez classes. Deborah is working with Vicky to promote emotional well being in pregnancy and for new mums. She is a Naturopathic Therapist with a special interest in knackered Mums. Have a look around my website.
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Get the building blocks in place for good emotional support. Your hormones are working hard for you right now and if you’re more wobbly than usual it can be a sign that you’re under-resourced.
Holistic therapists see the body in systems, two of which are hormones and digestion. If one is out then the other is always affected in some way. Healthy hormones and digestion support you physically and give you the resources to deal with whatever life is throwing at you.
Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin and Endorphins are all your friends. Adrenalin and Cortisol (although they have a job to do) may be getting in the way of the happy hormones. By “feeding” the happy hormones and regulating the stress ones you are putting into place good building blocks for mental well-being.
Here’s a quick checklist of what you might find useful.
- B vitamins are essential for well-being because they help detoxify you, keep your nervous system in check and contribute to mood elevation. On the whole, the sum is greater than the parts for B Vitamins so you might as well take them all. Make sure the quality is good though. Folic acid which is not on the label as Methylfolate can be synthetic and leads to an increase in tongue tie in new born babies. For some clients, I add extra B3 which stabilises blood sugar and indirectly prodcues serotonin, or extra B5 which keeps your stress hormones at bay and can reduce inflammation (including hayfever)
- Vitamin C is helpful in the balancing of Oestrogen and Progesterone, as long as the B vitamins are doing their job. More hormone stability means more emotional stability. It also boosts immunity which is handy for warding off colds – prevention is better than cure!
- Lactobacillus Reuteri is the principle probiotic needed to produce Oxytocin which is all about happiness and vital for labour. It’s in a lot of probiotics but the most readily available, good value one is OPTIBAC for Women. Recommended especially if you have had antibiotics or vaccinations in the last six months or were on the birth control pill shortly prior to conception.
- Look at the cause and how it is making you feel. Some reflection on whether stressful situations can be avoided (commuting in the heat, too many commitments etc) or whether you could help yourself feel differently about it (are you being too hard on yourself, for example) can help manage a stressful situation that you can’t just walk away from.
- Run on good fuel. Put the right nutrition into your body and try not to use caffeine, sugar or high carb snacks as a quick fix. Eat more protein at breakfast. All these things increase our adrenal activity and prevent us from relaxing or resting when our body tells us it’s tired.
- Magnesium is by far the best mineral for preventing unnecessary build ups of cortisol. Magnesium has the additional benefit of being good for tone. So it really helps with efficient contractions and baby-expulsions. Thanks to the shocking quality of most arable soil these days, we’re all a little low, especially if you’re ever takes a birth control pill, so fill your boots. Magnesium Citrate from Cytoplan is high quality and good value or Epsom Salt baths, which are incredibly relaxing. Got restless legs in bed too? You definitely need magnesium. It’s awesome at everything.
Guidelines now say that health professionals should ask about our mental health in a “non judgemental and supportive way”.
Let that sink in: a non judgemental and supportive way
Don’t accept anything less. If you’ve mustered up all your courage to say for the first time that something doesn’t feel quite right, and you feel dismissed. Please find the courage to tell someone else. It’s too important not too.
The guardian of your mental health is you. No one knows you better than you. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you that something’s not right. If you are one of the 25% of pregnant women who struggle with mental health in pregnancy then you are not alone in this. There is also a stronger likelihood that, if you have experienced mental health issues in the past that they may return during pregnancy. Susceptibility does not guarantee an outcome, but if we’re push to our limits, we’re more vulnerable.
See my last post on nutritionally balancing your hormones to give yourself the best chances of stability.
Only you know what gives you a deep sense of relaxation. I used to love my weekly weep at Grey’s Anatomy but I realise that’s not for everyone. But you do need a “thing” and some of the best things are those which employ mind and body. By distracting both, it breaks cycles of tension AND recurring thoughts: playing the piano, kitting something where you have to count a lot, walking through the woods and singing loudly to music… you get the idea.
Pregnancy massages are not a treat. They are essential. (I don’t offer massage so I can say this with ZERO professional bias). Find a way to budget for at least one per trimester if not more. We hold so much emotion in our bodies and giving birth is about letting go in many way. This is impossible if you are wound tight like a screw. Massage helps flow, it releases tension, it moves water through the body and prevents swelling, it promotes deep relaxation but can also stimulate your sleepy parts. You need this balance. Drop hints to everyone for vouchers. Forgo the decaf latte (it’s all the acid without the benefits of the caffeine anyway). Make yourself worth it. Do make sure that you use a qualified women’s health specialist though for the best possible experience.
Our bodies react in individual ways to change. Physically, your body is changing in shape, size, gravitational centre, organ displacement! You name it. But motherhood means a shift in identity like no other. Its powerful and beautiful and amazing and completely consuming.
There’s a good chance that you are going to be winding down from a working role to maternity leave for the first time (if it’s your second time your challenges are slightly different but still a transition) you will be moving from one routine to another and the switch can be problematic for some.
You might feel a little lost without the structure of your working life, especially if you haven’t had your baby yet. That’s a kind of no man’s land
You might feel that a tiny human who rules the house is unpredictable when you are used to having a good handle on your life
You might feel pressure in the shift in your relationship
The expectations are enormous too. We are expected to fall instantly in love with our babies, but we can’t always do this when birth is traumatic. We are expected to be “good” parents whatever that means. More importantly, we are expected to post only the fun happy bits on Facebook so that no one has to see how much our day really fell apart.
It doesn’t matter what triggers your challenges, we’ve all got them, and they aren’t all the same. But where they have a physical impact, it’s mostly on our adrenals. This in turn makes our body go into emergency mode: we don’t digest our food as well, we don’t sleep as well, we can’t relax without feeling twitchy.
The sodium and potassium levels in our body can deplete as the adrenals work on overtime trying to manage the stress, we can start storing too much calcium, or too much chromium. When our mineral levels are out, we suffer symptoms like depression and fatigue. And when we are minerally low and we need to dig deep to get though a tricky day, there’s nothing left in the bank!
The solution is two fold: find a way to be kind to yourself about these new feelings and then feed yourself with the right minerals to keep yourself in balance. It’s always a good idea to consult someone who knows what they are doing about mineral balancing, but to help yourself first, keep taking your pregnancy vitamins for at least six months after your baby is born.
You can’t pour from an empty cup (I love that phrase!). Look after yourself (and your minerals) and looking after your family will be a whole lot easier. Check the nutrition in my first post to give yourself the building blocks to start with.