Emotional and psychological aspects during pregnancy

Pregnancy is an important event in a woman’s life and brings along many changes. All the pregnancies have certain general similarities but each pregnancy is unique and the experiences of pregnancy is different for everyone. So understand your pregnancy is also unique.

The moment you get to know that you are pregnant, a lot of changes occur. At the beginning you may appear to look the same for weeks to come, but a number of changes begin to occur which includes the emotional and psychological aspects. A number of hormonal fluctuations occur during pregnancy and so the psychological changes that you are experiencing now have occurred in response to physiological alterations. This stage of pregnancy may be very exciting with all the attention from everyone and stressful too with the physical limitations along with emotional swings. Attention is invariably given to the physical changes and discomforts, but the psychological changes experienced are mostly left unattended.

So let’s try to examine the range of common emotions felt during this period. It could be a surprise, joy, happiness, love, sadness, mood swings, fear and anxiety. The pregnancy itself may come as a surprise to you if it is unplanned. Planned and wanted pregnancy leads to joy and happiness. Love, intimacy and the need for physical closeness may be felt greater during pregnancy. Sometimes mood swings are like a roller coaster where the mood sways between being high and low. Fear involves fear of miscarriage during the first term and fear of labour and complications towards the end of the pregnancy. Fear of gaining weight as well as inability to get back to the pre-pregnancy shape is also a major concern among many women. The other fears could be ‘Will the baby be fine, healthy, without disabilities, will I be a good parent?’ There can also be financial fear in terms of managing the pregnancy and providing the very best for them to- be newborn. One of the major fears is ‘Am I eating appropriately for the best development of the baby?’ Please note that fear moves hand in hand along with anxiety. A person who is basically anxious tends to be even more anxious due to the stress involved during pregnancy. It is very important that you understand that these fears are common to many expectant mothers, so you shouldn’t be worrying too much about it.

Just remember, pregnancy is wellness and not an illness. There are a number of ways by which you can cope with the stress during pregnancy. I would like to highlight that developing a positive outlook towards this stage is the most crucial point. So now how do we do that?

• One of the simplest and easiest ways would be to talk to other mothers who have had a positive outlook and experiences towards pregnancy and labour. It’s best to stay away from negative thoughts.
• Be proud of being pregnant as only females are endowed with this. Be thankful for this wonderful stage in your life.
• This phase can actually strengthen the relationship with your spouse. So go ahead and make the best use of it.
• By being an expectant mom, you are developing a sense of belongingness towards the baby. Enjoy it!
• A regular exercise routine, a balanced diet, and healthy body weight, promotes good health and can have a really positive effect on your pregnancy. A lot of research has shown that women who exercise regularly during pregnancy have a good mental well being and also find it easier to return to the pre-pregnancy shape.

However, it is very important to remember that if there are any significant or serious concerns regarding psychological well being, do not hesitate or feel shy to seek help. Talk to a professional counselor or psychologist.

Pregnancy should be handled with utmost care physically and mentally so that there is a conducive environment for the baby to grow and for an easy transition for a woman through this stage.

So develop good habits and enjoy your pregnancy.
Dr. Anne Varghese, Head Psychology, National Institute of Speech & Hearing (NISH), Trivandrum, Kerala.

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