There’s no question that access to healthcare plays a huge role in successful childbirth. The better and more consistent a person’s care, the likelier they are to conceive and deliver a healthy baby. In a perfect world, every parent would have both unlimited access to top-quality healthcare, knowledge about that care, and the emotional bandwidth to seek such services out.
Unfortunately, many people face serious financial, social and emotional barriers when it comes to seeking help. Medical services are expensive — prohibitively so for some families — and even those who can afford healthcare sometimes fail to take advantage of this good fortune due to stress, anxiety, depression, and other factors. Addressing the knowledge and emotional aspects of the fertility journey can help people make better choices during treatment, manage the stresses of treatment better, and keep people in care longer so they have a higher chance of having a healthy baby.
Not all Fun and Games
Few experiences in a human lifetime are as emotionally taxing as making a baby. Even if conception occurs without much effort, the personal strain and hormonal changes of carrying a child to term are considerable and the childbirth process itself can be difficult. Many expecting parents experience emotional and physical symptoms as a result of their pregnancy that further add to this experience.
People who have trouble conceiving, meanwhile, have an even more stressful time, as the conception process becomes fraught with medical bills, procedures, and hoping. Then with pregnancy comes the added worry about the difficulty of getting pregnant again if something goes wrong.
All of this is hard enough when parents receive the very best healthcare, allowing medical professionals to check not only on the health of their baby but the parents’ own mental and emotional wellness. But mental health issues, brought on by pregnancy or not, often cause people to make unhealthy or unhelpful decisions.
Just as depressed individuals often drop out of therapy, the stresses of conception and pregnancy can cause some prospective parents to drop out of their pregnancy healthcare process. Doing so can be dangerous for the prospective parents themselves, and doubly dangerous for their developing child. Minimizing medical care can leave serious issues undetected and even result in the loss of a pregnancy or less than optimal outcome.
Prospective parents must pay close attention to their mental and emotional journey from conception through the postnatal period. Eating right, exercising, and taking good care of the baby is important, but no less important than ensuring the delivering parent is feeling emotionally well enough to seek regular attention from their healthcare provider.
Parents should have a plan for maintaining their mental wellness that includes not only regular emotional upkeep but emergency plans for when hormonal shifts or unforeseen issues cause distress. Expecting parents who explore new routes to happiness while pregnant will not only protect their own and their baby’s wellbeing, but develop new tools for thriving in their everyday lives.
Keep What Works
The first step to emotional self-care is to remember that pregnancy need not necessarily change a parent’s positive habits and hobbies. A healthy parent with a low-risk pregnancy can continue to exercise in moderation and enjoy many of the same foods.
High-risk pregnancies change that situation a bit, but low-impact workouts like stationary bikes, swimming, Pilates, and yoga are all still available. Many communities have fitness classes for expectant parents, and there are lots of sources for fun and healthy recipes that cut out the foods one should avoid while pregnant.
Likewise, being pregnant does not mean giving up beloved pastimes like reading, watching movies, crafting, or playing games. Especially when struggling with mental health or anxiety issues, parents sometimes feel their only task is to take care of their pregnancy and that they must avoid activities that are “frivolous” when doing something so important.
But neglecting the activities that foster calm and happiness out of some sense of duty or inadequacy is unhealthy and can lead to spiraling depression. Pregnancy should not be treated as a burden or a reason to indulge in negative thinking and punish oneself. While it’s not always easy, parents should maintain the behaviors they enjoy whenever possible to keep their mood up.
Find New Joy
One way to improve mental wellness while pregnant is to look at the opportunities pregnancy presents to learn about oneself and grow as a person. Not only is it important to maintain past activities, but pregnancy offers the chance to adapt new practices that improve wellness, mindfulness, and overall good health. If an expecting parent or someone looking to conceive needs to ways to wellness and happiness, they can explore a wealth of ideas and practices that make the process easier and more enjoyable.
For example, someone trying to conceive could take the opportunity to develop a new hobby or go back to a pastime fallen by the wayside. Making art, journaling, writing fiction, or getting into gaming can all be stimulating ways to maintain one’s mood. Healthy new habits like exercising and eating better will only improve overall health and happiness, as will making time to get outside and take in the fresh air. All of these activities will make the conception process go by faster and less stressfully, and can be carried on not only through pregnancy but after childbirth.
Additionally, pregnancy classes can introduce prospective parents to new friends with very common interests. Take advantage of this opportunity to share your thoughts and feelings with others who can be empathetic and helpful.
Do What Frankie Says
Relaxation can be just as useful as an activity for maintaining mental wellness and perspective. Whether trying to conceive or carrying to term, parents should take time off from the things that keep them busy.
One day a week “unplugged” without devices or distractions could help clear the mind and de-stress, as would taking a day every so often to do nothing but relax and pursue low-stress, enjoyable activities. Our busy lives rarely afford us such opportunities, but taking a full day off without any chores or important tasks is a good way to reward oneself and shift one’s mindset away from productivity and responsibility and toward self-care.
Meditate On It
Meditation is another wonderful way to help with mental and emotional health throughout conception and pregnancy. Taking the time to clear one’s mind, remove distractions, and focus on mindfulness, breathing, and clarity can help parents keep perspective and de-escalate from a stressful episode.
Meditation has a whole host of proven health benefits, lowering blood pressure, improving peace-of-mind, and letting parents relax and take stock of their emotional and physical state. Regular, planned meditation is a great daily relaxation activity, and meditation serves as an excellent way to reduce stress after a difficult event.
Every parent’s journey is different, but every parent needs to keep their mental health a priority. The fertility process puts significant strain on people and families and being able to regulate and soothe one’s emotions is a must. Parents under less stress are not only more likely to stick with their medical treatment during their conception and childbirth processes, but will be able to make more informed, clear-headed decisions during treatment. Good healthcare can drastically raise the chances of giving birth to a healthy baby, and mental self-care can ensure parents maintain their good healthcare practices and complete their fertility journeys successfully.