Maternal Wellbeing: 10 simple steps that can make a difference to your mental health and wellbeing
It’s common to be anxious during pregnancy, but these unprecedented times are worrying and bring a lot of uncertainty for everyone. This is a particularly hard time for anyone who is trying to conceive, pregnant or who has a baby.
We usually encourage pregnant women and new mothers to socialise with other women for support and to avoid isolation. Even if you have to self-isolate there are many ways you can stay connected with others.
You can start by joining the Facebook group we have created to offer daily support during the Covid-19 outbreak. Hundreds of women have already joined: Pregnancy during Covid-19 outbreak
Pregnancy and mental health during the Covid-19 outbreak
It’s always important to look after your mental health as much as your physical health in pregnancy and early parenthood, but this is especially important now.
It is well known that women often delay asking for help for their mental health in pregnancy and after birth because they worry about how professionals, family and friends will judge them.
As many as 1 in 5 women have mental health problems in pregnancy and the first year after birth.
Mental health problems are also very common for women having fertility treatment.
You absolutely should not worry about talking to any of the professionals involved in your care about mental health as a new line. Obstetricians, midwives, health visitors and GPs are very used to seeing women who have mental health problems when they are planning a pregnancy, pregnant or postnatal.
They will just want to make sure you have care, support and treatment if you need it. The earlier you get support and treatment the better. Please talk to someone if you need to.
Here are 10 simple steps that can make a difference to your mental health and wellbeing
1. Stay Connected
Stay connected with friends and family by phone or video:
- Spend time talking to people who make you feel good.
- Limit time with people who make you feel stressed.
- Don’t spend all your time talking about coronavirus.
2. Create a routine
You may have lost your usual routine. If that’s the case then create a new routine for yourself and your family.
Include activities that you do separately and together.
3. A good night's sleep
The following can help you to sleep better:
- Keep a regular sleep routine – reading, listening to calming music or having a relaxing bath before you go to sleep can all help.
- Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and comfortable.
- Avoid looking at screens for an hour before you go to bed.
- Avoid talking to people who make you stressed or upset before bedtime.
- Don’t use alcohol to help you sleep – it can make your sleep pattern worse. Alcohol is best avoided in pregnancy.
- Don’t sleep during the day for more than 30 minutes.
- Exposure to natural light during the day may be hard while self-isolating but if you have a garden or balcony try to make sure you spend some time outside.
- Exercise – even a walk or gentle exercise can help your sleep
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants for 8 hours before bedtime. Nicotine should be avoided close to bedtime, but smoking should be avoided in pregnancy anyway.
- Don’t go to bed full, hungry or thirsty.
4. Eat healthily
A healthful diet includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and starches, good fats, and lean proteins.
Eating healthfully also means avoiding foods with high amounts of added salt and sugar.
Use extra time during this period of lockdown to look after your diet and pay attention to what you eat!
Exercise can have a very positive impact on mood and is helpful if you feel anxious or low.
You can do many types of exercise in pregnancy. There are lots of yoga and exercise sessions available on line.
For more information about exercise in pregnancy speak with your obstetrician or midwife.
7. Do activities you enjoy
You may have more time than usual.
Spend time doing things you enjoy and try some new activities.
8. Ask help if you need
Some people are better than others at asking for help.
It’s very important that you get the help you need when you’re pregnant and after having a baby.
There are many different ways you can access support for your physical and mental health and get help with practical issues. Talk to your GP, Midwife,Obstetrician, health visitor or Doula, if you have any questions about your pregnancy or physical health.
They can also advise you how to access any further support you may need if you think you may have symptoms of mental illness.
You can also read the sections below about on line support and professionals who provide care for people with mental health problems.
Lots of local initiatives have been set up to deliver food and medicine to people who are unable to get out.
9. Do not listen to too much news
Limit how much news you watch and only read reliable sources.
10. Use online forums and support lines
It’s important for everyone to stay connected with others during the Covid-19 outbreak. Trying to conceive, pregnancy and caring for a baby and other children can be stressful at the best of times. It can help to stay connected with other people sharing a similar experience.
There are lots of online opportunities to do this including: The Women’s Wellness Centre’s Facebook group – Pregnancy during the Covid-19 outbreak. We have set up a free private Facebook group so that you can be supported by other women. Our senior midwife and consultants are available to answer questions regarding your safety and wellbeing during pregnancy and afterwards..
Some other examples of supportive on line forums include:
- Netmums: this has a very good section on wellbeing and a network of peer supporters
- Fertility Network UK: It’s already stressful enough to be going through fertility treatment and the current situation with coronavirus can cause a lot of added worry and uncertainty. There is good support through Fertility Network UK.
Sources of support for anyone who has a current or previous mental health problem and is worried about how to access care and treatment
- Many private psychologists and psychiatrists are offering video consultations – so you can still access care and treatment if you need to.
- NHS perinatal mental health services are continuing to operate and offering video and telephone consultations, and some face-to-face appointments, depending on what individual women need.
- You can self-refer to NHS talking therapies services (Improving Access to Psychological Therapy- IAPT) – Click here for a list of all the IAPT services in London. They all prioritise women during pregnancy and in the first year after birth.
For more general information about mental health when you are trying to conceive, pregnant or postnatal the following are good sources of information and support:
The following are links to information about how to look after your mental health and cope with anxiety and uncertainty during the Covid-19 outbreak:
- MIND – Coronavirus and wellbeing
- Mental health foundation –Looking after your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak
- Psychology Tools –Free Guide To Living With Worry And Anxiety Amidst Global Uncertainty
- Self-help – Maintaining Mental Health & Wellbeing in the Coronavirus Pandemic
This article has been written by our Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist, Dr Lucinda Green.
Dr Lucinda Green is a highly regarded Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist. She is an expert in providing care for women with a wide range of mental health problems who are planning a pregnancy, pregnant or postnatal.