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Psychological Consequences of Pregnancy

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Psychological Themes Prevalent in Pregnancy

Learn about some of the emotional tolls of pregnancy.

Among the major and recurring psychological themes prevalent in pregnant and new mothers include feelings of depression, emotional liability, self-esteem issues, body image issues and personal feelings regarding control.

Though pregnancy is in and of itself a wonderful experience with a delightful outcome, it can wreak havoc on a pregnant woman's emotions.

Hormone levels are constantly fluctuating during pregnancy and in the post partum period. This can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, sadness, elation and even confusion.

It is not uncommon for women to report mood swings and irritability during and after their pregnancy. By and large for most women these feelings resolve themselves after a period of sufficient recovery.

The key to successful addressing of any psychological effects of pregnancy and labor is recognition that the changes that are occurring in one's body are normal. With adequate support most women will recover from pregnancy and delivery very well on an emotional basis, if they know what to expect and how to deal with it ahead of time.

Dealing with Psychological Emotions

There are many things you can do to improve the psychological and emotional impact of pregnancy and delivery.

First and foremost, you must seek out support. You should expect that you will be tired during your pregnancy, and likely be exhausted afterward. In the post partum period you will spend a large portion of your time up at night feeding and caring for your baby.

You should not expect to maintain a spotless home, cook meals and run errands as normal. If at all possible, enlist the assistance of your partner to help maintain the house and cook meals.

If your partner is not available turn to family members, relatives or friends that may be willing to stay and help out.

Another thing you can do to alleviate the emotional impact of delivery is limit the number of visitors you allow every day. Initially while in the hospital most women will have an influx of visitors.

Be sure that you communicate with friends and family members however and let them know when you are too tired to entertain, and don't be afraid to set limits on the length of their stay.

Finding Time to Sleep

Sleep is an essential component of anyone's well being. For a new mother, sleep is often hard to come by, but still vital for maintaining her health and well being.

The best advice you can take regarding sleep is this:

SLEEP WHEN YOUR BABY SLEEPS
You will be tempted to run errands or catch up on housework or chores when your baby sleeps. Remember that taking care of a newborn requires a lot of energy. The best thing you can do for your emotional well being, not to mention energy is to sleep whenever you get the chance.

If you are breastfeeding, it is vital that you get as much sleep as possible to ensure an adequate milk supply and energy to care for and feed your baby.

Body Image

During pregnancy your body will go through numerous changes. You will gain weight, your skin will be stretched out and may change colors, your hair may become fuller only to seem like it is falling out after pregnancy.

Most women will go through a period of emotional adjustment to the changes that are occurring in their body. Just after delivery, you will still look four or five months pregnant until your uterus shrinks back to its pre-pregnancy size and your stomach may not actually get back to normal for several months or more.

For many women the changes that occur during pregnancy are harder to address in the post partum period, particularly when they realize that they don't have a baby 'inside' of them anymore and feel pressure to lose weight and get back into shape quickly.

It is vital for your emotional well being however that you realize that it took nine months for your body to go through all of the changes that it did during pregnancy, and realistically speaking it should take you at least nine months to recovery fully from the changes that occur during pregnancy.

The sooner you acknowledge and accept this the less likely you will be to succumb to pressures to loose weight initially.

The best thing you can do is love yourself and appreciate the fact that your body has just completed one of the most amazing and miraculous tasks known to man - it has created life! You deserve to take the time necessary to recover, and your body certainly deserves a break.

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