Pregnancy can be an exciting and joyful time for most expecting families, but if you struggle with a mental health condition then you may be feeling scared or unsure. Individuals whole struggle with their mental health face additional struggles with every major event in their life, and having a baby is no different. In fact, many people who are diagnosed with a mental illness may decide not to have children because they feel they could not handle it, or they are worried about passing down their condition to their children. However, there are ways for pregnant people and their partners to navigate this time and still maintain mental and physical wellbeing even if they are diagnosed with a disorder. Here are 3 big things to consider:
1. Don’t Assume You Have to Stop Your Medication
Many people assume that if they are pregnant or breastfeeding, they cannot take their medication. However, more often than not, if your medication regime is working for you then it is actually safer to continue taking your medication than to stop.
Ultimately, if you are currently or are planning to get pregnant, you should discuss your medications with your provider before making any changes. They may recommend continuing to take the medication, changing to another medication, tapering off, or possibly stopping the use of your medication. The reality is that what is best for each individual varies based on what they are diagnosed with, what medications they are using, and an array of factors unique to their individual lives.
2. Surround Your Self With a Supportive Team
Who you surround yourself with can greatly impact your mental health. If your friends, family, and even possibly your care providers stress you out, then your mental health will struggle.
In some instances, you can control who you choose to be around. One example is your provider. If your doctor or midwife sends you into a bad mental state whenever you visit them, then you should know that you can switch. It is better in the long run to find a provider that works for you.
In order to balance the people you have less control over being around (such as family or coworkers), add people to your life that bring about a sense of calm and support. One great option for emotional support during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum is a doula. Doulas are professionals who provide emotional and physical support, as well as education, information, and advocacy. They can help you work through this particularly mentally challenging time with reassurance and affirmations.
3. Prepare for Postpartum
Sure, getting through pregnancy and birth should not be overlooked, but it is also critical to use this time to plan for the postpartum period. If you already struggle with mental illness there is a greater risk of developing postpartum depression (which men can develop too!). However, if you already know your risk factors, then you already know what you need to prepare for. Here are 5 things you can do before your baby is born to support your mental health after the birth:
- Hire a postpartum doula
- Create a meal train for friends and family so you don’t have to worry about cooking
- If the grandparents are helping, ask them to take a class for grandparents (lots can change between generations and a refresher never hurts).
- Make a list of people you can reach out to when things get tough (therapist, loved ones, pediatrician, breastfeeding consultant, etc.)
- Save this link to check in on yourself periodically during postpartum.
In addition to these tips, do not feel like you need to allow any visitors in to see the baby. Take some time to just be with your baby and partner, only allowing in people who are going to help with dishes, laundry, and diaper changes. Hold off on social visits as long as you need to feel ready. You don’t owe anyone anything.
Believe in yourself, but be prepared for the real challenges that come with having a baby and managing your mental health. It may not be an easy transition, but you can do it!