Pregnancy marks one of the greatest times of change in a woman/mom’s life. Physical, emotional, and hormonal changes can impact your mood. For many women, mixed in with the joy and excitement, pregnancy can trigger feelings of anxiety and fear. According to The American Pregnancy Association, the number of pregnant women who exhibit signs of depression could be as high as 1 in 4, and it is so important that women reach out to their doctors, families, and friends when experiencing prenatal depression. Here are 3 tips to help give you manage any anxiety or depression-type feelings:
Tip # 1 – Take it Slowly and Enjoy the Little Things
Understanding how depression feels is the first important step in treatment. Often pregnant mom’s don’t think they could be experiencing depression, since pregnancy is usually considered a time of such great joy. Brittany, from the Knocked-Up Fitness Real Mom Blogs discussed her experiences with prenatal depression. She shares, “I had experienced bad days similar to the rest of humanity, but I can honestly say that I had never been depressed to the point where I felt stagnant in my own life”. Understanding that depression is nothing to be ashamed of and very treatable is the first step to feeling better. This was Brittany’s experience:
“For some reason during my first trimester, I could not shake this feeling of utter despair and loathing. I had lost complete control of my body and my emotions, leading to a feeling of helplessness. Due to this lack of control in my life, I completely abandoned my workout routine (which was a shock to my husband since I had worked out two hours a day before getting pregnant). I started skipping work just to lay in bed and run to the bathroom every five minutes. I distanced myself from friends and family members, and even my husband’s attempts to brighten my day failed.
Similar to most women, I did not mention my current state of mind to my doctor. I pretended to be happy during each office visit, but I could not shake the thought that began to enter my mind: I wish I was not pregnant so I could be me again. I know admitting this single thought probably will earn me the “worst woman of the year” award, but it was honestly how I felt at the time.”
Learning to become herself again, or ‘waking up’, as Brittany says, started with little steps– literally.
“I walked the dog for 10 minutes just to get out of the house. I forced myself to go to the gym with my husband, even if all I did was sit stagnantly on the exercise bike for an hour and watch Netflix on my phone (yes, I was “that” woman for a while). I began cooking my favorite dishes that reminded me of my grandmother and filled my house with the familiar smells of my childhood. Then slowly I began emerging from this thick fog that surrounded my pregnancy.
Once I began “waking up,” I found a prenatal yoga class that began to help me reconnect with myself and my growing child. This weekly class soon became my salvation as each Thursday night I found myself craving a yoga mat and the relaxation that soon followed. Also, just being around other pregnant women helped me realize that this was a period in my life that I should embrace and cherish. Toward the third month, my husband and I started attending a weekly birth preparation class. As cliché as it may sound, surrounding myself with women who were also on this pregnancy roller coaster helped me realize that I did not have to suffer alone.”
Connecting with your partner, your baby, and most importantly yourself can help you overcome the feelings associated with depression.
Tip # 2 – Exercise!
While there are many causes and levels of severity of depression, a study out of Harvard Medical School showed that 60-70% of people experiencing depression could significantly reduce their depression symptoms through exercise– interestingly, the same percentage of people whose symptoms are reduced through medication.
The most exciting part of this study is that it won’t take hours of sweating at the gym each day to reduce anxiety and depression. Simple, moderate exercises you can do at home, around your block, or at the park with your kids can provide the activity level necessary to achieve the benefits of exercising. Try to incorporate stretching, cardio, and body weight training, and find what you enjoy most and what feels best for your body. Exercising does amazing things for the body, and treating depression and anxiety is just one of them. During pregnancy, exercising can improve balance and stability, self-esteem, sleep patterns, blood pressure, and increase social interaction– and it can be fun!
The study found that approximately 35 minutes a day, 5 days a week– or 60 minutes a day three days a week– of moderate exercise can impact depression so heavily that patients are no longer classified with the diagnosis. A follow up study found that participants who exercised for six months after the study had maintained and improved symptom reductions. These results are based on a 150lb person, exercising at the intensity of fast-walking, and based on your weight or previous activity level you may need to adjust your intensity and duration– start by getting clearance from your doctor on the level of intensity you’re approved for.
Tip # 3 — Discuss Alternatives with Your Doctor
- Vitamin D boosts brain development and function, improves chemical signal reception, and increases the function of monoamines like serotonin– a natural, biological chemical that makes us feel good.
- Plant phytochemicals, both in foods and supplements, naturally contain antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties– improving dopamine function.
- Low levels of zinc, B12, and Omega 3’s have also been associated with depression symptoms, so you might consider a supplement or capsules– or be sure your prenatal vitamin includes enough of each.
- A probiotic supplement or consuming foods with pro and prebiotics have been linked to reduced cases of depression. This is how some medications will treat depression.
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Other Related Knocked-Up Fitness Posts:
- Sweat Pregnant Mamas, Sweat!
- Introducing Real Mom Blogger Brittany, 33 weeks pregnant!
- Prenatal: Pilates Yoga