My mental health has never been something I shy away from discussing; I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Depression in 2014, received Cognitive Behavioural Therapy the following year and have had a fairly positive recovery since.
However, my pregnancy bought something new to the playing field. Having not received professional help for three years and being medication free for the past 18 months, I am somewhat rusty at addressing mental health factors and seeking guidance. But, as it is Mental Health Awareness week, I wanted to share my experiences of mental health during my pregnancy.
Initially, my difficulties were due to my low attendance at university as my morning sickness and infections made it hard for me to attend classes and I began to worry that my grades would slip, but this was quickly replaced with self-assurance as I passed all assignments with A’s and B’s.
Then my mental health began to get a bit more personal. Between scans, I constantly worried that my body wasn’t good enough to grow a baby, and I would have in some way made her unwell. I felt a tremendous amount of relief when at the 9 week, 12 week, 16 week, 20 week and 28 week scan, we saw her tiny heart flutter and her measurements came back perfect every single time. Now we’re passed the 28 week mark and from here she is just growing bigger and maturing her organs in preparation for birth, my anxiety regarding her being unwell has lessened massively.
However, my one consistent worry has been that I will be a bad mom and I feel guilty for how perfect our little one already is, versus how imperfect I am in comparison. My low self esteem seems to feed on my worries that I won’t do a good enough job and that someone else could do so much better.
But these are the dark days, and they are few and far between now. As more people comment on how happy, glowing and radiant I look, the more this has reinforced a belief that actually, I can do this and I will do the best I possibly can, because this pregnancy is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I recently had one situation when the words of a stranger eliminated all doubts I had. My mom and I were at Buckingham Palace collecting my Gold Duke of Edinburgh award, when after the presentation, a lady stopped us to tell me how she couldn’t help but watch how I react to my bump and that she had felt compelled to tell me how evident my love was, and that I’ll make an amazing mom. I had done nothing out of the ordinary that day; holding my bump and feeling the kicks, is my normal. So these kind words from a stranger meant the world to me. I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve had a good cry since over it haha.
But it really did get me thinking, I know how much I love this baby and evidently, it’s very obvious to the outside world too, so why should I feel so full of self doubt about the most amazing thing that has happened in my life? Since then, I’m happy to say I’ve had no negative thoughts about my pregnancy or my ability as a mom.
If you can relate to these feelings at all, please don’t hesitate to contact me for a chat – I know how lonely these thoughts can make you feel. I haven’t tried many of my CBT techniques during my pregnancy but just chatting, reinforcing positive thoughts and doing everything possible to bond with my bump (from the little things like moisturising my growing bump to multiple private scans have been a big help).
Mental health during pregnancy is something that should be taken very seriously, no matter how minor you believe it may be so always discuss how you feel with your partner, family or midwife. Your mental health is just as important as your psychical, especially during pregnancy.