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12 Tips for Improving Mental Wellbeing During Pregnancy

Posted on October 15 2021

One way to improve your mental wellbeing during pregnancy is by getting as much rest as you can.

 

In light of World Mental Health Day on 10 October, try these tips to improve your mental wellbeing during your pregnancy and beyond.

 

1. Take it Easy

A Candide Multirelax pillow can help relieve aches and pains while you work from home.

 

During your pregnancy, you’ll likely feel more tired than usual as you grow a little human. Scale back work responsibilities if possible, get your partner or a part-time helper to assist with household chores and rest whenever you can. At the same time, try not to schedule major changes like changing jobs or moving house during this time. Instead, engage in self-care with a relaxing skincare routine or meditation.

 

2. Get Enough Rest and Quality Sleep

Sleep aids like silk pillowcases and eye masks can help you get better quality sleep.

 

Getting enough rest can also reduce stress and anxiety, improve your mood, while decreasing your blood pressure. It may also provide chronic pain relief, improve your immune health and strengthen your cardiovascular system. Sleep can both cause and be a consequence of mental health problems, so getting good sleep can help improve your mental wellbeing.

 

Have a set bedtime, with a consistent sleep schedule. Additionally, dim the lights and put away electronic devices for an hour or more before bed. Block out excess light with an eye mask and noise with ear plugs, if necessary. Some items that can help your sleep are an eye mask, silk pillowcase, scented pillow spray, candles and a pregnancy pillow ($29 to $179). A sleep podcast like Get Sleepy or white noise may also help you drift off to sleep.

 

3. Exercise 10-30 Minutes a Day.

Practice prenatal yoga to improve your overall wellness in-person or over virtual classes with studios like Yoga Lab by Lab Studios.

 

Aerobic exercises such as swimming, cycling and walking have proven to reduce anxiety and depression. Aside from outdoor exercise, try walking, pilates or yoga workouts from your favourite studios or YouTube. Aim for about 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Otherwise, start with slow gentle walks outside for about 15 minutes a day and then gradually increase the duration. Do check with your OB-GYN to ensure it’s okay for you to exercise. It might be unsafe if you have preterm labour, cervical insufficiency, gestational hypertension or you’re expecting multiples. If you feel lightheaded or out of breath, remove your mask and sit down until you feel well enough to resume your exercise.

 

4. Eat Well.

 

Have a balanced diet as far as possible. If cooking is a hassle, or you have newly developed food and smell aversions, try ordering in tingkat or from healthy meal delivery services. For expecting mums, a balanced diet includes two to three servings of fruit and vegetables respectively, two and a half of meat and protein alternatives, and six to seven of rice and other carbohydrates. While it’s best to limit food high in fat, salt and sugar, it’s fine to indulge occasionally. It’s also best to quit smoking and abstain from drinking during your pregnancy.

 

Motherswork Recommends: Frisomum Gold ($28)

 

5. Take Your Prenatal Vitamins

 

Start on prenatal vitamins, rich in folic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, iron and calcium. These can help your baby develop well, and also support your mood and energy levels. For instance, taking at least 400mcg of folic acid greatly decreases the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida. A study done with 127 people having severe depression took 500mcg of folic acid or placebo along with their medication. After 10 weeks, the women in the treatment group had a significant improvement in their symptoms. Getting enough iron - 27mg a day - helps reduce psychiatric disorders and a lower risk of sleep disorders. Similarly, adequate amounts of vitamin D, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to boost your physical and mental wellbeing.

 

6. Form a Support System

 

During your pregnancy, you’ll likely feel more tired than usual as you grow a little human. Scale back work responsibilities if possible, get your partner or a part-time helper to assist with household chores and rest whenever you can. At the same time, try not to schedule major changes like changing jobs or moving house during this time. Instead, engage in self-care with a relaxing skincare routine or meditation.

 

7. Educate Yourself

Learn about labour and breastfeeding and ease your worries by attending a virtual childbirth class.

 

If your source of anxiety stems from the pregnancy itself, educate yourself on what to expect for each trimester, labour and delivery. Have a list of questions to ask your OB-GYN (obstetrician and gynaecologist) at your next visit. Even the busiest doctors at public hospitals will take the time to answer you. Learn more about labour and breastfeeding at a childbirth virtual class ($349 over three Saturdays) with certified birth and baby coach Leila Ng Caceres to ease your worries and anxieties.

 

8. Get Medical Help for Your Mental Wellbeing

 

Symptoms of Anxiety or Depression

Look out for depression symptoms like being in a sad, hopeless or "empty" mood for at least two weeks. Others include feeling guilt, worthlessness, suicidal thoughts or poor concentration. On the other hand, anxiety symptoms include excessive, uncontrollable worry, recurrent, persistent and intrusive thoughts and panic attacks. Seek medical help as soon as you can. The therapist may prescribe psychotherapy, light therapy, acupuncture or anxiety medication.

 

Fears of Miscarriage

If you’ve previously had a miscarriage or experienced a loss, the countdown to the end of the first trimester may be particularly nerve-wracking. About 1 per cent of pregnant ladies have recurrent miscarriages, and most go on to have a healthy “rainbow baby” afterwards. Share your feelings with your partner, family and friends. Accept that it’s natural to be anxious, and try not to read too much into early pregnancy symptoms. Light spotting and cramps are quite common in healthy pregnancies, but if you’re worried, or have bleeding, get it checked out by your OB-GYN. They can allay your worries by ultrasound, and offer progesterone support if necessary.

 

Take things a day at a time, and do light exercise to help with your mental wellbeing and sleep. If you’re overwhelmed with these emotions during or after 12 weeks, talk to your OB-GYN who can help you get therapy and other treatment.

 

Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

It’s best to get the COVID-19 vaccination after you reach the 13th week of pregnancy. Pregnant women infected with the virus may develop serious complications, potentially increasing their risks of needing invasive ventilation and intensive care unit care. They may also develop complications like pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis. Symptomatic expecting mums also have a doubled risk of preterm birth, with babies needing neonatal ICU care. In a study done in the USA, no obvious safety signals were flagged for the mRNA vaccines, and the vaccine’s effectiveness should be similar to those not pregnant. Vaccinated mums can transfer the antibodies to the baby via the placenta before birth. If you’re still unsure, check with your OB-GYN if you can get vaccinated.

 

9. Quality Alone Time During Second or Third Pregnancies

 

If this is your second or third pregnancy, it’s likely that what you really need is some time on your own. Get your friends, spouse and family to help out - let them take care of your firstborn while you take time to decompress. Spend your precious time in a cafe, visit a friend, or get some exercise in. Try to get a few hours off work every couple of weeks, while your little one is in childcare or with her grandparents and enjoy your hard-won, child-free time. Take care of yourself by setting an alarm to take your prenatals, re-order items online before you run out, and try to get in some exercise each day. Finally, try to head to bed shortly after your firstborn sleeps instead of getting in your screen time.

 

10. Write in Your Gratitude Journal

Chronicle your pregnancy journey in My Beginnings Baby Book to capture precious memories.

 

The grown-up version of the not-so secret diaries we had as kids, journaling can help foster self-reflection, organise your thoughts, and heal from traumatic events. It may also help you gain perspective as you look back at your previous entries, and provide an emotional release. This can either be digital or in ink on a fancy notebook. A gratitude journal helps you reflect on what you’re grateful for each day, which helps boost happiness. Make a list of what you’re grateful for, such as feeling your baby kick, being able to sleep well or being able to go out to your favourite restaurant for a meal.

 

If you’re up to it, chronicle happy moments of the pregnancy in the elegant My Beginnings Baby Book ($120). Customise this with your precious memories, where you can track your little one’s growth and milestones in the first year, as well as include handwritten notes and pictures.

 

11. Try Positive Affirmations and Visualisation

 

Similar to training for a marathon or sporting event, try positive affirmations and visualisation to prepare yourself for a positive and better birth experience. Such affirmations might include resting when you need to, to take care of your body and your baby, that you love your baby and you’re a strong woman. This can help alleviate your worries about things that may never happen, helping to make your pregnancy a more enjoyable experience.

 

12. Detox from Social Media

 

While social media can be helpful in suggesting parenting groups and having useful pregnancy and parenting-related information, it can also lead to unrealistic expectations and comparisons. For instance, seeing images of picture perfect nurseries may lead you to second-guess your choices. Furthermore, if you’re feeling particularly like a whale and your feet have ballooned, looking at celebrities with cute baby bumps and even toned mid-sections is not at all helpful. Instead, curate your accounts to follow only those that “spark joy”, with some that show the not-so-pretty truth about pregnancy and parenthood. Unfollow or mute any that aren’t working for you, or are triggering. You might also consider reducing your time on social media or going for a detox until you feel like your mental wellbeing has improved. Spend the time offline on activities that you enjoy instead.

 

Mental Health Resources for Pregnant Women

Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic

Clarity Singapore

More Mindful

White Coat Singapore

Women’s Emotional Health Service at National University Hospital

Women’s Mental Wellness Service at KK Women and Children’s Hospital

 

Relevant Reads: Hit That Snooze Button, Self-Care Habits for New Mums

Credits: cottonbro, Eizzati Aripin

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