Pressures at work and home, or worries about the future, on top of coping with health issues, tiredness and sickness can be overwhelming. As many as one in 10 expectant mums suffer from depression or anxiety. Mental health is just as important as physical health but often overlooked. Here are five ways to help you relax in pregnancy.
Do you ever find yourself living in your head, caught up in your thoughts and worries? Or maybe you’re just going through the motions of the day and have forgotten to take pleasure in the little things around you? Stop for a second and focus on your senses. What can you feel? Perhaps the breeze is prickling your skin. What can you smell? Hear? See?
Mindfulness can help you live in the present moment and block out worries (like the endless To Do list in your head). In pregnancy, it can also help you bond and connect with your unborn baby.
2. Pregnancy yoga
Yoga is ideally suited to pregnancy as a way to strengthen your body and ease aches and pains through stretching. It can also be used during an active birth, helping you manage pain and get the baby into the optimum position through breathing techniques and positions. If you’re new to yoga, it’s best to wait until you’re 14 weeks pregnant to start practising and choose an antenatal class to learn the best poses, and breathing techniques, for pregnancy. Yoga classes often end with a meditation session, which can do wonders if you’re feeling stressed. Tommy’s researchers have actually shown that weekly yoga sessions can help reduce anxiety and depression in pregnancy.
3. Be kind to yourself
Little things add up. Allow yourself a long, indulgent soak in the bath - candles, bubbles, the whole works - every evening. Buy yourself some relaxing music, or a hypnobirthing CD, to fall asleep to at night. Try to give time for yourself each day to rest and free your mind of worries. Discover the best place for you enjoy this quiet time - for some, it might be going for a run; for others simply sitting down with a magazine and cuppa. Whatever works for you. You could also try NHS Choice’s guide to relaxed breathing and deep muscle relaxation.
4. Complementary therapies
Many complementary therapies are safe to try in pregnancy - but it’s worth a chat with your midwife if you’re unsure. A pregnancy massage could soothe stresses - but avoid it in the first 12 weeks (your abdomen shouldn’t be massaged at this time) and ideally opt for a pregnancy-specific one. Lots of people find reflexology - massage based on the theory that reflex points on the feet, hands and head connect to other parts of the body - very relaxing.
5. Exercise, like swimming and walking
It’s safe to exercise in pregnancy - in fact it’s extremely beneficial and highly recommended. The thought of it - especially if you’re feeling sick, tired, or heavy - might not appeal. But trust us, going for regular gentle walks, or relaxing swims can benefit your body, your baby, your labour and your sanity. Read more about exercising in pregnancy, or mention it to your midwife.
Take a look at Tommy’s pregnancy & post-birth wellbeing plan to give yourself a mental health MOT.
How much should you eat in pregnancy? During most of your pregnancy you do not need to take in extra calories (over the recommended 2,000 a day for women). In the third trimester you may need an extra 200 extra calories a day if you are still active.
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- NHS Choices 'Mindfulness for mental wellbeing' http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/mindfulness.aspx (accessed 13 May 2015)
- NHS Choices ‘Are complementary medicines safe to use in pregnancy?' http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/957.aspx?CategoryID=54&SubCategoryID=129 (accessed 13 May 2015)
- NHS Choices 'Guide to relaxed breathing and deep muscle relaxation' http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/ways-relieve-stress.aspx (accessed 13 May 2015)
ℹLast reviewed on March 1st, 2015. Next review date March 1st, 2018.