Did you know that pregnancy hormones make you feel more stressed? It’s normal to feel more anxious than usual.
In fact, more than one in 10 mums suffer from anxiety or feel low during pregnancy. And, as expectant mums, your emotional wellbeing can easily be overlooked with all the focus being on your growing baby.
We asked mums how they coped with dark days in pregnancy.
'I didn’t really want to see people, do anything. I felt unenthusiastic about being pregnant, didn’t really want to prepare for it, wasn’t very quick at buying baby clothes or to decorate nurseries or doing anything like that. I just wanted to ignore it and whenever I did think about it, I just felt really anxious about it all.'
Talk it out
Being a mum can be a lonely business. Getting to know other parents can be a lifesaver. You can share the woes of parenthood and laugh at the not-so-funny aspects of being a mum, or being pregnant.
Find out about antenatal classes near you. You might meet mums expecting babies at a similar time. If you’re feeling shy out and about, see what’s happening online - chatting to people on forums like Mumsnet can be a useful outlet for your fears and worries.
Don’t forget your midwife is also there for you if you need to talk.
'The support I've received from my friends has been beyond incredible, from the random ‘How are you and baby doing?’ texts, to the casual banter, to the ‘I really need someone’ chats. On one occasion a set of friends just dropped what they were doing to come to my house and get me out because they knew I was in a state. I couldn't feel more blessed to call these guys my friends.'
'I created a mummy Facebook group that got me through the wonderful yet scary parts and moments in pregnancy.'
'I did NCT antenatal classes and that was amazing. We all had the same anxieties and it was good to chat with people going through the same thing.'
Swimming, walking, running, dancing, yoga - whatever works for you - keep doing it through pregnancy.
Exercise gives you a chance to focus on something different, and is great for you and your baby’s health. A surge of endorphins, or stress-relieving stretches, can help you feel good and sleep better.
'I loved pregnancy yoga. It was ‘me’ time and I felt so relaxed afterwards.'
'I talk to my hubby a lot and I do pregnancy yoga once a week, which helps me to relax and sleep.'
'Keep active. It's great for preparing your body for labour, a great de-stresser and gives you something for 'you'.'
Try meditation, breathing techniques or hypnobirthing
Many mums find meditation and breathing techniques not only help them to relax in pregnancy, but can also help to manage pain in labour.
'The best thing I did was meditation, including positive visualisation. After a difficult first birth I found I could create my own positive space and vibe the second time. I felt calm and together even when I was in pain. The meditation also gave me space in my pregnancy from being the mum of a toddler.'
Book a treat for every month of your pregnancy - it could be anything from a cinema trip or dinner out to a massage or manicure.
It will give yourself something to look forward to, away from all thoughts of pregnancy and babies (and other children if you have them).
'I booked a one hour treatment each week before my due date. I had a bit of a back massage or reflexology, depending on how I felt. Best money I ever spent!'
Get extra support
If you’re struggling to cope physically, or emotionally, with your pregnancy - get some help. Whether it’s help with housework, or shopping, or - if you have other children - some childcare, try not to exhaust yourself.
'I was feeling exhausted and emotional all the time in my second pregnancy. I decided to put my son with a childminder for six hours each week and just have some ‘me’ time, or a chance to do the chores leisurely.'
'I felt guilty at first but it was amazing. My son had an action-packed, arty day with 'Jojo' and I didn't feel pressure to be a supermum. Once his brother was born, it was nice for him to go and escape the crying once a week, and for me to have a break.'
Sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone that doesn’t know you. It can be a space to voice all your worries and try to make sense, or control some of the negative thoughts you might be having. Ask your GP for a referral, or consider private counselling.
'Counselling got me through the first trimester of my second pregnancy, following a missed miscarriage. I was consumed by anxiety - to the point where I felt I couldn’t function at work or home. I was obsessed with the idea that it would happen again. Counselling gave me space to talk about my worries and grieve for my first baby. The therapist also gave me techniques for managing my anxieties.'
Try complementary therapies
If you’re finding it hard to relax, you might want to try a complementary therapy, like acupuncture, reflexology or shiatsu.
'I found pregnancy a nuisance, rather than a joy, second time around. I was so distracted by my demanding, energetic toddler, I hardly had any time to think about being pregnant. This made me feel horribly guilty and ungrateful.'
'Right at the end of my pregnancy, I had a reflexology session. When the therapist massaged the area of my foot connected to my uterus (I wasn’t aware she was doing this until afterwards), a wave of love and contentment spread through my whole body. It actually gave me shivers. It was an unexpected and strangely bonding experience. Just wish I’d had a treatment sooner.'
Find ways to connect to your baby
Mothers have told us that focusing on the baby for a short time each day helped them feel better about their pregnancy.
'I tried to spend some time each day focusing on the baby - it could just be putting my hands on my tummy when they’re kicking. Thinking about my baby, rather than everything else that was going on around me, helped just a little bit.'
Attend antenatal birth classes
Sometimes worrying about your baby’s birth can weigh you down and affect you throughout your pregnancy.
Preparing for labour by finding out about your options and ways to manage fears and pain - such as hypnobirthing - can go a long way to helping you relax and enjoy pregnancy more.
Find out about local childbirth classes, and talk to your midwife about all your options.
Speak to your midwife
If you’re finding that your anxieties or moods are affecting your day-to-day life, please don’t hesitate to talk to your midwife. Lots of mums feel this way and we’re here to help. Download our Wellbeing Plan to help you find the right support.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to feel good. If you feel rubbish then just accept that you feel rubbish. Sometimes I found that just accepting the feeling was enough to make it go away.'
It goes without saying, if you have any concerns about your pregnancy, talk to us. A check up, or listen in to baby’s heart, can easily be arranged. It is so important to voice your concerns.
'I always called my midwife if I had any problems, or the day assessment unit. They have been a great help and reassuring. I've gone over my due date by 10 days now so there is no way I cannot feel tired and worried.'
Don’t forget, you can also call our Tommy’s Pregnancy Line on 0800 0147 800.
We all dream of floating serenely through pregnancy, channelling a sense of calm for the growing baby inside us. But, often, the reality is somewhat different. Try our practical tips to help you relax in pregnancy.
Stress in pregnancy is not unusual. Here are some ideas for how you can relax and look after your emotional wellbeing when you’re pregnant.
If you need help and support with your emotional health, there are a number of different options.
Pregnancy and having a baby can be an exciting and demanding time for women. If you have an existing or past mental health condition it brings extra challenges and you are at higher risk of relapse during this time than at others.
Myths and facts about mental health
Midwives and others in your care team are there to support you with your emotional health as well as physical health
- Royal College of Psychiatrists. Mental health in pregnancy. London: RCP, 2012. Available from: http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/mentalhealthinpregnancy.aspx
- Macdonald S, Magill-Cuerden J (2012) Mayes’ midwifery, 14th edition. London: Balliere Tindall
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Antenatal care: routine care for the healthy pregnant woman, clinical guideline 62. London NICE, 2008. Available at: http://publications.nice.org.uk/antenatal-care-cg62/guidance
ℹLast reviewed on February 1st, 2015. Next review date February 1st, 2018.
By Anonymous (not verified) on 23 Mar 2018 - 16:00
I just wanted to say I found it great that this article didn't mention asking your partner/husband for help. as a single mom it is so stressful that articles always assume you have a partner who's going to give you a massage, etc... the lack of having a partner is often a big cause of stress in the first place, so it's always so annoying when articles assume there is one! so thanks for that!
By Midwife @Tommys on 23 Mar 2018 - 16:35
Thank you very much for your feedback and glad you found this article useful.