A healthy child needs a healthy Mom. But is only being healthy enough or her being happy also important? Is physical health the only factor to be considered or mental health should be considered too? A mother plays a very important role in care taking of her newly born baby but it all starts not only after the baby is born but right at the start when it has started taking shape in her womb. That is why maternal health is extremely important. What effect does the pregnant woman have if she is mentally unhealthy? Does it affect the baby too?
I got in touch with Dr. Ankita Marjadi who is the Co founder of Arogyada Pregnancy care. She is a psychotherapist, counsellor and a Child Birth educator. She is a doting mother of two beautiful girls.
I’ve known Ankita since my second pregnancy with Eric when she had launched a book she wrote related to pregnancy. I thought of reaching out to her to share her immense knowledge on the same and to my delight she agreed.
What is Maternal Mental Health?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines maternal mental health as “a state of well-being in which a mother realizes her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her community”.
Maternal Mental Health or perinatal mental health to be precise is the mental health of a woman when she is pregnant as well as the mental health of the mother after she delivers a baby. The period of pregnancy and post-partum is often referred as perinatal period. So essentially the mental health during this period and it should be considered very important.
Women from any culture, age and income level can develop perinatal disorders and to spread the awareness about it, World Maternal Mental Health day is celebrated on the first Sunday of May.
Why is Maternal Mental Health important?
Pregnancy and post-partum phase has an array of emotions and hormones. There are so many changes that are happening inside the body of the woman. Many a times it acts as an additional stress to her. It has to be understood that she needs support to cope up with the changes that are happening. The emotions which are ranging from happiness, joy, anxiety of pregnancy, worry of the unborn, excitement, feeling blue are all part and parcel of pregnancy. If the emotions are not catered well they may lead to disturbed mental health.
There are so many women who are not able to express themselves and can’t voice out how they feel during such times. It might come to you as a shock, to know that there are many articles over the past decade that have documented the extent of maternal depression, including postpartum depression, which ranges from 15% to 57%. That’s a huge percentage of growth which definitely needs attention.
Does it affect the baby in the womb?
Stress is a trigger for many problems and yes it does affect the baby in the womb. Babies are conscious and they are receiving everything that a mother has to offer or even experiences personally. If stress and depression are not catered correctly during pregnancy and postpartum, we get to see that these babies have imprints of feelings which leave them feeling unwanted. The babies are effected mentally, emotionally and also physically. The birth weight is low, they are more cranky, irritated and do not eat and sleep well.
Stress can be a trigger to pregnancy induced thyroid and gestational diabetes. So it is very essential to take care of maternal mental health during the perinatal period.
How can a pregnant woman make sure to stay healthy mentally?
Like other times, the key points remain the same.
- Eat well and healthy. Make sure you are full on your iron, vitamin D, calcium and minerals.
- Exercise regularly. It can be as simple as going for walk daily. Doing prenatal yoga and exercises helps in being fit and also helps in strengthening your body for delivery. It also helps in uplifting your mood because of the secretion of endorphins during exercise.
- Meditation and breathing exercises help in bringing calm and balance to your life.
- Talk your emotions out to someone you trust and open up completely. If you are not feeling great express it. If you are feeling sad, angry, irritated talk it out and acknowledge these feelings too.
- Always remember, that it is better to seek help rather than sailing in the boat alone.
How does the pregnant mom’s anxiety or depression get communicated to the baby?
Everything that a pregnant mom experiences can be precisely felt by the baby inside her as babies are conscious. Stress, anxiety, depression are nothing different. They effect the mother’s health and in turn affect the health of the baby as well. There are studies which say that moms facing these problems have given preterm birth and the babies born after full term are still low birth weight babies. Consider it as an exposure which is extremely harmful. If the mother is stressed or anxious, there is a negative impact on the baby causing the mother to worry more.
What steps can others take to help the mother?
I’ve mentioned the ways in which you can keep a healthy routine of
exercise, food, talking, yoga and seeking help. All these should be monitored constantly by the husband and the family to make sure she is keeping well. If medical help is required it is always better to get it in time rather than avoid it waiting for things to take it’s course and work out on its own which never happens.
They can also reach out to me at Arogyada Pregnancy Center wherein we cater many expecting moms and be with them through their journey. We cover important factors like pregnancy yoga & exercises, meditation, Garbh Sanskar, information on healthy diet, breast feeding, myths during pregnancy which also needs to be taken care of is shared.
The best part is we teach them how to communicate with the baby in the womb as the connection of the mother with the baby is so essential. We help them make their pregnancy more soulful. We also help them with their anxiety issues, depression and stress. In short, we help them transform into a ‘Happy Fit You’ during pregnancy.
I have also authored a book called “Knock Knock Let’s Talk” which is about connecting and talking with the baby in the womb. The right things to say that can have an amazing impact.
Pregnancy is indeed a beautiful journey for a mother and an experience in itself. With a little love, help and support it can sail smoothly. We should not forget that when we care for a pregnant woman, we are also caring for the healthier future of her baby.
This post is part of Blogchatter‘s campaign CauseAChatter.