How To Manage Covid-19 Stress And Anxiety During Pregnancy
Pregnancy is a life-altering journey filled with an array of varying emotions. While expectant moms are already vulnerable to mental health risks, the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has understandably worsened the situation.
Recent research shows that about 15% of pregnant women were suffering from depression pre-pandemic, but the figure is now up to 41%. The statistics are worrying but not surprising.
While most women are aware of postnatal depression, depression during pregnancy is often overlooked. It is probably because many of the physical symptoms of depression are similar to the signs of pregnancy. These symptoms can range from lack of concentration and a change in appetite to insomnia, fatigue, and even aches and pains.
During pregnancy, signs and symptoms of mental health issues include:
- Excessive anxiety about the pregnancy and delivery
- Not being able to sleep and wanting to sleep
- Changes in appetite drastically
- Frequent mood swings
- Feeling sad and hopeless most of the time
- Lack of concentration
- Continuous lack of interest in doing your favorite things
- Thoughts of suicide
- Crying a lot
For pregnant women, some of the stress and anxiety triggers during coronavirus outbreak are:
- Social withdrawal. Unprecedented physical distancing.
- Stay-at-home mandates.
- Constant exposure to negative news.
- Trauma from widespread disease.
- Lack of routine and discipline.
- Stress and pain after the loss of a loved one
- Financial concerns, including housing insecurity and unemployment.
- Wondering when the pandemic will end and when life will get back to normal.
- Worrying about passing on the virus to your baby before or after birth.
- Hospitals limiting or banning the support persons. Reduced access to caregivers.
- Worrying about catching the virus or a loved one getting infected with it.
- Worrying about catching COVID-19 during the hospital stay.
- Having to rethink and re-engineer your expectations and experience of birth and post-delivery days.
- Lack of time for rest or relief due to caring for other young children.
However, with the measures given below, moms-to-be can keep their mental health on track even during these times of uncertainty:
#1. Recognizing that you are experiencing perinatal mental health conditions is the first step to combat anxiety and stress.
#2. Accept that these are testing times for everyone. Acceptance is foremost to relieve anxiety and feel better. Be realistic.
#3. Stick to a healthy pregnancy diet, including fruits, vegetables, and plenty of fluids.
#4. Engage regularly in mindful movements such as yoga, walking, or pregnancy-friendly exercise. Consider joining yoga classes online. Build a routine for yourself.
#5. Get at least 8-9 hours of sleep every night. Follow a consistent sleep routine and stop using electronic devices at least 2 hours before you go to bed.
#6. Practice meditation and try relaxing exercises such as deep breathing, pranayama, and gentle stretching. Seek help from meditation apps.
#7. Limit your exposure to COVID-19 related news. Try to seek updates periodically, but not regularly. Also, refrain from COVID-19 conversations.
#8. Join online antenatal classes, which are a great way to meet and talk to other pregnant women.
#9. Practice physical distancing, not emotional distancing. Connect with friends and family over the phone or through video calls. Stay closer to your support system.
#10. Pick up a new hobby or rediscover an old one, such as reading or playing an instrument. You can also decorate the nursery for the coming baby.
#11. Join virtual support groups and forums to share your ideas and concerns with other pregnant women and new parents.
#12. Consider online counseling to get rid of anxiety, depression, or stress.
#13. Read inspirational books and watch uplifting movies.
#14. Avoid alcohol, smoking, and unprescribed medical drugs.
#15. Enjoy nature. Get fresh air and soak up some sunshine every day.
#16. Stay positive, and keep yourself busy.
Questions to Ask Yourself to Find Out if You Are Depressed
If you suspect that you are in depression, ask yourself the following questions to determine if your sadness could be depression:
Have you lost interest in things and activities you usually enjoy? If you're not enjoying your usual pleasures, it's a sign that something's off.
How's your mood on most days? If you feel low or flat all the time, you may be in depression.
What kind of symptoms have you been experiencing lately? Do you often feel aggressive, irritable, or short-tempered? Depression symptoms, such as fatigue, insomnia, trouble concentrating, crying spells, and loss of appetite, can make you lash out at the people you love most.
Do you often experience prolonged, intense sadness? Unless you undergo a significant life change, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, job loss, severe illness, etc., feeling sad for longer than a few days at a time is a sign of depression.
Are you experiencing thoughts of harming yourself or suicide? If you have attempted suicide or tried to hurt yourself, don't wait to seek help from a certified professional.
Do you feel tired or lack energy? If you find it difficult to get out of bed or feel fatigued throughout the day, you may be having mental health problems.
Do you feel hopeless? If you think that your life will never improve or get better, and nothing is under your control, you may be suffering from depression.
Are you consuming drugs or alcohol to lift your mood? People who are depressed often turn to drugs and alcohol to escape from the feelings of sadness.
Did you notice a change in your appetite? Some people engage in overeating, while others eat significantly less.
Do you feel worthless or guilty? Even if you have done nothing wrong, depression can make you feel shameful, guilty, and useless.
Do you avoid social situations? If you have started to prefer staying alone rather than joining people, this could be a sign of depression.
Do you find it difficult to concentrate? When you're depressed and anxious, it becomes difficult to focus on anything.
During pregnancy, it's quite natural for you to feel anxious and stressed during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, you don't have to deal with these problems alone, even if you're self-isolating. Instead of worrying about life getting back to normal, try to focus on things that are under your control, including self-care and physical distancing. If you're experiencing severe mental distress, speak to a doctor, midwife, or counselor immediately.