Many moms are hesitant to take medications during pregnancy, and for good reason. I’m the same way.
So practical steps to overcome prenatal depression were very important to me.
Here’s detailed information on the steps I took, how they helped me, and how they can help you deal with depression during pregnancy:
Address Physical Issues
I am having a lot of pain around my hips and pelvic structure with this pregnancy. I had it mildly with my last three pregnancies but never had it start so early or be so intense. Pelvic Girdle Pain is used to describe it in the United Kingdom, and I think this is a much better label than the Symphysis Pubic Dysfunction (or SPD) label commonly used in the United States. It goes far beyond soreness at the joining of the pelvis, so I feel SPD minimizes the issue. Regardless, it hurts, sometimes excruciatingly so.
Taking steps to minimize this discomfort made a big difference for me. My midwife recommended the Prenatal Cradle support and after hesitating for a couple of weeks I went ahead and ordered. It has made a huge difference. It doesn’t remove the pain completely, but makes things much more tolerable. Nighttime is the hardest for me, but using pillows between my legs helps a lot. Staying pretty still on one side also helps too – thankfully my body seems to oblige with this while I’m sleeping. Warm baths help a lot, and I’ve been using a heating pad here and there at my hip joints where the pain is the worst just to take an edge off. Finally, I’m visiting a chiropractor regularly – it doesn’t stop the pain completely, but I can definitely tell the difference after an adjustment. Sitting on a birth ball rather than a hard chair also helps.
Hunger and Nausea
The height of my feeling of depression was when I was having the hardest time eating well. I believe that this greatly increased my roller coaster emotions. My sense of smell was heightened phenomenally, cooking was hard, and I had tons of food aversions. Hunger caused nausea, which made everything else worse – so I avoided food and the cycle continued. I also felt guilty for not eating as well as I felt I should.
Stopping that cycle made a big difference in a short time – just a couple of weeks. I decided I was going to do whatever it took to eat and to eat well for my baby. I began by slowing down – a lot. It took me a long time to eat because trying to eat quickly caused me to gag on food, meaning no more went down after that. So I slowed down. I cut foods into tiny bites and ate slowly so I could get the whole meal down. I typically don’t drink much at meals, but I had a cup of water or milk to help wash food down if needed.
There are some foods we don’t have around much, such a peanut butter (usually we have tree nut butters). But I could easily eat peanut butter. We don’t eat wheat at our house because Scott is very sensitive to gluten, but I can eat it. So I got sourdough bread from our local bakery and a jar of peanut butter and would have a piece of peanut butter toast for my morning snack. We usually eat fruit in season – but I find it much easier to eat eggs if I have a couple of orange slices. So I bought oranges 🙂
Slowing down and eating things that were “easy” for me to eat, even if we normally don’t have them around, really helped. I was able to eat several small meals daily which quickly got rid of the nausea – within days I was reaching my protein goal and within a couple of weeks the food aversions were mostly gone. Certain smells and textures are still hard, and I still have cravings – but the constant nausea is long gone. When it went my well-being increased greatly.
Addressing the hip pain and the nausea made life better very quickly – emotions are much easier to deal with when you are feeling better physically. Addressing the nausea and getting enough to eat also helped me feel more energetic.
Even if your issues are different from mine, please don’t hesitate to find practical solutions to at least minimize your particular pain/discomfort. It makes a big difference in how well you can deal with complex emotions!
I hesitate to say “regular exercise” because it’s so cliche – but moving and using my body regularly really helped. In fact, it probably helped more than relieving the hip pain and as much as stopping the nausea/hunger issue.
I began with the same prenatal yoga routine I’ve used in all my pregnancies. It felt good and familiar to come back to it. At first I could only do a little bit of the routine, so I worked up to the whole routine as I began to physically feel better. I also did the routine during a part of the day where I was already up and going – I didn’t try and do it in the early morning or evening when I’d be too tired.
After I was able to do the prenatal yoga routine consistently I added in some belly dancing from a prenatal belly dance DVD I purchased (you can read my review of Dance of the Womb here).
The yoga routine felt comforting and it felt wonderful stretching my body and helping my baby get properly positioned. The belly dance was just freeing – it got my body really moving and helped get my blood moving through my body. I feel invigorated and powerfully feminine when I’m dancing. I enjoy the DVD because I’m a pretty shy person and being able to work on my dances at home is a great option for me.
I truly notice a big difference on the days that I take 20-30 minutes to quickly move through my yoga and then dance through a song or two. I feel more connected with my baby, more thankful, and much more energetic. My yoga routine has a pause in the middle for breath and focus, and I use this time to pray specifically for my baby and upcoming birth. I talk to the baby during the routine. For someone struggling with ambivalence during pregnancy I believe this is very important. Feeling that I am connecting and bonding with my baby is special.
This may not seem like a lot of time for any sort of routine, but as the mother of four with one on the way it is the time I can take – and it has been precious for me. It has made a huge difference in how well I handle the day, my energy levels, and how balanced I feel. Plus I feel that I have that time for just myself and my baby.
This ended up being a massive article of over 3,000 words – the words just kept coming once I finally got to where I could write them! I’ll continue with more practical steps I took in Part 3!
(NOTE: Trying to balance your pregnancy, life, and getting ready for baby? Use my checklist pack stay healthy (naturally), organized, and confident throughout your pregnancy! Get them here.)