Pregnancy can mean the beginning of a new stage in a woman’s life, with all the changes that new stage can bring. People talk about obvious ones — cravings, fatigue, nausea, body shape — but there are also situations like negotiating new working arrangements and reworking your finances that can make this a difficult time.
As well as physical, financial and social changes, many women experience emotional changes during pregnancy too. Mixed emotions are a normal and necessary part of preparing to become a parent.
Like unexpected physical health complications (for example, high blood pressure), mental health problems can affect any woman during pregnancy. Talking about your feelings can be the first step towards feeling better.
It's very important to look after yourself and recognise if you are finding it difficult to manage from day to day. If you have been feeling sad, down, worried or anxious for a while and this is starting to affect your life, it's time to seek help.
Preparing for being a parent
It can be helpful for both expectant mums and dads to learn about ways to help themselves and others through this time of change.
Read parenting books, talk to family members and friends about their experiences as new parents and take some time to think about who might be able to provide support if you need it. It can help to develop a network with others who are also pregnant or who have children of a similar age.
While preparation is important, it is also good to remember that you can't prepare for everything.
Your emotions during pregnancy
Pregnancy is a challenging and exciting time. It is normal for expectant mums and dads to experience ups and downs when expecting a baby. However, for some, anxiety and depression during pregnancy can affect their daily lives.
Look out for these symptoms of anxiety and depression during pregnancy:
- panic attacks (racing heart, palpitations, shortness of breath)
- persistent, generalised worry, such as fears for the health or wellbeing of the baby
- obsessive or compulsive behaviours
- abrupt mood swings
- feeling constantly sad, low or crying for no obvious reason
- being nervous, on edge or panicky
If symptoms last for more than 2 weeks, talk to your GP or midwife.
Your relationship with your partner
Pregnancy will bring about big changes to your relationship, especially if this is your first baby. Some people cope with these changes easily, while others find it harder.
It's quite common for couples to have arguments every now and then during pregnancy. It's important to realise that during pregnancy there are understandable reasons for the occasional difficulty, and good reasons for feeling closer and more loving.
These communication tips can help to nurture your relationship during pregnancy:
- Talk to each other about how you feel about being pregnant and what's to come — the positives and negatives. Try to talk in a way that explains your views rather than blames your partner.
- Talk about your hopes and dreams for your family and what rituals and traditions are important.
- Talk about your individual parenting styles. If your styles turn out to be different, you might need to work on solving problems together with negotiation and compromise.
- Be open and honest about your sexual needs.
There are also practical ways you can help to manage the impact of pregnancy on your relationship:
- Go to antenatal classes together.
- Consider getting some help with managing your money if you're worried about the cost of having a baby.
- Talk about practicalities, such as how you'll make time for yourself and time for your partner and how you'll share household tasks now and after the baby is born.
Your relationships with family and friends
Pregnancy is not only a special time for you and your partner; there may be a lot of other people around you who are interested in your pregnancy, such as your family and friends.
People can offer a great deal of help in all sorts of ways, and you'll probably be glad of their interest and support. But sometimes it can feel as if they're taking over.
Being pregnant may also put you on the receiving end of a lot of advice and perhaps criticism. There will be times when you appreciate the advice but also times when the advice is not wanted or helpful.
The important thing is to decide what is right for you. After all, it is your pregnancy and your baby.
If unwanted advice is becoming a problem, explain gently that there are some decisions that only you and your partner can make, and some things that you prefer to do on your own.
Support in labour
One practical question you will need to discuss is how you will cope with labour and whether your partner will be there. Many partners want to be present at their baby's birth. It can help to find out about your birth options, including where you can give birth.
It may be that you don't have a partner during this pregnancy, and you need extra support from family or friends. You may wish to talk to your midwife about some of the services that are available.
Coping if you're alone
If you're pregnant and on your own, it's important to have people you can share your feelings with who can offer you support. Sorting out problems, whether personal or medical, is often difficult when you're by yourself. It's better to find someone to talk to rather than let things get you down.
Ask someone you trust to support you at the birth
Just because you don't have a partner doesn't mean you have to go to antenatal visits by yourself and cope with labour on your own. You have the right to take whoever you like: a friend, sister or perhaps your mum.
Involve your birth partner in antenatal classes if you can, and let him or her know what you want from them. It may help to discuss your birth plan with them so that they understand your wishes for labour.
If you do not have a partner you can also ask your midwife if there are antenatal classes in your area that are run especially for single women.
Think about how you'll manage after the birth. Will there be people around to help and support you? If there's nobody who can give you support, it might help to discuss your situation with someone.
- You can call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 if you would like to speak to a maternal child health nurse.
- Beyond Blue has produced a guide for pregnant women, new mums and other carers, which you can download from its website. You can also call the Beyond Blue helpline on 1300 22 4636.
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Last reviewed: September 2020