Emotional Wellbeing While Planning a Family
Planning for a baby
Planning for a baby is often an exciting and momentous time, whether for a first child or another addition to the family.
For first-time parents – both couples and sole parents – thinking about values, expectations and visions for parenthood can be useful, along with discussions about each person’s own childhood experiences.
Possible topics include:
- Roles and responsibilities at home.
- Leisure time.
- Social changes.
- Problem solving and coping strategies.
- Communication styles.
For people who are single and starting a path to parenthood, this is a good time to start building a support team – a network of trusted, reliable people and groups who can help with practical and emotional support.
Common emotions and experiences
Mixed feelings are normal during the preparation for parenthood. Many positive feelings are experienced as well as some of the below:
- Fears about what you are eating.
- Anxiety about how long it will take to conceive.
- Money and career-related worries.
- Concerns about physical changes and sickness.
- Worry about being a “good enough” or capable parent.
- Concern about sleep deprivation.
- Fears around labour and childbirth.
- Concerns about whether a partner is ready.
- Concerns about how much support is available.
- Many other experiences of excitement and anticipation.
Some unexpected triggers may emerge during this time. For instance, people may struggle if other friends or family members get pregnant before them. For some people, the worry or stress may start to take up more space or pre-occupy their thoughts. People who notice this more may include:
- Those who have pre-existing mental health issues.
- Those who have a history of significant trauma or loss.
- Those who have high expectations and standards for themselves.
- Those who need a strong sense of control in their lives.
Accepting that some stress or anxiety is normal during this time can help people adjust.
Tips to improve wellbeing
Some strategies to enhance wellbeing:
- Getting outside in fresh air and sunshine.
- Exercise – walking or stretching is enough for some, while others need more vigorous activities. Check with a GP or midwife before starting any new exercise routine.
- Regular sleep and wake up times.
- Finding a GP with an interest and experience in caring for parents during the perinatal period.
- Social connection.
- Practising self-compassion.
- Enjoying time with a partner aside from baby planning and preparation.
- Having supportive people to share thoughts and feelings with.
- Managing exposure to unhelpful social media and other forums that may increase anxiety.
- Healthy eating.
- Planning your departure from work.
- Enhancing flexibility in routines.
During this transition, look out for periods of anxiety or low mood that last longer than two weeks, become overwhelming and start to interrupt daily life and usual activities. If periods of low mood or anxiety continue and the feelings don’t ease, speak with your GP or another trusted health professional. Relationship tensions or conflicts sometimes emerge during this time too as partners start to explore their views and experience of family, so it is worth seeking couples counselling if these tensions do not ease.
Emotional wellbeing during pregnancy
Trepidation, excitement, anticipation and uncertainty are all part of expectant parents’ experiences. Transitioning to parenthood, either for the first or subsequent time is a period of significant change. Almost 50 per cent of pregnancies are unplanned. There may be an early sense of joy or anxiety followed by many contrasting thoughts and emotions.
Many changes in hormone levels occur which can feel overwhelming. Changes to sleep patterns and overall tiredness affect a woman’s mood and the ability to cope with everyday life. This can be surprising to them or their partner. The physical symptoms of pregnancy can also affect a person’s sense of wellbeing.
Knowing what to expect and being open and compassionate towards yourself can ease the impact of the changes.
If a pregnancy is unplanned, there may be extra stress. Unplanned pregnancies can create financial uncertainty, job insecurity or questions about a relationship’s future. People experiencing unplanned pregnancy benefit from supportive people around them who are willing to listen to these worries and concerns without providing judgement or unwelcome advice.
The prenatal (pregnancy) period can also be a good time to tune into your pregnancy and baby and start the process of getting to know them. Learn what babies realistically need and reflect on your own experience of being parented and how different or similar you would like yours to be. Keep some balance in your life and care for yourself as you go through the many changes. Explore options for ante-natal care and labour/birth.
Parents may find themselves anxious or stressed around the time of prenatal medical testing, screening, and scans. Some worry is normal and inevitable. If expectant parents find themselves experiencing a sudden increase in anxiety or depressive type feelings that significantly affect their sleep or daily routine for two weeks or more, it is worth discussing with a health professional.
Tips to improve wellbeing
Some tips to look after your overall wellbeing during pregnancy:
- Eat regularly and aim for healthy food most of the time.
- Get outside in fresh air and sunshine.
- Gentle exercise (seek medical advice if planning something strenuous).
- Keep regular sleep times if possible, although some sleep disturbance is expected.
- Social connection.
- Practise mindfulness and relaxation strategies.
- Enjoy time with a partner.
- Find supportive people to share worries with.
- Limit exposure to unhelpful social media and online forums.
- Practise accepting offers of practical help.
- Become aware of harsh self-judgement and/or a drive for perfectionism.
- Try out more flexibility in daily routines and chores.
- Try tuning into the pregnancy by rubbing oil into tummy or playing music/talking to your pregnancy/baby.
Date of Last Review: August 2021
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