What Experts Have to Say About Healthy Pregnancies
All of the questions you are begging to ask but too afraid to ask!
Mental health question for Ann
What do you often hear mothers say in therapy sessions when they describe their experience as an expecting mother?
Motherhood is a time of immense change and with it comes an array of emotions and feelings. While most mothers are excited about the new chapter it brings with so many unknowns. Anxiety and confusion over these unknowns is very common. Most women have many questions about what is normal, what is going to happen and how they will feel. I hear mothers ask “Is this normal?”, “Will I feel better?”. Many women have trouble recognizing their own symptoms of depression or anxiety because they are focused on taking care of baby or think these feelings of stress come with the territory. 1 in 5-7 women will experience mental health concerns during the perinatal period (pregnancy or postpartum). This is different than the baby blues which effects around 80% of new mothers and symptoms ease within 2-3 weeks postpartum.
Why do you think moms are hesitant ashamed to tell their friends or family that they are feeling sad or anxious?
Pregnancy and motherhood is often portrayed as a time when women are at peace with themselves and their new babies. Societal portrayals fail to show the challenges that mothers face like; all day sickness, utter exhaustion, struggles with breastfeeding or having scary thoughts. Many women feel they are supposed to be the happiest they have ever been and in love with their baby after having a child and when this isn’t the case many women feel ashamed. Admitting to another person that you aren’t feeling good is often scary and overwhelming. Admitting to feelings of sadness or anxiety can leave women feeling vulnerable and unsure of others reactions. Most women, once they have told their family or friends of their difficulties find they feel a sense of relief and are often encouraged by the support offered by their loved ones.
We know a lot about post partum depression but can you explain post partum anxiety?
Pregnancy and postpartum anxiety is exceedingly common and not nearly talked about as much. Since most women do not have feelings depression or sadness, like with postpartum depression, they do not recognize their symptoms are associated with their pregnancy or postpartum. Nearly 10% of women experience perinatal anxiety. Most new moms have some level of anxiety taking their new baby home and may think “Is the baby eating enough?” “Is the baby safe?”. However, perinatal anxiety differs in a sense that the worrying never seems to ease up. Women often experience racing thoughts, a sense that something bad is about to happen, sleep and eating disturbances and may have physical symptoms such as, nausea, dizziness or lightheadedness. Pregnancy anxiety is even more common in women who have had trouble conceiving or who have suffered a pregnancy loss in the past. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Panic Disorder are other types of anxiety experienced by women in the perinatal period. Perinatal OCD described women who experience constant unwanted scary thoughts. These are may be scary images or intense fears. In turn many women also feel the need to constantly check their baby.
What experiences do you think a lot of women have but no one is talking about?
Many women throughout the perinatal period experience scary thoughts. These thoughts can range from fears about dropping the baby to fears to fears of not being able to care for the baby. Sometimes mothers will think “Did I make a mistake having a baby?”, “I don’t think I love my baby.” These thoughts can be exceeding scary and distressing and are common in women who experience perinatal mental disorders.
Nutrition for Teresa
So many women diet in their lifetime, how does that impact pregnancies? Should women diet?
It’s estimated that about half of America is trying to lose weight through dieting. Often, diets follow “fad” diet criteria of eliminating or strict restriction of certain food group. This can have an impact of our nutritional value and impact pregnancy in many ways, putting both mom and baby at risk. Women who follow restrictive intake diets increase their risk of developing nutrient deficiency which can impact hormone development and may contribute to infertility. In addition, from the time of conception to 2 years old is the most crucial time of fetal/infant development and proper nutrition intake is vital. Women who follow restrictive intake diets increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies such as iron or folate which can cause birth defect or miscarriage. In addition, lack of proper nutrition from time of conception to 2 years of age and have a large impact on neuro and cognitive development. Women should consume a healthy, balanced diet to ensure adequate intake of all nutrients to support life long healthy, for them and for baby.
Moms are tired and overwhelmed. How can they eat healthy during this time? What tips do you have? Eating a healthy, balanced diet doesn’t have to be fancy and you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen. Make sure that you have food items from each major food group; carbohydrates, protein, fruit and vegetables, dairy, and fats. For example, an easy meal could include yogurt (dairy) and granola (carbohydrate + fat) with some strawberries (fruit) and hard boiled egg (protein) on the side. This provides all the nutrients needed to support a healthy pregnancy and baby.
Teresa, why do you like working with expecting mothers? I love being able to support this special, and sometimes hard, transition into motherhood. I really enjoy being able to teach about the benefit of a balanced diet to ensure baby has the nutrients they need to reach their full potential and grow into a healthy child and later adulthood. Nutrition can also assist with decreasing symptoms of postpartum blues, as this is also a healing time for mom. I love being able to help mothers feel better during this time.
People are describing a “4th trimester” what is that and do you have tips to help mothers navigate that time? Reach out to your support group! Having close friends and family cook and drop off meals during this time has been very helpful for some clients.
Why do you like working with expecting mothers?
Working new expectant and new mothers is so rewarding. Pregnancy and postpartum anxiety, depression and mood disorders are treatable and seeing a mom blossom into motherhood is an incredible experience. For too long the mental health of mothers has gone untreated and unrecognized so being able to address these needs for mothers is very fulfilling.
People are describing a “4th trimester” what is that and do you have tips to help mothers navigate that time?
The 4th trimester refers to the time after birth. This is a crucial time period because mothers need to heal after the birth and baby’s needs are high. Mother’s need to focus on taking care of themselves in order to do the best they can to take care of baby. Speak up! Don’t be afraid to share your concerns or worries. Perinatal mood disorders are very treatable with the right support. Make sure you are taking care of yourself and your basic needs. Eat, rest, let your someone else clean up and get outside. Spending even 20 minutes a day outside can improve overall mental health.
Anna Netzel earned her Master’s in Social Work from Dominican University in River Forest. She specializes in treating children and adolescents with anxiety and depression. Anna has worked in the public school system and in therapeutic day school settings since 2014. She has extensive experience working with children and adolescents with depression, anxiety, mood disorders and behavioral issues. Anna also holds a certificate to work with perinatal mood disorders and has a passion to help mothers facing new challenges and changes in their lives.
Teresa Romano is a Registered Dietitian and holds a Bachelor’s degree from Bastyr University training in Functional Nutrition Therapy and a Master’s degree and Dietetic Internship from Dominican University studying mindful and intuitive eating. Teresa focuses on adolescent and adult eating disorders, weight management, individualized medical nutrition therapy, and functional nutrition therapy.
Read more about Anna and Teresa on our Team page here.