Pregnancy and motherhood are the most beautiful times in a woman’s life. The tiny life that has been growing inside you, is the fruit of love and dreams that you share with your partner. Motherhood is a blessing and completes you.
Pregnancy is supposed to be one of the happiest times of a woman’s life, but for many women, this is a time of confusion, fear, stress, and even depression.
The 9 months of pregnancy can be happy if you get a partner and family that are supportive but sadly it is not always a fairy tale. Most women in India face many issues during this period, related to family, spousal incompatibility, social customs or health.
It is important to help the woman accept and enjoy the changes that pregnancy brings in her life. This is very important for her physical and mental health. The mother’s health also has a direct bearing in her child’s health and future. A planned pregnancy is the wonder that you will feel every day.
Marriage Arranged? Arranged marriages are more or less a norm in India. The families get together and decide on the formalities and suddenly two strangers are bound in matrimony for life.
The couple has a difficult time in adjusting to each other as they are nearly strangers right from the “First Night”.
With nil sex education, pressure from elders to get pregnant and piled up sexuality within over riped bodies, lead to pregnancy within First or Second Anniversary, even before they get a chance to settle down with each other.
Joint Families. When staying in a joint family, the alone or quality time spent by the couple is also very less, compared to the nuclear family. Even if the couple tries to spend alone time together then it is regarded as wrong practice. The lady is expected to spend most of her time in the kitchen to prepare all meals of the day, for the whole family and look after the elders.
Both Partners Working. In the case of both partners are working and have a busy office schedule then also they get very less quality time. In present-day cut-throat competition and ever increasing office working hours and 24x7 connectivity through social media, even 24 hours of the day are observed to be less to survive human life.
Male Child. Society in most of the country is very patriarchal and more aligned towards the male child. The family also creates pressure on the woman to have a male child only. The sex-ratio may be skewed towards boys, but the present situation demands that the woman gives birth to boys only. No one thinks of the fact that soon they will not have enough girls to marry their boys to!
This familial pressure often is very strong as girls are still looked upon as a liability. The education and then dowry that marriage will entail becomes an issue in most urban homes.
The mothers-in-law are often more vocal about it and women often live in stress due to this. Sex determination is not legal in our country and so the issue becomes complicated. In most of the cases, it is the duty of the lady to somehow manage and produce a male child for the family.
Sex Discrimination. The woman is not allowed to take a decision based on information about the gender of the baby at all.
Girl Child? If it is a girl, she might have to go through the process again after a year or so. So, many times the woman is forced to go through multiple pregnancies to balance out her family.
Sex determination is allowed in western countries, but not in India. The problem could be resolved if women were given the right to have control over their bodies and plan their families as they feel fit.
All Over Again? Many times, the lady realizes after her delivery that she is the mother of a girl child and now she will have to prepare her mind and body to start the family planning issue all over again.
Old is not Gold? The older women of the family often have stories of pregnancies and may try many a trick that may be unpalatable to the new age woman. She is literally made into a guinea pig, with the other family members giving baseless advice on the way she should stay through the pregnancy. The advise pattern is often not in sync with the modern day trends of medicine and may cause conflict.
For example, if your blood pressure is really high and your doctor asks you to go for a caesarean section in the eighth month, your mother in law may object by saying that children born in the eighth month do not survive. Many a mother and child fatality have been high in our country due to these misplaced beliefs. The need of the hour is to come out of the shadow and create a healthy and happy pregnancy and delivery.
All the above situations are not conducive to marital happiness, as the responsibility of the baby adds to the strain of the new relationship.
The Journey from Conceiving to Delivery
First Timers. The mother-to-be is often confused and tentative about what to do. The family may create issues in some cases while nuclear families may create havoc too. The woman may be unaware of the changes that are happening in her body and feel fear and trauma.
If she lives as a nuclear family, she may feel isolated and alone when the partner leaves for work. The sex life of the couple is also often not active at this time and the woman may end up feeling undesirable and neglected.
Financial Blow. The financial strain begins right here when there are tests, doctor visits, sonograms and soon to be done. The delivery itself is an expensive affair. These worries may make the situation worse. The hormonal upheavals may make matters worse as there are mood swings and cravings which the husband may not understand.
Lifestyle Issues. Many a time the woman is healthy and can stay active till a few days before the delivery, but as times are changing, the lifestyle of most women is getting more sedentary and the childbearing age is going up. Issues like high blood sugar and Blood pressure are quite common.
Diet Problems. Restrictions on diet may also create a sense of frustration. Only healthy food, which is most of the times not at all good in taste, raises the stress in her mind.
Old Habits. Smoking and drinking can be very harmful to the baby and women addicted to the same may feel the pinch. The withdrawal symptoms of any addiction can be bad. It may make her feel frustrated and depressed. Even caffeine from coffee or tea can be bad for the baby and you may feel the irritation that not drinking your daily quota. It is best to avoid things that can be harmful to the baby.
Bodily Changes. The woman may feel ugly and undesirable as the pregnancy progresses. Her body weight increases. She is expected to be fat, round and healthy. Some ladies who are image conscious find it extremely difficult to cope up with this sort of necessary evil. They find it very difficult to accept this as a way of life and slips into depression.
24x7 Bed Rest. If the woman is relegated to bed rest the situation becomes worse as she cannot commute and is stuck in the house, intensifying the feeling of loneliness and isolation.
Hormonal Changes. The pregnant woman is often a victim of her own mind. She has hormonal changes and these affect the way she behaves.
This may not be understood by the husband or the rest of the family. The mood swings, the cravings for odd foods at odd times and bursts of anger or tears may leave the husband confused too. The woman needs support and love at this time and communication between the two must be strong.
"If a pregnant woman or new mom is depressed, don’t just dismiss it as 'hormones' or lack of sleep. It could be something more serious," she said. "Suicide in pregnancy and postpartum is devastating for both the patient and the family she leaves behind."
"As a society, we tend to avoid talking about suicide," Dr. Gold said. "But it’s important to try to understand and talk about risk factors if we are going to address suicide from a public health perspective."
Obviously, the suicide victim cannot be interviewed after death, so it is impossible to get a complete picture of mental health conditions, thoughts about intent, or precipitating factors, the researchers point out.
Depression. Depression during pregnancy, or antepartum depression, is a mood disorder just like clinical depression. Mood disorders are biological illnesses that involve changes in brain chemistry. During pregnancy, hormone changes can affect the chemicals in your brain, which are directly related to depression and anxiety. These can be exacerbated by difficult life situations, which can result in depression during pregnancy. According to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), between 14-23% of women will struggle with some symptoms of depression during pregnancy.
Untreated Depression. But all too often, depression is not diagnosed properly during pregnancy because people think it is just another type of hormonal imbalance. This assumption can be dangerous for the mother and the unborn baby. Depression in pregnancy is an illness that can be treated and managed; however, it is important to seek out help and support first.
Depression that is not treated can have potential dangerous risks to the mother and baby. Untreated depression can lead to poor nutrition, alcohol consumption, smoking, and suicidal behaviour, which can then cause premature birth, low birth weight, and developmental problems. A woman who is depressed often does not have the strength or desire to adequately care for herself or her developing baby.
Babies born to mothers who are depressed may be less active, show less attention and be more agitated than babies born to moms who are not depressed. This is why getting the right help is important for both mom and baby.
Symptoms. Women with depression usually experience some of the following symptoms for 2 weeks or more:
(a) Persistent sadness.
(b) Difficulty concentrating.
(c) Sleeping too little or too much.
(d) Loss of interest in activities that you usually enjoy.
(e) Recurring thoughts of death, suicide, or hopelessness.
(g) Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
(h) Change in eating habits
Possible Triggers of Depression during Pregnancy?
How to be Happy?
Motherhood completes a woman and it should be the best time of her life. There are many things that can help make it so.
Love and Affection. The first thing is the love and affection of her partner. After all, the baby is the product of the union of the two. There should be love and understanding between the couple. The woman expects her loved one to be with her at every step of the pregnancy and be a support to her mentally and physically. A supportive family which takes care of her is a bonus. Childbirth changes a woman fundamentally and this period can be tough for her both mentally and physically.
Accepted Beauty. The woman may feel ugly and undesirable as the pregnancy progresses. The husband plays an important role in restoring her confidence by telling her that he finds her beautiful.
Modified Sex Life. The couple can have a normal sex life till the last trimester of pregnancy. It is better to clear the activity with your gynaecologist as in some cases sex maybe not good for the pregnancy. Still, intimacy can be a part of your life and make you feel good about yourself.
Surprise. The family can be supportive in assuring the mother that the sex of the baby does not matter. The child and the mother need to be healthy. The stress and anxiety that the mother faces in this regard can be diminished with this support.
Although there will always remain uncertainty as every pregnancy is different, the mother to be can bask in the care and affection of her loved ones. The other alternative is very dark. There are untold stories of sonograms in shady clinics and abortions in places that can lead to fatal complications. The woman should be made comfortable that she can be a mother without the stress of thinking about the gender of the baby.
Financial Planning. The finances should be well planned as there could be significant costs in the medical care of the woman. You could face a loss of income as many women find it difficult to work through the pregnancy. Also, you might want a long break without pay after the baby is born. The stress of providing for the hospital bills and the postnatal care of the mother and baby should be planned well in advance.
Be Mentally and Physically Prepared. It is wise to make adequate preparations for help once the baby comes. The nesting instinct in the mother becomes prominent in the last couple of months and stress can be eliminated if things are in place. You can ask the family to pitch in or employ help if your budget allows you to.
Examples. Pregnancy is not a disease and celebrities like Kareena Kapoor Khan have shown the world that you can be active all through that time. It is not good to hear stories of negative pregnancies or to subject the mom-to-be to rituals and myths that may actually bring harm and ill-health to the baby.
Medical Care. Although most pregnancies sail through smoothly there are somewhere the mother and child may face issues. Do be aware and get medical checks done at regular intervals. Blood tests and sonography is important as per the doctor’s schedule. It is also important to see that you eat well and stay hydrated.
Healthy Meals. Eating for two does not literally mean that you should eat double the amount that you normally eat. As your baby grows your nutrition needs become more than you normally need. Protein, carbohydrates and fiber need to be balanced well. Minerals, Vitamins and Iron are important. You may be needed to take supplements of Folic acid and Calcium too. It is easy for women to fall prey to anemia in this time and that could spell trouble for her and her baby’s health. So, adequate food with proper nutritional value is very important. Many foods have been linked to mood changes, the ability to handle stress and mental clarity. Diets high in caffeine, sugar, processed carbohydrates, artificial additives and low protein can all lead to issues regarding your mental and physical health. Make a conscious decision to start fueling your body with the foods that can help you feel better.
Exercise – Exercise naturally increases serotonin levels and decreases cortisol levels. Yoga also helps in achieving peace in body and mind.
Get adequate rest – Lack of sleep greatly affects the body and mind’s ability to handle stress and day to day challenges. Work on establishing a routine sleep schedule that has you going to sleep and getting up at the same time.
Acupuncture – New studies report acupuncture to be a viable option in treating depression in pregnant women.
Omega-3 fatty acids For years its been know that omega-3 can help with a number of health issues, but the newest studies are showing that taking a daily supplement of omega-3/fish oils can decrease symptoms of depression. Pregnant women would want to make sure to take a mercury-free version of fish oil and check with their care provider or nutritionist on a recommended amount.
Herbal Remedies There are a number of herbal and vitamin supplements known to affect moods and the hormone serotonin. Talk with your health care provider and nutritionist/herbalist about whether to use St John’s Wort, SAM-e, 5-HTP, magnesium, vitamin B6 and flower remedies. Many of these can not be used in conjunction with antidepressants and should be evaluated on the dosage for pregnant women.
Be Careful There are some tests that can be dangerous for the baby and even cause abortion. Go for these tests like amniocentesis and others only if recommended by the doctor. If you are unfortunately in the rare group where these tests are mandated or if there is an issue with the baby’s health that may pose challenges in its future life. Take an informed decision as there are many financial and physical implications in raising a special child. It is important to understand what the step means for the entire lifetime.
Talk to Someone. If you do not feel comfortable talking with your health care provider about your feelings of depression, find someone else to talk with. It is important that someone knows what you are dealing with and can try to help you. Never try to face depression alone. Your baby needs you to seek help and get treatment.
Happy Mothers Means Happy Children
Mental Health. The mood and mental health of the woman is very crucial during pregnancy and child birth. Happy mothers raise happy children. So it is important that the mother should be treated with care and affection. Her emotional needs should also be given due notice. The mother has to go through a tremendous mental and physical transformation to become a parent.
The toil of love never ends till she is alive. All mothers should prepare for the change in sync with their spouses and create a haven of love and happiness for the baby that is to arrive. Life gets a direction when children are born. The parents need to show the child a united front and handle the post-natal period with a lot of cooperation.
Couple’s Own Relations. But, in the process, the parents need to remember that their relationship is the one that came first. You are first spouses, lovers and friends. Make time for each other, create date nights, and bring the romance back in your life. The child will also thank you for it. Studies show that children from happy homes are stable and balanced and do well in life. The best you could give your children is a happy marriage.
Adequate Planning. Plan your pregnancy and take adequate precautions of not smoking and drinking during the period. Exercise regularly and stay well nourished. It is important to prepare your mind and body for pregnancy and childbirth. Once you do get pregnant, keep your thoughts clean and happy, health in balance and emotions balanced. Happy motherhood to you!
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