Mental health during pregnancy

How does pregnancy affect mental health?

Pregnancy can be a challenging time in a woman’s life. Your body is changing, your hormones are in flux, and your lifestyle and relationships change. You are tired. You are supposed to be feeling excited and happy to have a baby arriving soon, however, many women just don’t feel that way. Many factors can put pregnant women at risk for poor mental health. You are particularly at risk of poor mental health if you have experienced physical or sexual abuse, have a history of depression, stress, and/or have little or no social support.

If you are having concerns about your mental health, first, know that you are not alone! Many women have mental health concerns and are able to cope very well with pregnancy and motherhood. Severe mental illness (bipolar affective disorder, severe depression, psychosis) may worsen during pregnancy and postpartum, so women with these illnesses should consider having a discussion with their health care provider before becoming pregnant. Together you will develop a care plan.

I have mental health problems going in to pregnancy, what should I do? Can I still take my meds?

Most medications will cross into the fetal system. However, stopping a medication that has been prescribed to you for mental health can also carry risks. Your health care provider will discuss the risks of the medication you are taking to your baby, and you can decide together how to proceed. You will have to consider the severity of your illness, the risks that are associated with a lapse in mental wellbeing, whether you can cope without treatment or with an altered medication or dosage, and the known or theoretical risks to the baby posed by drugs you may need.