Managing my mental health whilst pregnant during these difficult times

Like many other people around the country, Jo Irwin is experiencing a pregnancy that she had never imagined. Having already shared her mental health story for Heads Together in the past and featured in the #oktosay films, here Jo shares her story and her top coping tips for any other expectant mothers out there struggling to manage their mental health.

It’s fair to say, this wasn’t quite the pregnancy I’d imagined.

I thought these next weeks would be spent celebrating with friends and family, enjoying my favourite places to eat (whilst I can still eat with both hands!), and shopping for the bits our baby is going to need.

I’d also wanted to spend some time building my social circle to help me not feel isolated when baby gets here. It’s been one of many big concerns of mine, so I’d planned on joining a yoga class to meet some local mums-to-be. I was looking forward to getting stuck into our NCT sessions and meeting others in the same boat as us.

The last few weeks have flipped all of that on its head. And have delivered with them a host of worries for us pregnant people, outside of those we had already.

It has meant we’ve had to socially distance at a time when we need interaction more than ever. It means we’re struggling to buy what we need to get prepared for our bundle of joy’s arrival. It means cancelled classes, adding to our feelings of being unprepared.

The advice hasn’t always been that clear for us. What are the restrictions on us going out? How much of a higher risk are we at? There is so much conflicting information about what will happen when we go into labour. Will we have to do it alone?

At what is already an unsettling and sometimes nerve-wracking time for us, this outbreak and the news that accompanies it has sent me into a spiral some days.

It’s not always easy to kerb your panic, especially when you see headlines of nappies being unavailable in shops or online. But, there are a few things that I have found really useful in helping me manage what’s going on upstairs.

1. Talking it out

Women can be an incredible force when they pull together, and other mums-to-be, new mums, my own mum have been great to talk to. They don’t undermine my worry, they share it but often have a different and calming view point.

I try and video call someone each day. Pregnancy can be a lonely time regardless of what’s happening in the world, and keeping in touch this way has helped me manage those feelings. Apps such as Peanut are great for meeting like-minded women, too.

2. Relying on real news

The flurry of fake stories and anecdotes being shared with me via social media led me to have a few real moments of panic in the last couple of weeks. Was this all true? Would I have to give birth alone? I’ve politely asked people who were forwarding them on (who were doing so with the best intentions) to refrain. I am relying purely on the real news and medical advice that’s being published for pregnant women.

Speak to your midwife if you’re worried about anything. Don’t take advice from things shared on Facebook.

3. Keeping active

It’s hard at the best of times to keep active when our bumps are getting in the way, but I’ve tried to do something that raises my heartbeat everyday since being out of my normal routine. A brisk walk, some gardening – even getting really into the hoovering has been helping.

I’ve also found some great pregnancy friendly workouts on YouTube that have been a real saviour on the days when I’m worrying more. Nothing like an endorphin boost to get me out of any dark thought patterns!

4. Routine

Pregnancy comes with a lot of unease about work in general, but being away from the office has made that worse for me. Routine has helped.

Starting each day as I would if I were going to work, structuring my working from home as if I’m in the office. Scheduling regular catch-ups with co-workers to feel as in the loop as possible. Taking a proper lunch break to help me keep productive and focused.

I’m also avoiding rolling news during the day. An overconsumption of bad stories is not helping my head.

5. And finally, having faith.

What we’re doing is incredible – we’re growing a whole other person inside us. And we’re doing it in some of the hardest times imaginable.

If we can do that, we can take on any other challenges along the way. We just need to look after our minds to help us manage.

It isn’t the pregnancies we thought we would have, no. But pretty soon all these frightening days will be behind us, and our babies will be here – making it all very worthwhile.

Stay safe.

If you need either immediate support or some more advice, we recommend checking out the following charities: 

Written by Jo Irwin