I didn’t think I’d feel this way.
Maybe you envisioned yourself glowing in the first few weeks of pregnancy, quietly thrilled, cheerfully planning what’s to come. After all, this is what you wanted, right? You should be feeling grateful. Serene. #Blessed.
The truth? Early pregnancy can be difficult, and feelings of sadness, nervousness and being overwhelmed can surface unexpectedly. Here’s how to navigate your (very normal!) concerns and care for your mental health.
Your emotional health during pregnancy: Common worries you may have
How will people react to the news that I’m pregnant?
Many people will be thrilled. But you may worry about how your boss will respond or whether your friend who is TTC will react with sadness or jealousy. Take time to think about what you want to say and when you want to say it. Writing it down, even just for yourself, can be helpful. And remember: You don’t have to share your news right away — you get to decide when.
When should I tell people I’m pregnant?
It’s OK to wait until after the first trimester to tell people you’re pregnant. It’s also OK to share the news sooner. If you’re struggling with your emotions or grappling with new worries in these early weeks, it may be helpful to tap someone outside of your tight inner circle for additional support.
All the do’s and don’ts of pregnancy feel overwhelming.
Right now it probably feels like you’re wading through a flood of information about pregnancy. In the end, the do’s and don’ts list is actually pretty small. Talk to your ob-gyn about which advice you should follow to ensure a healthy pregnancy, how to practice self-care during pregnancy and what nutritious foods to eat. When attending your first prenatal visit, consider bringing someone who can help listen and take notes.
I’m really worried about early pregnancy loss.
This is normal, especially if you’ve experienced it before. First and foremost, make sure to talk to your doctor about any concerns you have. It can be easy to trap yourself in a cycle of what-ifs. Try to acknowledge your fear — you might even say it out loud. Then redirect your focus to the present. Right now, you are pregnant. Taking your prenatal vitamin daily, eating nutritious meals and attending your prenatal appointments can give you a sense of control over your pregnancy. You may also be wondering if your early pregnancy symptoms are normal. Sometimes a quick phone call to your doctor can give you the clarity and peace of mind you seek.
I’m not sure I’m ready for this big lifestyle change.
Feelings of worry or even sadness about the immense changes to come can feel almost taboo to discuss. You can imagine the response: “You wanted to be pregnant, right?” But you are allowed to want something while also worrying about its potential consequences. It is normal to worry about work, finances, childcare, living arrangements and how you will spend your evenings and weekends in the near future. Having a baby is a big deal — big feelings are expected!
First, know that you don’t have to figure everything out right now. You just found out you’re pregnant. You have time — and you don’t have to do it alone. Share these emotions with someone you love and trust. If you feel like you don’t have the help and support you need, talk to your doctor. They can guide you to resources that can help.
Ask any parent — a lot of parenting is figuring it out as you go. You don’t know all the answers now because you don’t even know all the questions to ask. Things will change, but know this: They will also change in ways you never dreamed of, for the better.
Depression and anxiety in early pregnancy: When worrying becomes something more
According to the March of Dimes, depression is “a medical condition that causes feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in things you like to do.”1 Depression affects up to one in seven pregnant people.1The March of Dimes guide on depression and pregnancy discusses the signs and symptoms of depression, how it can affect you and the baby, how it can be prevented and how it can be treated. The most important thing you can do is talk to someone, whether that’s a counselor, therapist or doctor.
According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), anxiety is “a feeling of nervousness, worry or concern” and an anxiety disorder is “a mental health condition that happens when anxiety gets in the way of daily life.”2 Anxiety disorders affect nearly one in five adults, including those who are pregnant or postpartum.2The ACOG guide on anxiety and pregnancy describes common types of anxiety, risk factors, symptoms and how to get help. As with depression, prioritize talking to a mental health professional.
Ten things you can do to care for your mental health during pregnancy
- Rest. It’s normal to feel tired (exhausted, even) during early pregnancy.3 Listen to your body when it says it’s tired. Allow yourself the luxury of naps.
- Eat nutritious foods you enjoy. There may be a link between poor diet quality and prenatal depression.4 A 2020 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics looked at the relationship between prenatal depression and diet quality during pregnancy overall by conducting a secondary analysis study of 1,160 adult pregnant women.4 Fourteen percent of the participants had prenatal depression, and those with prenatal depression were nearly two times as likely to have a poor diet quality.4 Eat lots of fruits and vegetables with good vitamins and nutrients. Find foods that feel good to eat (especially if you’re experiencing nausea).
- Share your feelings. Whether it’s a partner, family member or friend, find someone who can offer guidance when wanted or needed. Their most important job? Listening.
- Set boundaries. You don’t have to say yes to everything right now, and you don’t have to answer questions you don’t want to answer. Learn more about how to set boundaries in relationships with friends when pregnant.
- Consider prenatal yoga. First, check with your doctor about whether prenatal yoga is right for you. In an in-person class, you’ll be surrounded by people going through what you’re going through. If you’d rather go solo, look for prenatal yoga courses online and practice in the comfort of your home.
- Stop scrolling. Are you hopping online every time you experience an odd feeling and ending up in tears reading stories with unhappy endings? Stop before you start. If you have questions, limit yourself to one reliable source or call your doctor.
- Remember, you have time. You don’t have to have the nursery done next week, and you will have plenty of time to buy and wash the onesies. Simply finding out you’re pregnant is a lot! Sit with this new news for a couple of weeks before moving on to your pre-baby to-do list.
- Refocus. This can be as simple as losing yourself in a movie for a few hours, binge-watching a show, finding a new book series to read or finishing up a big work project early, knowing that maternity leave is down the road.
- Look outside your circle. Consider joining an online group of people who are newly pregnant too. There’s something freeing in sharing thoughts and feelings with strangers bound together by a common thread.
- Consider counseling or therapy. If your big feelings are beginning to feel too big to handle alone, seek help.
- March of Dimes. Depression during pregnancy. Updated March 2019. Accessed February 11, 2023. https://www.marchofdimes.org/find-support/topics/pregnancy/depression-during-pregnancy
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Anxiety and pregnancy. Updated November 2021. Accessed February 11, 2023. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/anxiety-and-pregnancy
- Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Stages of pregnancy. Updated February 22, 2021. Accessed February 11, 2023. https://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/youre-pregnant-now-what/stages-pregnancy
- Avalos LA, Caan B, Nance N, et al. Prenatal depression and diet quality during pregnancy. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2020;120(6):972-984. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2019.12.011. Accessed February 11, 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8006531/
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