Starting a family is an exhilarating experience, filled with potential joys and, naturally, certain stressors. As you embark on this journey, maintaining your mental health is just as paramount as caring for your physical wellbeing. The process may bring about unexpected emotional challenges that can impact your daily life and even the outcome of your family plans.
Keep reading to discover seven ways to bolster and protect your mental health while starting a family.
1. Nurture Healthy Relationships
The people around you can absolutely affect your mental health and your ability to raise a healthy family. If it’s safe to do so, distance yourself from unhealthy relationships.
Relationships that bring constant criticism, boundary breaches, or a lack of support can have detrimental effects on your emotional wellbeing. Especially when starting a family, it becomes crucial to surround yourself with people nourish your wellbeing.
Work on building healthy relationships with others who want nothing more than to bring out the best in you.
2. Take the Pregnancy Test at the Right Time
The uncertainty of waiting to find out if you’re pregnant can be stressful. Testing too often could affect your mental health, so consider only using pregnancy tests after a missed period.
Use a pregnancy test calculator to give you a better idea of when to take a test.
Standard pregnancy tests detect the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone, which is released in early pregnancy. It can take 21 days after you’ve had sex for the test to detect hCG.
3. Tackle Your Stressors
Many parents-to-be stress about money, maternity leave, whether or not they’ll be good parents, their fertility, and the future health of them and their babies.
No matter what your biggest pregnancy stressor is, it’s important to tackle it head-on. When you’ve addressed your stressors, you’ll be able to focus more on getting pregnant.
Stress can potentially impact fertility and make it more difficult to conceive. While the relationship between stress and fertility is complex and varies from person to person, there’s evidence to suggest that high levels of stress may affect reproductive hormones and disrupt the normal functioning of the reproductive system, making this step particularly important.
Meditation and mindfulness are proven to help people manage stress. Yoga also has a wide number of therapeutic benefits, including improvements in mood and reduction of physical pain.
4. Eat Well and Exercise Moderately
Eating well is intricately linked to mental health, and the food choices we make can have a profound impact on our mental wellbeing.
The gut and the brain are interconnected through the gut-brain axis. A healthy diet that includes a variety of plant foods and probiotics supports a diverse and balanced gut microbiome, which has been linked to mental health.
To keep exercise light, consider walking to keep fit or doing some moderate weight training.
5. Make Time for What You Love
Doing what you love is integral to wellbeing. This might include hobbies, sports, socializing, or being in nature.
People who regularly engage in enjoyable activities are more likely to have greater social support and life satisfaction, leading to lower rates of depression.
Why not check out our Self-Care Activities Checklists in our Free Tools Library if you’re interested in trying out a new hobby?
6. Quit Alcohol and Drugs
The best thing to do for your health and your baby's health is to quit drugs and alcohol before pregnancy. If you also smoke, you’ll need to quit this, as well.
Smoking during pregnancy is known to be a significant risk factor for adverse outcomes. It’s linked to complications such as preterm birth, low birth weight, and an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
The harmful chemicals in tobacco can restrict the baby's oxygen supply and impede healthy development.
Quitting smoking, along with alcohol and drugs, is essential for ensuring a healthier, lower stress pregnancy.
7. Seek Professional Help When Needed
If you find yourself struggling with the emotional demands of starting a family, don't hesitate to seek professional help.
Therapists, counselors, and support groups are valuable resources that can offer guidance and coping strategies.
Seeking help early on can prevent issues from escalating and promote a healthier emotional environment for both partners and the growing family.
Starting a family involves a spectrum of emotions, from the excitement of anticipating a new life to the stress of adjusting to new roles and responsibilities.
Each person’s experience is unique, and factors such as fertility concerns, relationship dynamics, financial pressures, and the physical demands of pregnancy can contribute to emotional strain. It's essential to acknowledge and validate these emotions as a normal part of the process.
Safeguarding your mental health as you start a family is an important endeavour, and the steps outlined here are meant to guide you. Perhaps you've already embarked on this wonderful journey, or maybe it's something that lies in the future. Either way, always be proactive about your mental health.
Research shows that self-help materials are often enough for people to overcome mild to moderate mental health difficulties without professional support.
If you’re interested in a self-guided program that includes tools CBT, DBT and ACT, be sure to check out The Mental Wellbeing Toolkit.