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  • How to Emotionally Prepare for Pregnancy

    Bringing a baby into the world can be exciting, but you can also feel other emotions. During pregnancy, you can have many feelings such as joy, excitement, and frustration.

    For most women, pregnancy is an emotionally rewarding experience. However, having a child requires careful decisions. Here are 7 things you can do to mentally prepare for motherhood.

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    Be Healthy and Have a Healthy Partner

    One of the most important things for being emotionally ready for pregnancy is to take care of your body. Losing weight before you become pregnant can help you avoid diseases that can drag you down emotionally or threaten your health.

    Overweight women run the risk of developing gestational diabetes, heart problems, and miscarriages. Exercising, eating nutritious foods, and getting enough sleep will help your emotional outlook before, during, and after pregnancy. Sleep will be especially important after you have a baby. Get into good sleep habits now to make postpartum sleep easier.

    Have the necessary vaccinations: MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), chicken pox, TDAP (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis), and a flu shot during flu season. Get a hepatitis B shot if you or your partner are in a high-risk category. You fit this category if you are a healthcare worker who comes in contact with blood or other body fluids. Being ill with vaccine-preventable diseases while you are pregnant could harm you emotionally and physically. Encourage those around you to be vaccinated so they don't pass communicable diseases to your baby.

    Now is the time to quit if you smoke, drink alcohol, or use street drugs. Be honest with your health care provider about your use. She or he is not there to condemn you or tell on you. A healthcare provider is there to assist you with making good emotional and physical lifestyle choices. Talking with your health care provider about your health concerns is essential for an emotionally, healthy pregnancy.

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    Have a Support Group

    A health care provider is one resource for your emotional health. Having a support group can also be important to keeping you on track before, during, and after pregnancy. Seek family and friends out as people you can talk to about their experiences with pregnancy.

    If you don't have a support group of family and friends, look for one at your place of worship. Sometimes coworkers can offer advice and support. Look for midwifes or hospital resources if you don't have close friends or family.

    There are many online forums for expecting or new mothers that can offer you a community. Be careful about your security in these forums. Don't give out personal information such as your address or telephone number, and don't meet forum members in person. Check any medical advice you get on a forum with your health care provider for accuracy and safety. 

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    Read About Pregnancy

    Learning about pregnancy before you are pregnant gives you a realistic idea of what to expect. Read books about pregnancy and parenting. 

    Your local library is a good resource for information about pregnancy and parenting. Many libraries have hard copy books, books in ebook format, pamphlets, DVDs, CDs, and streaming media that you can check out or access.

    Your health care provider is another good source for information about pregnancy. She or he can give you brochures or provide you with other resources. They can also answer any questions you have. Look for organizations in your community that help parents with information on pregnancy and parenting issues.

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    Take Time for Yourself

    Taking some time to think about your pregnancy and your feelings. It is as important as sharing your feelings with others. You won't have as much free time when you are a parent. Take some for yourself by going for a walk, meditating, or keeping a pregnancy journal.

    Your journal can be private or you can share it with someone you trust. A journal is a good way to keep track of your prenatal appointments and the advice from your healthcare provider. It is also a good way to record the memories of your baby's kicks and movements, your feelings about the pregnancy, and memories of your baby shower.

    Keeping a journal is also something that you can do electronically. Keep a file of documents with cloud content management systems like Google Drive or with desktop diary software. Remember to back up your desktop files on an external drive or with cloud storage applications so you don't lose your files. For those who are more adventurous and outgoing, blogging your pregnancy is a way to connect with other people.

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    Be Prepared Financially

    Being financially prepared for a pregnancy is important to give you, your partner, and your baby a stable start in life. Discuss your financial situation with your partner openly. There are many issues you may want to discuss. 

    How can you cut back in your budget? Who will take time off from work to raise the baby? What child care arrangements can you afford? Are there any long-term financial goals you would like to plan?

    You can save money in many ways before, during, and after pregnancy. Thrift shops and garage sales are good places to get maternity and baby clothes. Your baby will soon grow out of his or her clothes, and you can save that money for longer-term goals like college. 

    Saving money now will create less financial stress for you later in life. However, don't scrimp on baby items such as car seats, strollers, nursing equipment, and cribs. These should be new to avoid injuries from broken, faulty, or unsanitary items.

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    Getting Help with Chores

    Chores, like finances, are an inevitable part of pregnancy planning. Tackle one task at a time to make your life easier. While you may have the urge to do everything at once, don't. Decorating a baby nursery, buying baby clothes, purchasing maternity clothes, and deciding on your baby's name are tasks you can complete one at a time.

    Create a list or a timetable for all of the things you have to do. Use a calendar to plan your activities. This will help you organize and prioritize what you need to do. Task management software or a desk calendar are ways for you to keep the chores and activities in one convenient place.

    Don't do everything by yourself. Make a list of tasks you can delegate to others and stick to the list. Don't feel embarrassed to ask other people to help you. Getting into the habit of asking others to help and delegating tasks will make it easier for you to parent after you have your baby.

    Remember to build in some friend and family time, couple time with your partner, and personal time. Sometimes you need to slow down the rush of things you think you must do now. You have ten months of pregnancy, and this is plenty of time. Don’t do it all at once, but make sure you get it all done.

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    When It's Difficult

    For some women, pregnancy may bring up unresolved issues in their lives, such as how they were raised or traumatic issues like abuse. Don't be afraid to get help with these issues. Talk to your health care provider and ask if there are resources for your specific problem. Seeking professional help and support can help you deal with unresolved anger, grief, or sadness. Do what you can to ensure your pregnancy belongs to you and not to your past.

    Many women, even those who anticipate and are joyful about a pregnancy, experience a letdown after giving birth. It takes a lot of energy to make and give birth to a baby. These “baby blues” are normal. Your hormone levels change and you have to deal with being a parent. Three to five days after you give birth, you may experience feelings of sadness, trouble with sleeping, moodiness, and crying.

    These hormonal feelings usually go away ten days after your baby's birth. Your body needs time to adjust to the postpartum stage. Talk to your health care provider if the sadness, moodiness, and crying does not go away after ten days. These symptoms can be signs of post-postpartum depression.

    Physical changes in your body can contribute to postpartum depression. After childbirth, there is a dramatic drop in estrogen and progesterone. Other hormones in your thyroid gland may also drop. The drop in thyroid hormones can leave you feeling tired, sluggish, and can contribute to postpartum depression. Medical tests can diagnose if your depression is from hormonal changes or from a problem with your thyroid.

    Childbirth can cause emotional stress with the added duties of parenthood, lack of sleep, and anxieties about caring for a newborn. All of these issues combined with a drop in hormones can contribute to the development of postpartum depression. Finding support in family, friends, or your health care provider is as necessary after a baby, and even more so, as when you were pregnant.

    Knowing the signs of postpartum depression before you give birth is important if you need to get help. Being aware of the problem, however, does not mean you should be anxious that you could experience postpartum depression. Emotional awareness is part of your pregnancy and post-pregnancy survival kit.

    There are many symptoms of post-postpartum depression. These include a depressed mood or severe mood swings, not being able to stop crying, loss of appetite or eating more than usual, and sleeping too much or not being able to sleep at all. Other symptoms are having trouble bonding with your baby. You may feel as if you're not a good mother. You may have intense anger or irritability, and feelings of being worthless.

    If you have suicidal thoughts or you are thinking of harming your baby, seek assistance immediately. Get assistance from your partner or a loved one to take care of your baby while you get help. Call your health care provider, emergency services or, in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to get help.

    A rarer form of postpartum depression is postpartum psychosis. This develops in the first week after delivery. The symptoms of this are more severe than depression. Postpartum psychosis symptoms are confusion and disorientation, hallucinations and delusions, sleep disturbances, paranoia, obsessive thoughts about your baby that often include thoughts about harming your baby, and attempts to harm your baby. Psychosis symptoms require immediate medical treatment from a qualified medical professional. Do not try to treat postpartum depression or psychosis for yourself or for someone you love. These are conditions that sometimes require medication or other clinical intervention.

    Admitting the need for help with postpartum depression is difficult, but requesting help does not mean you are a bad parent or that you are a bad person. Seeking assistance for postpartum depression is the same as asking for help with any other medical condition. Don't be afraid to ask questions and don't be ashamed to ask for help from your health care provider and from those who love you. Knowing you can find people who won't judge or criticize you when you need help will give you a happier and healthier start as a parent.

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