A mental illness is a brain disorder that affects your thinking, feelings, mood, and how you relate to others. Mental illnesses are real illnesses. Many mental illnesses are treated with talk therapy, medicines, or both.
What is the cause?
Your risk of a mental illness problem during pregnancy may be higher if:
You have a lot of stress at home, in your family, or at work.
You have stress about your health or the health of your baby.
You have to stop taking a medicine that is unsafe to take during pregnancy.
You are unable to follow your treatment plan.
What are the symptoms?
If you feel like your mental health is getting worse or your current treatment is not working well, your provider may need to change your treatment plan. Some of the warning signs that this may be happening include:
Not being able to sleep
Unusual or prolonged sadness
Anxiety or irritability
A lot of self-doubt about being able to care for yourself or your baby
Not bathing or combing your hair
Being uninterested in things you usually enjoy
Thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby
How is it treated?
Mental illness during pregnancy is serious and should be treated to prevent a relapse or worsening of your symptoms. Your health care provider may work with your mental health specialist to provide the best treatment possible. Sometimes, medicines and other treatments, like talk therapy, can be helpful.
If you are pregnant and have been taking medicine for treatment of a mental illness, tell your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Do not stop taking your medicine without instructions from your healthcare provider. Some medicines used to treat mental illness are safe to use during pregnancy. However, some have risks and can cause serious harm to your unborn baby.
How can I take care of myself?
Get support. Talk with family and friends. Join a support group in your area.
Learn to manage stress. Ask for help at home and work when the load is too great to handle. Find ways to relax, for example take up a hobby, listen to music, watch movies, or take walks. Try deep breathing exercises when you feel stressed.
Take care of your physical health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet. Limit caffeine. If you smoke, quit. Avoid alcohol and drugs because they can make your symptoms worse. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.
Check your medicines. To help prevent problems, tell your healthcare provider and pharmacist about all of the medicines, natural remedies, vitamins, and other supplements that you take. Take all medicines as directed by your provider or therapist. It is very important to take your medicine even when you are feeling and thinking well. Without the medicine, your symptoms may not improve or may get worse. Talk to your provider if you have problems taking your medicine or if the medicines don’t seem to be working.
Contact your healthcare provider or therapist if you have any questions or your symptoms seem to be getting worse.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2015-01-12 Last reviewed: 2014-12-08
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Mental Illness during Pregnancy: References
Stern, T.A., Fricchione, G.L., Cassem, N.H. Jellinek, M.S., and Rosenbaum, J.F. (2010). Psychiatric Illness during Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period. In Stern, T. A. (Eds.). Massachusetts General Hospital Handbook of General Hospital Psychiatry. (6th ed.) (613-628). Saunders.