Staying Healthy in Pregnancy

Staying healthy during your pregnancy

Mental health during pregnancy

What about mental health concerns in pregnancy?

Pregnancy is often seen as a happy time for the parents to be. It is normal for you and your partner to feel many different emotions as you prepare to become parents. You may find your mood changes quickly from excited or happy to sad or anxious.

If feelings of sadness or anxiety don't get better, it could be a sign of something more serious. Did you know that mental health concerns like depression and anxiety can start or get worse during pregnancy, not just postpartum? In fact about 20% of women suffer from perinatal depression and/or anxiety. Perinatal depression can happen at any time in the pregnancy. It is more common in the second and third trimesters.

What are the symptoms of depression?

  • You and your partner may not always know that what you are feeling is more than the emotional ups and downs of pregnancy.  Learn about the signs of perinatal depression and be alert for them. Mothers don't always know that what they are feeling is more than the "baby blues". If your symptoms last for more than two weeks, talk to your health care provider. You are not alone.
  • Fathers to be can also experience depression. It can start during pregnancy and/or after the baby is born. Most symptoms of depression are the same for men and women. They may present differently in men. Some common symptoms of depression in men are:
    • Mood swings
    • Anger and irritability
    • Physical symptoms like headaches or fatigue
    • Hyperactive behaviour

What are the possible effects?

Mental health disorders in pregnancy can have many effects. They can affect you, your partner, your baby and your pregnancy.

Some of the possible effects are:

  • Baby being born too early
  • Low birth weight
  • Miscarriage
  • Not getting enough prenatal care
  • Postpartum depression
  • Difficulty building a positive relationship with your baby during pregnancy
  • Problems forming a secure attachment after the baby is born

What can you and your partner do?

  • Remind yourself this is not your fault. It is normal and you are not alone.
  • Talk to each other and your family about how you are feeling.
  • Be ready to listen.
  • Don't try to do everything. Ask for help.
  • Take care of yourself. Try to get as much sleep as possible. Eat healthy foods and be active.
  • Talk to your doctor about medications.
  • Call Ottawa Public Health Information 613-PARENTS / Toll free 1-866-426-8885.
  • Call the Crisis Line at 613-722-6914 or toll-free 1-866-996-0991. Open 24 hours a day to provide immediate support.

Pregnancy and Oral Health

Keeping your teeth and gums healthy during pregnancy has many benefits for you and your baby.

Did you know…

  • Morning sickness can leave stomach acids in your mouth that can damage the surfaces of your teeth and promote tooth decay
  • Changes in hormone levels during pregnancy can cause swollen gums that bleed during brushing and flossing, often known as “pregnancy gingivitis”
  • Pregnant mothers with poor oral health have a risk of developing periodontitis (infection of bone holding the teeth in place). This type of infection has been associated with poor pregnancy outcomes such as:

    • delivering a pre-term baby
    • delivering a baby with a low birth weight

Visiting the dentist and the hygienist

  • Regular dental cleanings and check-ups are important before, during, and after pregnancy
  • Be sure to tell them that you are pregnant
  • You may want to postpone routine dental radiograph until after your baby is born
  • Should your dentist recommend an emergency radiograph, the dental office will provide a leaded apron to shield you and your baby from this low dose

What can you do to help?

  • Brush your teeth and your gums with a soft toothbrush twice a day, using a pea size amount of fluoride toothpaste. Also, gently brush your tongue
  • Gently floss daily to remove plaque from between your teeth and gums. If your gums bleed, keep on flossing
  • Eat healthy nutritious food and avoid sweets
  • If you gag, use a small, child-size toothbrush and lean your head down and over the sink while brushing. It helps relax the throat and allows the saliva to flow out

Morning sickness

  • Nausea and vomiting can happen during pregnancy. Causes of morning sickness include changes in hormone levels, tension, worry or fatigue.
  • Try eating unsalted crackers or dry toast before getting out of bed in the morning
  • Rinse your mouth with tap water, or a fluoride mouth rinse after vomiting, which will protect your teeth from the damaging stomach acids
  • If vomiting persists, notify your doctor

Stress is our bodies' reaction to a real or imagined threat or challenge. Stress is a part of everyday life. Everyday stress helps you to focus, problem solve and get a task done.  The body reacts to this stress in many ways, such as your heart rate goes up and your muscles become tense, making you ready to take action. Once the stress is gone, the body returns to normal. Sadly, stress can also last a long time and be overwhelming for some people. The body and brain are constantly reacting to this type of stress. Overtime it can affect your mental and physical health, including during pregnancy.

Learning ways to deal with stress before pregnancy can help improve your mental and physical health during pregnancy, the health of your baby and the well-being of your family, such as:

  • Increasing your chances of becoming pregnant. Stress can change some women's periods and timing of the egg leaving the ovary. Also, men can have a low sperm count because of stress.
  • Increasing the chance of your baby being born at term
  • Helping your baby's brain and body to grow and develop.

Helping you adapt to the emotional changes and challenges of pregnancy and becoming new parents.  

What are some signs of stress?

  • Feeling tired all the time.
  • Feeling tense or anxious.
  • Feeling sad or irritable.
  • Frequent minor health complaints.
  • Change in appetite or sleep patterns.
  • Change in relationships.
  • Using alcohol, medications or other drugs to relax.
  • Trouble concentrating and making decisions.

What can you do to lower your stress level? You can try to:

  • Get to know yourself, how you think and feel under stress.
  • Think about what helped you cope with stress in the past.
  • Take care of your body - eat well, be active, enjoy nature and get enough sleep.
  • Learn to take time each day to breathe deeply, relax and still your mind.
  • Connect with family, friends, co-workers, neighborhood resources or faith groups to build a community to support you and your family.
  • Reach out to family, friends or a health professional to talk about your mental health and to ask for the help you need. Enjoy life, listen to music or laugh with a friend
  • Keep things simple and learn to say "no".  Don't take on more than you can handle.
  • Learn to problem solve - be realistic as to what you can and cannot do 

Want to speak with a Registered Dietitian? 

Call Health Connect Ontario and ask to speak with a Registered Dietitian. Available Monday-Friday 9am-5pm by calling 811 (TTY: 1-866-797-0007) or starting a chat  

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