Did you know that some cultures in East Asia consider their newborns as being one year old the instant they are born? I think that is a marvelous concept and actually a more accurate measure of how old a person is. Though unseen to the outside world (except by means of ultrasound), the infant is unbelievably busy, eating, growing, and becoming. The speed of brain development during this period is almost unimaginable, as 50,000 neurons are produced EVERY SECOND.
Much emphasis is placed on how a mother’s actions affect the child she is carrying, especially regarding the harmful effects of alcohol, smoking, and other drugs. But not enough attention is paid to the mother’s emotional/mental health.
In a study of over 4,000 mothers and their children, who were followed for over eighteen years, mothers with negative, pessimistic, depressive thinking patterns when pregnant increased the risk of their child being depressed eighteen years later. And women who were under significant stress while pregnant produced children who were more stress prone, irritable, and moody.
If you are pregnant and recognize any of those symptoms in yourself,
- Find you a good counselor who can help you overcome your negative attitude and help alleviate the symptoms of depression
- Talk with your OB provider and ask if they can help (with either medication or a referral to a counselor)
- Force yourself to do some physical exercise, even (or especially) if you don’t feel like it, and even if it’s just going for a walk
- Talk with an empathetic friend or family member
- Start a daily Grateful Journal, listing three things per day that you are thankful for
- Be sure you are paying attention to your spiritual life by means of prayer, meditation, Bible reading, and worshiping with a community of believers
If you know someone who is pregnant, don’t assume you know anything about what’s going on with her mental health. People are very adept at covering and hiding their true self from others. Go ahead and assume that she has days when she really struggles to maintain her equilibrium. Then you need to:
- Send her a handwritten note or letter, letting her know you were thinking of her and offering to be a lifeline, if she needs one
- Ask her out for coffee, or a meal, or a walk in the park
- Go visit her and keep the conversation light
- Or let her cry on your shoulder, if that’s what she seems to need
- Fix a meal and take it to her
- Show up unannounced and tell her you are going to take her laundry home and do it for her
- If she has other children, take them to spend the night with you for a night
- Or offer to watch her kids while she goes out to a movie
An unborn child is unable to make any choices or control any part of its environment. What it deserves is having a network of people that will do whatever they can to help the baby’s mother be as healthy as she can be – physical and mentally.