Pregnancy is a time of radical changes – it's understandable that you may be feeling vulnerable during pregnancy. Not only are you dealing with a changing body and spiralling hormones, but you’re also aware that the imminent arrival of your baby is going to change your life forever.
Throughout your pregnancy, you will most likely experience every emotion under the sun. From extreme happiness, to uncontrollable weeping, fiery rages to unbearable excitement – and sometimes that can all be felt and experienced in a five minute roller coaster ride of hormones!
It is very common for women to experience feelings of vulnerability during pregnancy. If you usually pride yourself on being a strong and independent woman, the feelings of vulnerability will make you feel really uncomfortable and may even knock you for six. For those pregnant women who do experience feelings of vulnerability, it may be helpful to know that vulnerability can manifest in a number of ways.
You may feel worried about being left alone, especially as your due date approaches. You may feel vulnerable in your relationship and feel nervous about your partner going out without you. You may feel nervous of walking alone at night. Or it may be something less obvious, such as when you experience the fact that you are slower at running while pregnant for the first time. You could find yourself feeling lonely and vulnerable, and prefer being in the company of others to give you a greater sense of connection and safety.
It could just be the odd niggle of vulnerability you experience, or you there could be bigger circumstances unfolding in your life that leave you feeling vulnerable most days.
If you are struggling with feelings of vulnerability, the following tips may help you to manage and understand them more:
#1: Open Up To Your Partner
Your partner needs to know how you’re feeling, especially during pregnancy. With the hormonal changes taking place inside your body, he may not be able to tune into your current mood as easily. Avoid falling into the habit of expecting him to know and just it. He’s not you and this isn’t happening in his body. The reality is he has no idea! If you find yourself feeling clingier than usual, be honest and tell your partner how you feel. Explain that it may not be rational, but hey, it’s those pesky pregnancy hormones at work again. You may find your partner is more understanding and can be more accepting when he knows this all part of the radical pregnancy reals and not a permanent personality change. The key is to stay connected as much as you can.
#2: Be Empathetic
Empathy has a key role to play in your relationship during pregnancy. Your partner may be getting frustrated by your mood swings and the push-pull of the hormonal roller coaster ride. This is all new for him, too! He is also going through this life-changing transition with you in his own way, with his own feelings and thoughts that also make him feel vulnerable at times. Understanding and remembering this can help to empathise with him when your first reaction may be to feel hurt or angry. The key to turn to each other and not against, or away from each other. You both need to feel safe in your vulnerability.
#3: Pick A Mantra
The feelings of vulnerability you are experiencing are not rational, and you probably already know this. That’s not to say they don’t matter, of course they do, but it does mean you might feel better by reminding yourself that they are simply feelings and not truth. For example, if you are nervous about your partner going on a night out, pick a mantra that reminds you how much he loves you and how excited he is to become a dad. If you are feeling nervous about driving, remind yourself that the chance of something going wrong is tiny. Pick a short, concise phrase that will help to keep you feeling positive during times of anxiety.
#4: Build A Support System
Being pregnant is exhausting, but so is taking care of a pregnant woman. Especially when you’re also juggling a full time job, housework and social commitments. You can forgive your partner for getting a little burnt out every now and then. To give your partner a break, invest some time in building a support system you can rely on. You’ll need a support system in place for when the baby arrives, and it makes sense to have one now too. Then when you don’t want to be alone, you have other people you can call on to keep you company if your partner is busy. Your support system should consist of friends and family members who you enjoy spending time with.
#5: Connect With Other Pregnant Women
What you need, is to reassurance that the emotions you are experiencing are normal. And one of the best places to get that kind of reassurance, is from other pregnant women. You may have already noticed that pregnancy has the power to form an instant bond between women. Reach out to other women at your antenatal classes, or pregnant women you know in real life, and try to form a friendship. You can also look online for support, there are plenty of forums and blogs where pregnant women chat about their symptoms and experiences.
#6: Join An Antenatal Yoga Class
It's well known that physical exercise can boost your mood, immune system and energy levels. While pregnant, pregnancy yoga is an ideal activity to help shake the blues.
Not only will you be improving your fitness, mastering your ever-changing centre of gravity, and taking time out of your hectic day to relax, but you could also be improving your mental health. Yoga can reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and depression. Yoga will teach you how to meditate, relax and control your breathing – and these skills will certainly come in use in the birth room.
Find out more about how pregnancy yoga can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression here.
#7: Check Your Diet
What you eat has a huge part to play in how you feel both physically and emotionally. It’s not surprising that what you eat can dictate your health, but you may be a little surprised to hear that they can also influence your moods.
Too many refined sugars, grains and processed foods can impact on your energy levels, sleep and mood. Try switching those starchy, sugary foods for a healthier alternative. Fresh vegetables, protein, nuts and seeds can give you the energy boost you need, whilst providing you and your developing baby with plenty of nutrients, and without zapping your energy levels. Try eating for happiness, and see if you notice an improvement in your moods.
#8: Talk To Your Healthcare Professional
Your healthcare professional is charged with looking after you and your baby during pregnancy, and this includes taking care of your emotional wellbeing. If feeling vulnerable is affecting your daily life, or leaving you feeling less than excited about the pregnancy, then speak to your healthcare professional for advice. It might be worth checking that your iron and B vitamin levels are adequate, as deficiencies can affect your mood.
If you're not coping, ask your healthcare provider to refer you to see a specialist prenatal counsellor, who will be trained and experienced in providing support during pregnancy.
How did you cope with feelings of vulnerability?
Share your experiences and stories in the comments section below.