Looking after your mental health is essential throughout your life – but when you’re pregnant, it’s even more important for both your own health and the health of your baby.

That said, pregnancy is a huge event in your life and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything on your mind. Add in Dr Google, and all those usual life stressors that don’t magically go away when you’re pregnant, and it’s very easy to fall into a chasm of stress during this important time.

And when you get stressed about being stressed… well, you can see where this is going…

Stress is a natural part of life – but when you’re pregnant, it’s more important than ever that you try to relax and enjoy this time in your life. There have been many studies made on the effects of stress on pregnancy, and while normal stress is generally considered harmless, prolonged or severe periods of stress may be linked to issues such as premature birth and low birth rate – so it’s essential to talk to your healthcare provider if you’re concerned at any time about your mental health.

“Pregnancy is a time to emotionally prepare for being a parent,” say the experts at the HSE. “It’s normal to feel lots of emotions – positive and negative. Most of these changes are normal, but it will help to talk to someone about how you feel.​ Tiredness, nausea and hormones can affect your emotions during pregnancy. Occasional bursts of emotions like anger and sadness are to be expected.

“Talk to your GP, midwife or obstetrician if your feelings are very intense or severe, you are feeling low, angry or upset most of the time or you are feeling very stressed. Doing what you can to manage feelings is about helping yourself and your baby. It is not about being a good or bad parent.”

In any case, when you’re pregnant, there’s no better time to introduce a few lifestyle tweaks and techniques to help manage your stress levels. Learning how to incorporate these in your life will have a positive impact on both you and your baby – both now and after your baby is born. Try these simple tips that are tried and tested by Baby Elegance new mums:

1. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is quite simply living in the moment, paying attention to the sights and sounds around you and learning how to appreciate the now. If this is new to you, try setting aside a few minutes each day to stop and pay attention to your thoughts. Focus on breathing and listening to the sounds around you.

pregnancy mindfulness

2. Try prenatal yoga

While yoga is great for your physical wellbeing when pregnant – for me, it loosened up tight hips and prevented me from developing the dreaded pelvic girdle pain – it can also play a huge role in your mental mindset. Most prenatal yoga sessions include relaxation and mindfulness, teaching you how to relax and simply “be”.

pregnancy yoga

3. Eat well

Good nutrition is essential during pregnancy, especially if you’re suffering from a lack of energy or nausea. Hunger can cause your blood sugar to fall, leaving you tired and irritable. Try eating a little and often, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Most importantly, keep yourself well hydrated. Try these tips from the HSE to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need.

4. Get regular exercise

Exercise releases feel-good endorphins in your brain, so it’s a great idea for both your physical and mental health to maintain some sort of exercise routine during pregnancy. The general rule is to not start anything new in pregnancy and to avoid contact sports or anything too strenuous. Swimming, walking and specific prenatal classes in aqua aerobics or yoga are ideal choices.

pregnancy exercise

5. Learn to slow down

Yes it’s true – pregnancy is not a sickness, but it’s still essential that you make sure you don’t take on too much, even just to prove that point. Learn how to slow down where you can – for instance, avoid the stress of a morning commute by altering your working hours. Or leave the household chores to your partner or family. Go to bed early and say no to that social event.

6. Treat yourself

This point doesn’t necessarily have to cost a load of money – far from it. Treating yourself is about being nice to yourself, perhaps setting aside time for a hobby, having a relaxing bath or taking an hour to read a book in the sun. Take this time to feel those precious baby kicks and dream about this momentous time in your life – you have never deserved it more.

Penny Gray is a freelance editor and writer specialising in beauty, property, parenting, health and lifestyle. She has worked for TVNow, Salon Ireland, Irish Beauty, and was Editor of Maternity & Infant magazine. Most importantly, she is a proud mum of two!