Journaling During Pregnancy
For many women, pregnancy is a time where everything in life seems amplified. Your body starts doing amazing and odd things, your hunger and cravings increase, and your awareness of what it means to bring a baby into the world and into your life starts to expand.
When you’re doing everything you can to help your baby be born healthy, it’s also a time where a lot of women struggle and have trouble expressing their feelings. This time, when your pregnancy hormones are flowing, it can be overwhelming. It has been shown by a recent analysis by the CDC that the rate of pregnant women struggling with depression increased seven times from 2000-2015.
Add in a worldwide pandemic and concerns about vaccinations for pregnant moms, well, you can see why pregnant women need every tool at their disposal during pregnancy to protect their mental health.
Removing the Stigma
Mental health check-ins need to be normalized in pregnancy. Just like you take prenatal vitamins every day, you should also be able to recognize some symptoms of depression while pregnant. These are:
- Feelings of hopelessness that lasts more than a little while
- Feelings of guilt that you cannot shake
- Feelings of irritability or restlessness that persist
- A notable loss of energy
- Problems concentrating, recalling details, or a sudden inability to make decisions.
- Overeating or loss of appetite, and nothing sounds good.
- Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts.
If you feel any of these symptoms, no matter how mild, contact your provider.
Journaling: A Bridge from Before to After
If you’ve never journaled before, you might be surprised to hear that it can be very therapeutic and healing for many people. A psychological experiment conducted by Pennebake and Beall in 1986 was one of the first studies about journaling. Forty-six young and healthy adults spent 15 minutes a day writing about a past traumatic event for 4 days and found that they had fewer health care visits for the next six months. That’s pretty powerful!
Journaling doesn’t have to be about processing the bad things that have happened in the past. It can also be about processing things to come or chronicle a specific event in your life, and pregnancy is one of the most important you’ll encounter.
Journaling in pregnancy can help you process all those “big feelings,” fears, and elation that happens. It’s also a great time to record those crazy pregnancy dreams you have and make notes of any changes you feel in your body.
If you’re concerned about triggers that upset you or cause you mental distress, a journal is a great place to record them so that the next time you see your practitioner, you have written documentation of when it happened and what kind of state of mind you were in.
Looking back on your journals can also be helpful if you have subsequent pregnancies. It’s amazing how much you forget!
Good Days and Bad Days
During your pregnancy, you will have many ups and downs. Seeing those days in writing helps you see the narrative you’ve been living and reflect on if there are reasons for the bad days. It can help you organize your spiraling thoughts and increase your self-awareness and sense of control when your body is seemingly growing on its own accord!
Identifying and recording gratitude can help you shift from negative thoughts and anxiety. Some practical and simple ways to do this are:
- Email/text/video message your friends or loved ones 2-3 things that you are grateful for every day
- Record a few things in a gratitude journal each day
- Identify anxious or negative thoughts and then record a few positives about the situation or person
- Remember that gratitude can be for big things or little things...like the fact that you’re growing a human or fuzzy socks!
How Our Brains Process Journaling
Journaling helps us process our experiences. It can help us be more insightful about how we experience things, how we process memories, even our own feelings. It's also great for stimulating the right part of the brain, which is responsible for our creativity, our expression of things, and it helps us to be more in tune with ourselves. Journaling during pregnancy is a great way to remember the experience by, to look back on what is your little book of memories of how you were feeling, what was going on during those nine months.