Living with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during pregnancy can be scary. Pregnancy can be an overwhelming experience for anyone; for women with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), being pregnant can be joyful, stressful, and even frightening. Additionally, there is not much information to be found on how PTSD symptoms can impact pregnancy, leaving many women with more questions than answers (Effects of Psychiatric Medications During Pregnancy). Understanding your diagnosis and maintaining a strong support system can help counter the uncertainties that come about when you’re pregnant and living with PTSD.
PTSD Symptoms During Pregnancy
The few studies that exist related to PTSD and pregnancy are mixed. Some say women with PTSD experience fewer symptoms when expecting, while others cite higher risk of complications due to PTSD. However, the studies do acknowledge that PTSD symptoms during pregnancy require treatment and care just as much as the pregnancy itself.
My Experience with PTSD During Pregnancy
When I was expecting my first child, I experienced a major depressive episode related to my PTSD. I went into preterm labor. After significant work with my therapist while in the maternity ward, we discovered a crucial piece to my recovery. I knew I was committing my heart to someone that I would love unconditionally. Someone that I was already afraid I might lose someday. I was silently obsessing about all of the mistakes I could make, imagining all of my worst parental nightmares (Relationship Between Depression and Anxiety).
My anxiety had led to depression and I had lost the ability to think rationally about my pregnancy. Once we figured this out, it was much easier to address the facts and stop my spiral of unrealistic fears. I was able to work with my specialists to find a safe course of treatment, return home and finish my pregnancy on bedrest.
Self-Care During Pregnancy with PTSD
Without attention to my self-care from the start of pregnancy, I had not noticed the warning signs that my mental health was beginning to deteriorate (Early Warning Signs of Mental Illness). Here are a few things I wish I had done, and you can do if you’re living with PTSD and pregnant.
- Coordinate your prenatal and psychiatric treatment during pregnancy. While my psychiatrist knew I was pregnant, he didn’t know I had stopped taking my antidepressant medications at the recommendation of my physician. My obstetrician knew I had taken antidepressants, but did not know I experienced PTSD. I never shared information between the two specialists and this made it difficult to put appropriate treatments in place when needed.
- Discuss your pregnancy and PTSD with family and friends. I needed the safety net of a support network that loved and understood me. Keeping my concerns bottled up was not going to help me through pregnancy. Opening up to others was a tremendous source of strength for me.
- Set realistic expectations based on your mental and physical wellness. It is amazing how many things I learned to let go. Dishes can wait; phone calls can wait; shopping can wait. Sleep became extremely pivotal to my health.
If you or a loved one experiencing PTSD is expecting, consider taking some time to plan for the possible impact PTSD symptoms might have during pregnancy. If you feel comfortable, please share your pregnancy stories, successes, and concerns with us.