Jane Sandwood only recently admitted her depression and took steps to accept it and overcome it after years struggling through her professional career and early years as a mother and a wife.
Here Jane talks about the positive effects of exercise on mental health before, during, and after pregnancy.
Having bad days when I was by myself was one thing, having them when living with my husband was another. As I got into exercise while trying to hide my depression from my partner, from friends, and from my family, I realized that keeping fit was not only making me happier – releasing the endorphins I mentioned before, but was something I needed to do for the future family I wanted to build with my hubby.
Facing up to having children, maintaining a relationship, and work was something which scared the life out of me. For a while I fell out of exercising again, fell into depression and almost confessed all, but then, maybe unfairly, I thought to myself that he might never want to have a family with someone who is depressed. So, I thought, I can get through this and I can get myself in the best shape for my kids.
How Fitness Helps Expectant Mothers
Before doing anything, I like to research it and do it right. It’s how I’ve always been. I refused to speak a word of Spanish in school until I had the grammar nailed down and enough words in my vocabulary to sound half-decent. I did not want to be someone who bumbled around bouncing off mistakes until something kinda worked – for me, it has to be done right.
So the first thing I looked up was what effects does exercise have on pregnant mothers. I found that it can lead to easier pregnancies, easier labors, good psychology, good postpartum for the mother, and actually healthier babies. Here’s a few things I learned about exercising:
The list is pretty positive and it gave me optimism that I could be ok and that my children would be ok too. When you are depressed, you worry about a lot of things and one of those is being a bad mother, bad friend, bad daughter or bad wife/partner. A lot of it is perhaps unfounded, but you feel it anyway.
The Right Muscles to Build Up
First things first, it is vital to note that safety comes first, so always speak to your doctor first about what exercises and sports are ok. Serena Williams kept playing tennis while in her first trimester while some non-contact sports are ok into the second. However, in the third trimester things need to quieten down, while certain types of workouts and sports are totally off limits when pregnant.
Knowing what I knew from working out and its benefits to me, I decided that I wanted to be in the right shape mentally and physically for our attempts to start a family. We set some financial targets before beginning to try and I set myself some physical ones which brings me to the most important rule of working out while pregnant:
You are trying to maintain your body, not build it.
It’s good to have your upper and lower body in shape; especially abs, shoulders, back, legs, and floor. You’re going to be carrying additional weight for over half a year, so if your body is built a bit more beforehand, you can cope with it more easily. While pregnant, I found that simple exercises were good from lifting small hand weights, to walking, swimming, and a few gym workouts which were slow and steady, and avoided risks to me and my baby.
You’re Not Eating for Two
Don’t forget diet and hydration. These are both good for depression too, but essential for being a mom-to-be. It’s key to remember that while you have a baby inside you, you’re not eating for two. Many people use this as an excuse to just eat more and do less, which is not good for them or their babies. Eat regularly, drink plenty of water, have balanced meals, and only increase your calorie intake by 300 per day.
Now we’ve had 2 beautiful daughters, I have struggled again since. My last piece was about overcoming it on a longer term basis, which meant talking to my husband about my depression, and finding regular ways to exercise. At first, having children was exhilarating, but it got on top of me and the depression did return. There were many low moments before turning the corner and learning to cope with it a little more. I know it’s there in the background, but with support and the right attitude, I think it’s going to be ok.