5 Ways to Optimize Your (Mental) Health During Pregnancy

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, October 25, 2023
By coralgables_admin

By Natalie Peña, Mental Health Counselor, Practicum Intern

Prenatal care tends to focus on what’s best for the baby. Books, doctors, and the internet often tell expecting mothers to prioritize their developing baby’s needs, and some mothers-to-be feel meeting their baby’s needs means neglecting their own.

Studies show that a healthy baby is essential, but so is a healthy mama.

The wellness counseling model suggests that “health” is not limited to the physical body. Instead, ‘health and wellness’ is a dynamic process that involves optimizing and integrating the body, the mind, and the spirit.


Keeping the wellness model in mind, here are 5 tips for expecting mothers who want to optimize their health and feel their best:

  1. Eat for Nutrition.

A pregnant body is going through a lot of changes physically and physiologically. Fluctuating hormones associated with pregnancy can enhance moodiness, mood swings, fatigue, stress, anxiety, and overall emotional discomfort.

Consuming nutrient-dense foods, like fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, legumes, seeds, and whole grains, can help to manage hormonal changes naturally. Alternatively, processed foods like sugary cereals can worsen the hormone roller coaster.

  1. Exercise

Exercise during pregnancy (and any other life stage) is a natural mood booster, anxiety reducer, and sleep agent.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends about 30 minutes of moderate daily exercise. A guideline in defining moderate exercise is the “talk test,” where you want to speak three-to-five-word sentences while exercising.

If you are curious about the types of exercise that are best for you during pregnancy, consult your doctor for specific recommendations.

  1. Experiencing Symptoms of Depression? Talk to Someone.

Moodiness during pregnancy is normal, but if an expecting mother begins experiencing symptoms of depression, then it’s essential to speak to someone.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Having a depressed mood for most of the day, nearly every day, for two weeks or more.
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or hopelessness.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most activities during the day, nearly every day, for two weeks or more.
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating.
  • Psychomotor agitation (restlessness, fidgeting, handwringing, tapping)

Neglecting these emotions or trying to hide them may interfere with an expecting mother’s ability to care for themselves, meet their needs, and get good sleep. Symptoms of depression also increase the likelihood of substance use during pregnancy.

To connect with a mental health professional at the Coral Gables Counseling Center, call (305) 445-0477.

  1. Practice Mindfulness

Mothers-to-be typically don’t spend their entire pregnancy glowing and excitedly anticipating the future. Many expecting mamas are stressed, anxious, and afraid of what’s to come.

Cultivating moment-to-moment awareness is a great, natural way for pregnant women to reduce stress, combat anxiety, and boost positive feelings.

(Studies have also linked mindfulness practices to reducing premature birth.)

Examples of mindfulness practices include body scanning, breath-focused attention, progressive muscle relaxation, and walking meditation.

  1. Rest

Contemporary Western society stresses the importance of a “go-getter” culture. Women (and men) are expected to perform, produce, and provide.

In a culture that minimizes the importance of rest and recovery, transitioning from a fast-paced lifestyle to the slower demands of pregnancy is complex and may feel like an adjustment.

Pregnancy is an opportunity to reframe our interpretation of “rest” and “hustle” and connect with one’s innermost needs.

Rest allows for cultivating insight and deepening the relationship one has with oneself. Consequently, embracing the time to rest may enhance the overall quality of life during pregnancy and afterward.



“We have a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.” – Laura Stavoe Harm