How Pregnant and Postpartum Women Cope with Stressful Events

(Published on 12/2019)

In face of the arrival of baby, expectant mothers need to adjust to physical and role changes; they also need to face family and work challenges following delivery.  Therefore, they are more susceptible to fluctuations in mood throughout all stages.  If pregnant and postpartum women encounter additional environmental stressors, such as ongoing social unrest, their emotions may be affected.  For example, expectant mothers may have disputes with their family members or friends due to different perspectives; or they may worry about the impact of the environment on their fetus, or even worry about if their child could grow up in a stable social environment, etc.  All of these may affect mothers' mood.  Without appropriate emotion regulation strategies, the negative mood would persist and may result in emotional disturbances.

While we may not have full control over what is happening around us, it is feasible to take good care of ourselves.  Research shows that women with healthy mental well-being will be more capable to cope with the emotional and physical changes during pregnancy and the stress in baby care.  We hope to introduce some self-help tips to expand expectant mothers' stress coping resources throughout pregnancy and after delivery, to better cope with the stress triggered by ongoing social events.

Self-Care Tips

General self-help tips for pregnant and postpartum women who feel mildly distressed:

  • Take care of your basic needs, e.g. maintaining a balanced diet, having adequate rest and sleep.
  • Spare time for leisure activities, e.g. going for a walk or calling friends whom you trust and can share with.
  • When you have different opinions with your partner, relatives or friends, consider taking patience to understand each other's perspectives.  Furthermore, you may try to identify the underlying needs and feelings (e.g. worry, helplessness) of the other party, or to find common concern between you and the other party (e.g. shared values or things).  Despite different perspectives, you can still show care to each other and maintain the relationship.
  • Limit exposure to social media images and/or news which may trigger mood swings, even though you are concerned about the heated social issues.
  • Reach out for support from other family members for household chores and/or childcare help whenever possible.
  • Practice relaxation exercise, e.g. progressive muscle relaxationdiaphragmatic breathingmindful breathing, or guided imagery (only available in Cantonese), etc.

Warning Signs of Significant Distress

In general, it is normal for people to have various emotional responses to changes in life. However, if pregnant and postpartum women have significant adjustment difficulty and persistent psychological reactions that interfere with daily life, e.g. frequent crying spells, emotional swings, irritability, difficulty in enjoying pleasurable activities, hopelessness, etc., professional help is warranted. She may consult family doctor, obstetrician or healthcare professionals of a nearby Maternal and Child Health Centre whenever deemed necessary, for arranging timely referrals to appropriate specialist and/or community services.

For pregnant and postpartum women who had been exposed to tear gas with persistent symptoms should promptly consult healthcare professionals.

For advice on breastfeeding relating to tear gas, please visit the website of the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health.

For advice on how to help toddlers and preschoolers cope with stressful events, please visit the website of the Family Health Service of the Department of Health.

For advice on how to enhance mental well-being of children and adolescence, please visit the website of the Student Health Service of the Department of Health.

For advice on food safety relating to tear gas or other substances , please visit the website of the Centre for Food Safety of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.