When I found out I was pregnant, it was honestly only a matter of hours until I was starting a pregnancy journal! To put that in perspective a little, I had to wait two whole days for my husband to come home from overseas before I could even tell him, so I was avoiding my flatmates and friends (and the temptation of talking about it), and was completely overwhelmed with emotion – I had to get those thoughts out of my head.
I should also disclose, I’m pretty passionate about journalling, I already had my own wedding journal business, and I’ve kept a diary since I was a child, so the momentous occasion of finding out I was pregnant was definitely something I had to record.
However, journalling during pregnancy is something I strongly believe ALL mums-to-be should do, even if you’ve never kept a diary before in your life, and I have a few good reasons why:
The act of journalling actually helps your brain to process information
A well-studied benefit of journalling is that the process of writing something down actually assists your brain’s understanding and clarity. A brain imaging study by UCLA psychologists revealed that expressing feelings, in verbal or written words, reduces activity in the amygdala, the brain’s emotional centre, and engages the thinking brain. This can help with decision making such as life and career choices, but also just enables our brains, and bodies, to cope with an overload of information.
Pregnancy, and especially early pregnancy, is a time when you are very likely to feel overwhelmed, both with the news, and the information you start to consume almost immediately.
When you’re keeping your pregnancy a secret, journalling can really help
The first trimester is often one fraught with emotion, and sometimes anxiety, as pregnancy hormones cause an emotional rollercoaster within your body. One reason for this is that many mums-to-be are keeping their pregnancy a secret at this time. If you usually deal with stressful or emotional experiences by talking to a friend, you may end up feeling alone. Putting feelings into words — whether that is talking with a friend, parent or your partner – or writing them down — helps you feel better.
So, when you’re not yet talking to others about your news, a pregnancy journal is an invaluable tool to regulate your emotions. Similarly, throughout your pregnancy, when you don’t feel like talking to anyone, perhaps for fear of being given unsolicited advice, writing can be your voice, helping to explore and express emotions.
Journalling offers real physical and psychological benefits
Expressive writing has been linked with many physical psychological benefits, such as improved mood, greater well-being, lower stress levels and fewer depressive symptoms, all of which are incredibly beneficial during pregnancy. One study found that simply writing about feelings before a stressful task helped chronic worriers’ brains perform more efficiently.
Lower blood pressure, improved lung and liver functioning, and decreased time spent in the hospital are among the physical benefits, while another study found that journalling about feelings after a traumatic event can actually make physical wounds heal faster.
Keeping a journal will help you to actually remember your pregnancy
Sure, there are some parts of pregnancy we’d probably rather forget (morning sickness, anyone?) but for the most part, it is a beautiful and hugely special journey, and there are so many incredible moments to remember. The act of using a pen or pencil (sorry, typing doesn’t count) to put thoughts on paper can help you retain the information you are writing. Writing a pregnancy journal by hand forces the brain to process information promoting comprehension and retention.
Of course, you’ve probably heard the term ‘baby brain’ already. From forgetfulness to poor decision-making and a lack of concentration, pregnant women have long complained of the total mind-blanks caused by pregnancy. A recent Deakin University study published in the MJA tested the theory, asking women to memorise numbers in a line. Of 709 pregnant women and 521 non-pregnant women, expectant mothers performed worse on tasks measuring attention, decision-making, planning and memory.
As well as jogging your memory along the way, a pregnancy journal means you don’t need to recall each little bit of information – it’s all written down for you to reflect on later. How did you feel when you first found out you were pregnant? What was your first reaction when you saw the ultrasound image of your baby? How would you describe your symptoms.
During your next pregnancy (if you choose to have another baby!) you’ll be able to look back and compare your journey along the way.
How to begin a pregnancy journal
Once you decide to keep a pregnancy journal (and you’re definitely going to, right?) you’ll need to decide whether to start from scratch, or use a custom designed pregnancy journal. Each have their benefits – a custom journal like made with love comes full of journal prompts, checklists and pregnancy journal guides, so all the thinking is done for you, you just have to record your thoughts. However, if you choose to use a plain journal, you’ll have total flexibility about what, when and where to write, and you can write 20 pages about the day you discover your pregnancy, should you wish to!