How the presence of a dog during pregnancy affects mental health

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If you have ever owned a pet, you already know how much fun and affection they can bring. But did you know that pets also come with some pretty powerful mental and physical health benefits? Dogs in particular can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health. If you are concerned about the possible negative side-effects of owning a dog during pregnancy, worry not – the presence of a dog can only benefit you – not harm in any way.

It gets you out and about

Most women experience cravings during pregnancy, and they allow themselves to eat more (and more unhealthy foods) during this time which can lead to obesity. Regardless of the popular words of encouragement you may get from your environment such as ‘oh, eat it, you are eating for two’, this is not actually the healthiest nor the best advice you can get. According to WebMd  the average pregnant woman needs only about 300 healthy calories more a day than she did before she was pregnant, and consequently, the optimal amount of weight a pregnant woman should gain is between 25 to 35 pounds. This brings us to the conclusion that, while you may indulge a craving or two from time to time, it is important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet in order to avoid obesity during pregnancy.

The second most important thing for mums-to-be is to remain or start being active, and this is where your furry friend steps in. The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children conducted on the effects of dog ownership during pregnancy concluded that pregnant women who had dogs were more active, than those who did not own dogs. As walking is a low-risk exercise, it is a great way to get moving without exposing yourself to health risks that could be brought on by more strenuous types of exercise. The study also found that dog owners are 57% more likely to achieve the recommended level of physical activity than the ones who do not own a dog. This means that if you have a furry companion, you are more likely to get out and about, which is important as it is well known that physical health improves mental health.

Exercise, any type of exercise, even the low-risk and low-impact forms such as brisk walking have been known to improve mood, reduce stress, improve body image and these are only a few of the psychological benefits. By getting you out of the house, your dog is indirectly giving you a major boost of self-esteem; helping you reduce stress and making you feel more confident about what is yet to come. As a future mum, your mind must be spinning with questions and worries on how you will handle it all. This is especially the case if you are about to become a mum for the first time. In the spirit of taking care of yourself and getting ready for the days to come,you can get useful information from trained professionals. Ask all your questions that have been twirling around your mind, get all the information you need, and put your mind at ease. Then go home and resume cuddling and playing with your pet.

Patience and responsibility

dog during pregnancyAside from being cute, affectionate and an embodiment of unconditional love, dogs are a big responsibility. You need to take them to the vet to make sure they are healthy, get them all the right shots, proper dog supplies, the right food, give them baths and regular walks – which is actually great practice for a baby. True, babies are a much larger responsibility than a dog, but if you are a dog-owner you are more likely to have a nurturing, almost maternal instincts already developed, because it is known how much a pet can be loved. So, by caring for a living creature you are actually preparing yourself psychologically to care for a tiny human being. This brings us to the conclusion that you are more likely to be prepared for parenting than those who never fully experienced what it means to own and take care of another creature before.

Sometimes they poop on the floor or chew on your favourite shoe, but that only teaches you love and patience. Besides, with the amount of perks and benefits they bring upon – psychological, physical, emotional, who cares about a chewed shoe? Owning a dog is great, so if you already have a pet, cherish it and love it back.

Author bio: Olivia Williams Jones is psychologist and entrepreneur from Brisbane. Mother of two beautiful children and proud owner of two silly boxer dogs, Teo and Mia. She is passionate about writing and always inspiring her readers to be clever in their lives. She is also a regular author at High Style Life.

All images from https://pixabay.com/

 

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