Anxiety during pregnancy was not something that you had on your agenda for the 9 months that your new family member is growing inside you. However you are not alone, and many women experience anxiety in pregnancy. Did you know that between 5 and 16% of women experience some type of anxiety disorder either during pregnancy or post partum? Also that 10% of pregnant women experience anxiety attacks?
1. Anxiety During Pregnancy Is Not A Big Surprise
Of course anxiety during pregnancy is not a big surprise, as there are umpteen new things to think about, such as:
- What you eat and drink during your pregnancy
- How your lifestyle is generally during your pregnancy, stress levels, exercise, nutrition, work etc.
- Being a new parent
- Will you be a good parent?
- Will you make the same mistakes that you feel your parents made?
- Will you be as good a parent as your parents, your siblings and your friends?
- Will your baby be perfectly healthy?
- How will this new life affect your relationship (if you are in a relationship)?
- How this new baby will affect your life if you are going to be a single parent?
- Will your finances be stable enough not to add extra stress?
And the list goes on, with each woman having her own concerns, and additionally the father will have his also.
2. But Anxiety Can Sometimes Take Over
However for some women anxiety levels rise so much that they take over their normal ability to function. This can occur for some for some of the following reasons:
- Life events that have taken a certain toll
- Personality is more disposed to anxiety
- Brain chemistry
If you feel that you are rather anxious, depending on how extreme it is, it may be advisable to seek the help of your healthcare team. As these feelings can make coping more challenging, it is better to get a professional opinion, that may put your mind at rest, than worry about this, on top of everything else that is making you anxious. Even though you may feel as a woman that you don’t want to better your doctor, he or she is far more experienced at spotting whether your anxiety patterns are of a regular level or whether they have spiralled out of control and some type of help is required.
3. Let’s Look At Some Signs That You May Be Having An Anxiety Attack
- You could have trouble thinking
- Maybe you have chest pains
- You may experience shortness of breath
- You may feel faint or dizzy
- You may feel light-headed
- Your heartbeat may become rapid
- There could be tingling or weakness in your muscles or legs
If you have some or any of these signs you should contact your doctor immediately, and not consider that you are over-reacting or being stupid.
4. How May Anxiety Attacks Affect Your Unborn Baby?
Medical News Today carried out a study on this subject, and concluded that anxiety could affect your unborn baby in the following ways:
- Acting out
- Anxiety issues
- Attention deficit
The Emory University School of Medicine also studies the potential effects of maternal anxiety and stress in pregnancy, and here are some of their conclusions:
- Miscarriage risk can increase
- Baby may weigh less
- There can be a higher likelihood of preterm birth
- Temperamental problems
- Infant may be fussier
- Attention problems
- Emotional reactivity
- Lower mental development scores
- Girls behavioural issues
- Boys and girls can have emotional problems
- Hyperactivity in boys
- Attention levels reduced in boys
The next two sections will look at how you can manage anxiety levels during pregnancy and how to cope if you are dealing with more severe anxiety.
5. How To Manage Anxiety During Pregnancy
- Learn to put yourself first – you are not being selfish, you are taking care of yourself and a new person, who is growing inside you
- It’s time to say no – I know it may be difficult, but being a people pleaser is part of many woman’s personalities, but this won’t do you any favours if you are feeling anxious. Categorise what you can say no to, and you will feel better.
- Take you time – it’s time to find time to relax, read, soak in the bath, walk in nature, whatever is relaxation and you time for you. There’s no need to feel guilty, your doing it for your baby’s health and for your own health.
- Try yoga, qi gong, meditation or some deep breathing – all of which reduce anxiety.
- Regular gentle exercise is also a great help.
- Don’t overdo it with taking in information – information overload can increase anxiety.
- Maybe join a support group – be with like-minded people, or women who are also pregnant – this is very therapeutic.
6. What To Do If Your Anxiety Levels Are Taking Over Or Are Heading That Way
- Immediately seek the advice of your doctor – don’t wait any longer, don’t make excuses, don’t feel bad, just do it. Getting expert help is a must at this time.
- The first three months are especially challenging, but they are also so important for baby, so don’t wait for things to settle down, go to your doctor.
- You may not wish to take medication, and this is understandable. There are other options.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy may be the route your doctor advises and this is very effective for many women.
- There is an extensive range of techniques to help you relax, and this is another route that your doctor may take.
The most important thing to do now is not to feel alone, if you have someone close to you – your partner, a family member or friend – confide in them and of course seek medical advice.
Even if your anxiety levels are nothing special, you can still consider relaxation techniques, as everything you do for yourself now is affecting your unborn baby. Some women also like to use treatments such as aromatherapy and reflexology. If you decide to try a treatment, always ensure that the practitioner is well qualified and ideally specialises in treating pregnant women. Watch out for our next blog on reflexology for anxiety during pregnancy – that may be of interest to you.