Understanding & Managing Pregnancy Anxiety

During those nine months of pregnancy, every mom-to-be might seem like she’s just glowing from within and is as happy as she can be. However, underneath it all, anxiety is lurking.

Various things might be worrying a new mom, some a bit ridiculous and others completely legitimate. Still, some level of anxiety is completely normal. The thing you really have to worry about is your lack of control over it.

The Most Common Mom-to-Be Worries

Doubt is usually plaguing new moms. If this is their first pregnancy, they’re wondering whether they have what it takes to be a good mother. After all, caring for an infant is not the same as caring for an animal, for example. She will have to pay attention to multiple factors, learn what the baby likes and dislikes, what each type of cry means, etc.

But, even before she gives birth, the mother may wonder about some things that cannot always be explained with biology. It is easy for anxiety to play with her mind and make her worry about something that’s often completely harmless. For example, she might think the baby is kicking too little or too much.

Finally, there’s the “I don’t think I can go through labor” fear that sets in when the end of the pregnancy approaches. Suddenly, labor pains seem frightening, even though the mother already knew about them before getting pregnant.

The moral of the story is — a certain level of anxiety is nothing to be concerned with. Becoming overwhelmed with everything is an entirely different story.

When Does Anxiety Become a Problem?

So, how can you recognize whether anxiety has taken over your life? Well, if you’re not able to focus on everyday tasks, work or home life, know that’s a sign of antenatal anxiety.

Let’s paint a picture here, shall we? Most women would worry about their baby’s health throughout the pregnancy. They want the baby to be born completely healthy, free of congenital disabilities. Additionally, they worry about:

  • being a good parent
  • how other children will react to their new sibling
  • if they’ll have enough money for everything
  • whether their relationship or marriage will change, etc.

Mothers with antenatal anxiety feel all those things too, but at a more extreme level. They are restless and plagued with obsessive thoughts. Suddenly, they’re panicking about all sorts of things and are frightened. Most of all, they are no longer happy or cannot appreciate things that used to spark joy.

Antenatal anxiety is also followed by a myriad of physical symptoms, such as muscle tension and heart palpitations.

Risk Factors

According to statistics, 52% of pregnant women feel depressed and anxious during their pregnancy, and unfortunately, any woman can develop antenatal anxiety. However, some are more susceptible to it.

Women who are more likely to succumb to anxiety during their pregnancies have been previously diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or have had anxiety during their last pregnancy. Furthermore, anxiety might occur if there were any fertility struggles at play or a previous pregnancy loss.

Other risk factors include:

  • Copious amounts of stress, both at work and at home
  • Pregnancy complications that have led to bed rest. Bed rest on its own can cause anxiety, especially if it’s too strict.

Is Anxiety So Bad that You Need to Seek Out Help?

Nowadays, it seems like anxiety has become a staple in everyone’s day-to-day life. Stress at work leads to anxiety on a daily basis, and most people have already learned how to deal with it.

Thus, some moms-to-be might think that the anxiety will go away on its own in due time. They believe that if they hold on for just a bit longer — the baby will lift their mood as soon as it’s born.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a viable scenario. Given that anxiety and depression are closely related, not treating anxiety during pregnancy means that the woman will be more susceptible to postpartum depression later on. Yet, if she learns how to control her anxiety in advance, i.e., before the baby makes an appearance, there will be a smaller chance of her becoming depressed and failing to bond with the baby in those first few months.

But, even if that’s not reason enough to seek treatment, consider the fact that prolonged crushing anxiety can have an impact on the baby too. According to research, if you’re anxious or depressed, you may give birth before your due date. The baby may also have a lower birth weight, as well as behavioral and emotional issues later in life.

Available Treatments

Most of the time, health care providers prescribe anxiety medications to treat pregnant women. These are in the same pharmaceutical family as antidepressants, which makes them a bit dangerous to use.

Of course, no doctor would prescribe something that could harm you or the baby. However, there haven’t been many clinical trials that involve expecting women and the effect these medications can have on them and the babies. As such, the doctor has to weigh the pros and cons, i.e., ensure the benefits trump the risks.

Before taking any medication, your health care provider has to figure out the right dosage. To ensure positive results, the medication should come with the fewest risks possible but still benefit you in some way. Of course, the lowest dosage is the most desirable solution.

If you’ve been on anxiety medication before, or have received treatment for depression and panic attacks before getting pregnant, then the health care provider will simply adjust or change the dose when needed.

Is There Anything Else Moms-to-Be Can Try?

Of course, medication isn’t the only course of treatment the doctor might go for. Sometimes, therapy is enough for the anxiety levels to go down, and it’s usually the best first step you can take.

However, to make sure the treatment is successful, you can supplement it with various things. Above all, you have to pay attention to your anxiety levels and make sure you’re not risking your or the baby’s health. You can do that by:

Following a healthy diet, staying active, and sleeping more

Lack of sleep can only bring your anxiety levels up, so try to get enough zzzs each night. For most women, anywhere from seven to eight hours should be enough. If you cannot sleep, talk to your doctor, as there are some sleeping pills, like Nytol and Tylenol PM, that can be used during pregnancy.

On a different note, leading a healthy lifestyle is imperative, and that includes eating whole, fresh foods to allow healthy bacteria to grow in your gut. Some research suggests this may help reduce anxiety. Additionally, aim to stay as active as possible. Even something as simple as a 10-minute walk is enough to relieve some of the strain.

Setting some time aside for yourself

If you’re not able to relax, you can always try meditation or acupuncture. In any case, even if those aren’t your cup of tea, you ought to set some time aside for yourself. Whether you’ll just listen to music, do some yoga, or get a massage — you need to allocate at least half an hour for mommy needs.

Final Thoughts

You have a maternal instinct inside you. Once the baby is born, the instinct will take over, and you’ll know exactly what to do. However, if you need to feel better right now, remember that knowledge is power.

If you’re worried about your pregnancy or what kind of a parent you’ll be, you have all the information you need at your fingertips. Read books, ask doctors for their opinion, or take a childbirth class. Do whatever it takes for you to feel less anxious about the impending birth.

Additionally, don’t forget that you ought to have a support system. The online world is full of people who are going through the exact same things as you are. Don’t be afraid of exploring it. Try to meet parents or other expecting mothers — it will be easier to cope with anxiety if you’re all in the same boat!

Leave a Comment