anxiety in pregnancy

Anxiety in pregnancy is pretty normal up to a certain level. Being pregnant implies lots of big changes coming at the same time.

Not only your body is changing fast and behaving in a different way (as are your emotions!); you also know that once it’s over, the biggest change of all will come: You will become a mother, something that won’t ever change back again.

However, it’s important to discern if we’re experiencing the usual and understandable worries that come with a pregnancy or if our anxiety and stress levels are getting out of control. Anxiety and pregnancy are not a good combination, and there can be consequences for both you and the baby.

Let’s take a closer look at what it means to feel anxiety while pregnant, and how to deal with it.

  

Why do I have anxiety in pregnancy? What’s a normal amount?

Pregnancy anxiety is quite a common affliction: it’s normal to feel overwhelmed for what’s about to come. Will my baby be OK? Will childbirth be too much? Will I be a good mother? Will I be able to provide for my child?

So many questions and doubts, and lots of uncertainty, all combined with the big responsibility we’re soon going to have as mothers. Besides, we also need to control what we eat and what we do: we need to be careful not to fall, we need to rest enough but also to do some exercise, we need to avoid certain foods and to eat other, healthy ones, as we are dealing with pregnancy cravings and food aversions, and all sorts of other annoying symptoms. 

As if that wasn’t enough, we also need to worry about logistics: getting the nursery ready, antenatal classes, buying everything the baby will need… And finally, the emotional instability caused partly by the pregnancy hormones. Of course, it is very normal to feel anxiety in pregnancy. It would be weird not to! In fact, 52% of future mums said they had anxiety in pregnancy or even depression in a study conducted by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. 

However, we need to keep it under control, and not let the multiple changes overwhelm us. The following symptoms may be telling you that you need help dealing with your pregnancy anxiety:

  • You are unable to concentrate;
  • You are unable to carry on with your daily activities without worrying or thinking about what could go wrong;
  • You are panicking and obsessing;
  • Nothing seems to make you happy;
  • You have physical symptoms, such as tension in your muscles or palpitations.

If you recognise yourself it’s time to talk to your partner, family or friends, or even your doctor.

 

Who’s at risk of suffering anxiety in pregnancy?

As we mentioned, pregnancy and motherhood imply such changes that it would be weird not to feel some anxiety in pregnancy, which means that anybody could suffer from it – even if you never had any kind of anxiety issues before. However, you are more likely to suffer if you’ve had an anxiety disorder before, or if you’re experienced it during a previous pregnancy. A personal history of depression in pregnancy is also a risk factor. 

Besides, there are other situations that could lead to you developing anxiety in pregnancy, related to your pregnancy itself. If you’re suffering from a complication or a problem that makes your pregnancy harder, or if you had trouble getting pregnant or suffered a miscarriage, your anxiety levels could also increase greatly.

  

Will my baby be OK? 

Pregnancy and anxiety are not a good combination and, unfortunately, excessive anxiety levels can have an unwanted effect in your baby. Anxiety and stress in pregnancy have been linked to low birth weight and preterm birth. This makes all the more important to keep your anxiety in pregnancy under control.

You need to think about the baby, but you also need to think about yourself. If untreated, anxiety could lead to an even more serious psychological disorder, like depression in pregnancy.

 

How can I deal with anxiety in pregnancy? 

Sometimes, we think that we can deal with anxiety in pregnancy ourselves. Whereas that is sometimes true, if the anxiety levels are manageable, keep in mind that this is a disorder that has several treatment options, and that there are professionals who deal with it. There is professional help available, and you may need it – so don’t discard this option right away.

That said, there are certain things that you can do to control your anxiety in pregnancy, like the following:

  • Be healthy: Eating healthy and having a healthy lifestyle always helps with anxiety, whether you’re pregnant or not.

  • Find a rest and exercise balance: Exercise is very helpful, since it realises endorphins that make you happier. However, it is important to rest too, so try to find a balance.

Sleep is always a must, but it is even more essential if you’re suffering from anxiety in pregnancy. Lack of sleep makes anxiety worse.

 

  • Do what you like: Meet with your friends, spend time in nature, read a book or go to the cinema. Spending time doing what you love will help you be happier and decrease your anxiety.

  • Work less: Stressful jobs or too many tasks can increase your anxiety levels, so be realistic about the amount of work you can handle.

  • Learn: Sometimes, anxiety in pregnancy is related to overthinking about everything that could go wrong with your pregnancy or your baby, or related to fear of childbirth. If that’s your case, try to get reliable information about everything that makes you worry. Learning about it will help you realise why you shouldn’t worry that much.

  • Alternative treatments: yoga, medication and even acupuncture can help deal with anxiety in pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about it.

 

If those don’t help, go to the doctor. Anxiety in pregnancy isn’t your “mood” and you don’t have to just put up with it. Trying to manage it on your own is OK if you still can function, but if the situation doesn’t improve, professional help will do the trick.

Don’t wait until your pregnancy is over, thinking that the arrival of the baby will solve the problem, because unfortunately, it may not. Untreated anxiety in pregnancy can be one of the causes of postnatal depression, and even if it wasn’t – why would you be unhappy during such a magical time if there is help available?

 

Is there a treatment for anxiety in pregnancy?

Yes. Therapy would be the go-to option: talking to a professional will help, since he or she will be able to give you advice on how to feel better and to make you think of the real reasons behind your anxiety.

There is also medication available, although your doctor will wait until being sure that medication is the treatment you need. They will do an analysis of the possible risks and benefits before choosing this court of action. That said, the studies done in the matter haven’t shown long-term side effects on the babies – although it’s necessary to be cautions about it.

 

Dealing with anxiety in pregnancy is necessary for your wellbeing and that of your baby. Try to acknowledge the problem if you have one, and don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you can’t control it.