How To Reduce Anxiety During Pregnancy 7 Helpful Tips
We are currently in a time when people are experiencing heightened rates of anxiety during pregnancy. Our goal is to share helpful information, without being triggering. The reason for social distancing is not addressed in this article.
This content is in no way a replacement for medical advice. If you are in crisis, call 911 or your care provider immediately.
Congratulations on your pregnancy! Im guessing youre reading this article because youre currently experiencing excessive worry or are wanting to learn about reducing anxiety during pregnancy.
The truth is, everyone will experience some level of stress and anxiety during pregnancy.
You are not alone.
Anxiety can be magnified to the point of feeling unbearable, especially when things are difficult in the world.
Again, you are not alone!
Lets start by identifying what anxiety is and the symptoms.
According to the American Psychological Association, Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.
Anxiety symptoms can include feeling irritable, worried, having a sense of dread, difficulty falling or staying asleep, and finding it hard to focus or concentrate due to the distraction of excessive worry.
Now that you know how to identify anxiety, lets talk about how to reduce it while youre pregnant!
Talk To Your Anxious Thoughts
Are you giving me side-eye for this one? Trust me I get it. I used to think this sounded ridiculous. Until I tried it and learned the power it really has.
When your thoughts start spiraling, try to understand why theyre there. Then, ask yourself a question: can I take any action that will be effective in helping with this problem?
Then, talk to your thought. Thank it for coming. Recognize its there to try to protect you. Tell it what youre going to do to take action .
Then, say, Now theres nothing effective left to do, so Im going to release you. I understand you may visit again, and we can repeat this conversation when you do. Then imagine it floating away.
Yes, it will come back. When it does, imagine that it floated back to you, and repeat the process.
I constantly worry about whether my baby is safe inside me. At 29 weeks, I still have this thought regularly.
Lets say shes been moving regularly, but I have spiraling thoughts that shes not okay because she hadnt moved by 9 am, despite moving normally the night before.
When I start worrying that baby is not okay, I ask myself what I can do that will be effective. I have tons of thoughtsuse the doppler, call my OB, go to labor & delivery for a non-stress test.
But because I have no reason to worry , none of these things will effectively impact the actual situation.
So I tell my thought:
What Is Antenatal Anxiety
Anxiety is more than feeling anxious about a specific situation it occurs when feelings of being anxious and stressed dont go away, cant be controlled easily, and come on without any particular reason. Excessive worry and the stress of anxiety can start to have a serious impact on your life.
Anxiety is one of the most common types of mental health problem in Australia, and your chances of developing it are greater when youre pregnant. However, its often missed and the symptoms are put down to hormones, being over-organised, or as just a normal part of being pregnant.
Antenatal anxiety might involve you developing one or more of the following conditions during pregnancy, or your symptoms might get worse while youre pregnant:
- generalised anxiety
- panic disorder
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- social phobia
If you already have an anxiety disorder or you are someone who worries a lot, you may be at greater risk of developing anxiety during pregnancy. If you already have an anxiety disorder, its important to seek treatment early on in the pregnancy to make sure you and your baby receive the right care.
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How Can You Manage Anxiety During Pregnancy
- By Stephanie Collier, MD, MPH, Contributor
Pregnancy is an exciting time. You will soon become a parent to an adorable, tiny human. You may expect to experience the rollercoaster of emotions during pregnancy, or emotions may catch you off guard. Some women feel joy at every flutter or kick, marveling at their changing bodies. For other women, pregnancy is hard, giving no reprieve as it brings severe fatigue, mood changes, and constant worries. You may notice that with every passing month, your thoughts are spiraling out of control, affecting your performance at work and your relationships at home. But how do you manage your anxiety, and should you treat it?
Getting Past Fears If Youve Previously Experienced A Loss
While anxiety during pregnancy can be common, if you’re pregnant with a rainbow baby after youve experienced a miscarriage or loss, your likelihood of anxiety or depression increases, affecting as many as 64% of women even two years later.
The anxiety is real, confirms Rachel Rabinor, LCSW, PMH-C, a therapist who runs a practice focused on pregnancy, parenting, loss and postpartum. Though the reality is its very unlikely that youll miscarry a second timeand nothing you did caused the miscarriage the first time around.
Many women find relief after passing the week of their previous loss, shares Rabinor. And especially after completing the first trimester the likelihood significantly drops after that point.
Some of the expert-recommended ways to manage anxiety if youve experienced miscarriage before are below, along with bringing support to each of your scans, setting milestones for yourself, journaling, connecting with others whove had similar experiences and allowing yourself to feel whatever comes up for you.
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Be Informed On Anxiety During Pregnancy
Knowledge is power and can help to reduce your anxiety! From taking an online childbirth education class to getting all of your questions answered by your care provider be informed.
You dont have to miss out on having access to a quality childbirth education if youre stuck at home. There are many online courses you can take by reviewing this helpful resource Online Education for Pregnant People
As a special offer, you can use coupon code 30off to get 30% off the My Plus Size Pregnancy Guide that will answer all of your questions about being plus size and pregnant.
Were ending this resource on how to reduce anxiety during pregnancy as we started it, with a reminder that you are not alone! Please reach out for help if you need it and be kind to yourself.
Youre doing all you can, and thats enough.
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
What Are The Signs Of Anxiety In Pregnancy
Symptoms of perinatal anxiety disorder run a wide range, and some overlap with other PMADs, especially depression, OCD, and PTSD.
If at all possible, please seek help instead of trying to diagnose and treat yourself.
But if youre here, chances are youre wondering if you need to seek treatment. Although many of the symptoms do align with my personal experience, we only trust professionals when determining what you need to look out for.
Signs of pregnancy anxiety or postpartum anxiety include, but are not limited to:
- Extreme nervousness
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Have A Support System
Along with having your care provider on speed dial, you need a support system!
As much as youre comfortable, talk about your anxiety with any adults in your home. This way, theyll be able to assist you if you have a panic attack or need additional support to calm your fears.
Who do you have in your inner circle beyond those in your home? You might feel like you dont want to burden anyone, but those who love you dont see you as a burden.
Were all in this together, and many of us want to be there for one another. Reach out!
If your goal is to create a support system on social media, be cautious about Facebook pregnancy and mom groups. These groups can be a neat opportunity to develop life-long friendships, but they can also be extremely toxic spaces. Smaller groups are often better, as well as groups that have a strong admin team in place.
If spending time online starts to make you feel anxious, weve got you covered below with helpful tips for remaining connected to others while social distancing so keep reading!
Options To Manage Anxiety During Pregnancy
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions we treat at UT Southwestern’s Psychiatry and Psychology Department.
The three types we see most often during pregnancy include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder, which involves persistent, excessive worry about life in general: money, family, work, and so on. Nearly 10% of pregnant women may experience GAD, particularly during their first trimester. Women are twice as likely as men to develop GAD, which can cause nervousness, a sense of impending doom, and trouble concentrating.
- Panic disorder causes sudden bouts of overwhelming fear or dread. Also commonly referred to as panic attacks, the conditions related symptoms include weakness, sweating, and irregular heartbeat. Some patients can identify specific triggers for panic attacks, while others have them out of the blue.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, affects approximately 1% of U.S. adults and its most common symptoms involve obsessive thoughts and compulsive motions. A patient may experience distressing thoughts, which they try to resolve by doing ritualistic actions. For example, touching their nose 10 times or doing a task “just right,” no matter how long it takes.
While anxiety is not as immediately threatening as depression, it can be debilitating and you deserve to feel happy and healthy. The pandemic has the potential to magnify these feelings, so expectant moms should consider accessing these effective, pregnancy-safe treatment options.
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Pregnancy Anxiety Heres How To Keep Calm And Carry On
Pregnancy is a time of overwhelming emotionssome anxiety is normal! Use these four indispensable tips to keep calm so you can enjoy this magical time
If youre pregnant and experiencing anxiety, youre in good company. Approximately 60% of women will feel significant pregnancy anxiety at some point. This includes both mental components, like worrying about worst-case scenarios and riding extreme mood swings, and physical components like feeling tension and having a hard time relaxing into sleep.
Pregnancy is amazing. In 40 weeks, two cells go from just meeting each other to having turned into a tiny human. For some, having a baby is a surprise, and for others, the result of a long and arduous journey to conception. For some, its a terrifying prospect for others, its something they were born ready to do. For everyone, the experience is unique.
The weeks when youre expecting a child are a special time full of change. For a pregnant woman, the amount of physical, mental, and existential changes that happen in such a short time can be dizzying. Im expecting my first baby in February 2020. For me, its been a mix of emotions all happening on top of seismic changes in my body. During a process as life-changing as this, its easy to feel overwhelmed.
Further Help And Support
For additional help with anything related to parenting and your mental health try one of the following resources:
- Samaritans: free, 24/7 emotional support to anyone in distress.
- Tommyâs: support for parents-to-be providing info and research.
- Cry-sis: support for parents with crying and sleepless babies
- NCT: charity for parents through your pregnancy, birth and beyond.
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Prioritize Getting Out In Nature
Spending time in nature has been proven to have significant healing effects, improving mood, mental health and emotional well-being.
In particular, exposure to sunlight boosts vitamin D levels, which has several benefits including helping lower blood pressure, lowering the risk for type 2 diabetes, strengthening the immune system and improving energy levels.
Even getting out for 10 minutes can completely turn around your day, says Rabinor. It can be as simple as going out for a walk and putting your feet in the sand or grass. Ideally you live near nature, but even if not, go to the nearest park or walk around the block and youll still get some of the benefits just being outside. Whatever you can do and fit in can help.
This is your sign to take that break for yourself. You and your health will feel better for it.
Should I See A Mental Health Specialist
Only mental health care providers are trained to treat psychiatric disorders, and only perinatal certified providers have the proper training to treat perinatal-specific mood disorders. Often, people who approach their OBGYNs about PMADs are left feeling like they werent taken seriously.
In many cases, its likely not that the doctor doesnt care about the patients wellbeing, but instead that they dont necessarily have the resources to treat this particular pregnancy complication.
What they hopefully do have is a list of providers who have successfully supported other moms, so theyre definitely a good resource.
To find a perinatal psychologist or psychiatrist, use the Find a Provider tool from Postpartum Support International. If you need a therapist outside of pregnancy and postpartum, check out how to find a therapist.
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Tips For Reducing Stress During Pregnancy
If you are pregnant, it is likely that you will experience stress at some point. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help yourself better cope with stress when it does come up. Taking care of your body and mind and seeking support and education are helpful ways that you can combat the impact of stress during your pregnancy.
Whats The Treatment For Anxiety In Pregnancy
Your midwife or GP will talk to you about all your options and the pros and cons of each treatment. Whats best for you will depend on things like:
- how bad your symptoms are
- what has help you in the past
- what services are available locally.
Anxiety, phobias and panic attacks are usually treated using self-help treatments based on cognitive behavioural therapy .
“I didn’t think CBT would work but I found it so helpful. I had a little guide book so if I was feeling anxious at work or at home, I could refer to it for tips and pointers to get me through certain situations.
If you need more help you may be referred to a specialist mental health team for pregnant women. You may also be offered therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness and applied relaxation with a professional therapist. You may also be offered medication, such as antidepressants.
Find out more about treatment and support for mental health.
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Create Your Own Metaphor To Explain Your Emotions To Others
People who havent been in your shoes likely dont understand, and if Im being honest, that makes your life a lot harder. But if someone is important to have in your life during this time, find a metaphor to help them understand how youre feeling.
Think of it this way. Anxiety is an abstract concept, so if someone hasnt experienced it, it can be hard for them to understand. By explaining your emotions through an example they can imagine in more concrete terms, youll not only help them understand, but youll also help them support you.
For my family, this metaphor is football. You can read about the entire metaphor in-depth in our articles on dealing with pregnancy after miscarriage, but Ill give you the short gist in an example here.
When Im pregnant, I take it one step at a time. Im usually not comfortable looking beyond the next ultrasound or major milestone. So I used football as a metaphor to explain this during my pregnancy with Jack.
A healthy, crying babythat was the end zone. That was my touchdown. Everything up to that point was just a step toward hopefully getting there. Good test results were a first down. Smaller victories were good plays where we gained some yardage.
But until I was in the end zone, I wasnt ready to celebrate, and I never wanted to look beyond the next play.
Admit How Youre Feeling To Others
Did you know that keeping your fears or experiences secret can exacerbate your emotions? I only want you to be as open about what youre experiencing as youre going to be comfortable with, but I also want to encourage you to share as appropriate.
When I started having panic attacks, I was mortified and didnt want anyone to know. But the reality was that I couldnt hide them, so I developed an unhealthy fear of social situations because I was afraid Id have a panic attack in front of people who didnt understand.
I didnt immediately jump on social media and share that I was panicking, but I did confide in my closest friends and family members. I told them what I was experiencing and that I had begun therapy and using medication, but that it was a very hard time and to please give me grace if I wasnt my usual self.
As a result, I actually saw my panic attacks decrease both in number and severity. It turns out the constant fear of panic led to significantly more panic.
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You Could Also Try A Self
- Overcoming Anxiety by Helen Kennerley
- Overcoming Anxiety, Stress and Panic: A Five Areas Approach by Chris Williams
- Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers
- Overcoming Panic and Agoraphobia by Derrick Silove and Vijaya Manicavasagar
- Panic Attacks: What They Are, Why They Happen and What You Can Do About Them by Christine Ingram
- An Introduction to Coping with Phobias by Brenda Hogan