Tips To Calm Anxiety While Pregnant
While medication is one solution to anxiety disorders, it certainly isnt the only one. In fact, going to therapy sessions with a psychologist, psychiatrist or counselor is usually the first and best way to help pinpoint whats causing your anxiety and develop a plan to help you ease your worries or learn relaxation techniques.
The following anxiety-alleviating strategies can help too:
From the What to Expect editorial team and Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. What to Expect follows strict reporting guidelines and uses only credible sources, such as peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and highly respected health organizations. Learn how we keep our content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial policy.
What Should I Do If I Took A Less Preferred Anxiety Medication Before I Knew I Was Pregnant
If you took a less-preferred anxiety medication before realizing you were pregnant, contact your healthcare provider right away. You can talk with them about the concerns you have. They may recommend an ultrasound to look for any problems depending on the situation. Or, they might recommend medication changes to help lower the risk of complications.
If youre unable to reach your healthcare provider, you can visit the MotherToBaby website or call them toll-free at . MotherToBaby is a group of experts who specialize in medication use during pregnancy. They also have text, email, and live chat options to talk with someone when your provider is unavailable.
Limit Your News And Social Media Intake
For many people, its hard to stay off social media. We want to connect with friends and family, especially since we cant be together in person right now.
But if the constant stream of political or pandemic news causes you stress, stop scrolling. Instead, watch one scheduled news segment to get a synopsis. You’ll be up to date without going down the rabbit hole of infuriating comments on social media.
In the same spirit, be mindful of what you can and can’t control. We all feel passionate about certain causes, such as racial equality, saving the environment, and helping the homeless.
However, none of us is Superwoman you can’t fix everything, but you can focus impactfully on one or two causes. Contributing how you can will give you a sense of satisfaction and control.
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Anxiety And Your Baby
Well-meaning friends may have told you that you need to stop worrying because it isnt good for the baby. While their sentiment comes from a good place, you may feel like stopping the cycle is easier said than done. Still, research shows that there is good reason to get your anxiety under control.
High levels of anxiety during pregnancy are associated with a risk of developing conditions like preeclampsia, premature birth, and low birth weight.
Feeling Hopeless Or Helpless
Pregnancy anxiety can also cause feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. You may feel like theres nothing you can do to control your anxiety or like youre powerless to change the situation. This can be a very difficult feeling to manage and can lead to depression.
If youre experiencing any of these symptoms, its important to talk to your doctor or midwife. Pregnancy anxiety is a common condition, but its also one that can be managed with
What Causes Anxiety Attacks In Pregnant Women
Every person is different. What makes pregnancy unique is that there are several different issues that may occur when you go through pregnancy that may bring on anxiety attacks:
- You may have anxiety attacks as a result of hormonal changes during pregnancy.
- You may have anxiety attacks as a result of the stress and worries of pregnancy.
- You may have already suffered from anxiety attacks and they become worse during pregnancy.
- You may simply be at an age when developing anxiety attacks is more common.
Some doctors have found that those that normally have anxiety attacks actually stop having anxiety attacks while pregnant, only to find that they come back once the child is born. It’s amazing the way pregnancy can affect the mind and body both in physical and mental ways.
So claiming a cause and effect with pregnancy and anxiety attacks is not that simple, and certainly cannot be done through the Internet. But there are plenty of possible causes of anxiety attacks related to your pregnancy.
Taking Care Of Your Mental Health During Pregnancy
Pregnancy brings a mix of feelings, and not all of them are good. If you’re feeling worried, you’re not alone. Worry is common, especially during a woman’s first pregnancy or an unplanned one. It can be even harder if you’re dealing with depression or anxiety.
If you’re feeling worried, sad, or nervous, talk to someone about it and know when to reach out for help.
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Anxiety Treatment During Pregnancy
If your anxiety is at the point where it is seriously affecting your health or your babys health, a doctor may prescribe you a medication.
Most anti-anxiety drugs are categorized as antidepressants, so they are generally not safe for pregnancy. A doctor would not prescribe this medication without considering the risks and benefits.
If the benefits associated with the prescribed medication outweigh the potential risks to your baby, your doctor may go ahead and prescribe it, but this would be rare.
Can Pregnancy Worsen Anxiety
Yes, pregnancy can trigger or worsen anxiety. Some research suggests that anxiety disorders are among the most common types of psychiatric disorders during and after pregnancy, affecting 1117% of pregnant women.
It is important to note that this study, along with much of the research in this area, examines cisgender women. There is limited research on the mental health implications of pregnancy for trans and nonbinary people. One 2020 review indicates these groups may be more vulnerable to mental health difficulties during and after pregnancy. The authors of the review called for more research in the field. Additionally, it is important to note that this review looked at studies involving primarily white individuals.
Pregnancy and childbirth cause many changes, including hormonal effects, some of which involve worry and fear. A of studies suggest the following factors may increase a persons risk of developing prenatal anxiety:
- lack of partner support
- history of abuse or domestic violence
- prior mental illness
Anxiety Attacks During Pregnancy
About 10 percent of pregnant women will experience an anxiety attack during their pregnancy.
These can be dangerous for you and your baby, so its important you understand the signs and symptoms associated with one .
- Tingling in your arms or legs.
- Shortness of breath.
- Muscle weakness or shaking, especially in the legs.
- Feeling hot suddenly.
- Breathing faster than normal.
An anxiety attack will cause your anxiety symptoms to worsen dramatically, usually rather quickly. An attack can last anywhere from seconds to minutes.
If you think you may have experienced an anxiety attack, it is crucial to contact your doctor as soon as possible.
What Is Pregnancy Anxiety
Pregnancy anxiety is a form of anxiety that can occur during pregnancy. It is characterized by worry or fear about the health and well-being of the pregnant woman and her baby. Pregnancy anxiety can range from mild to severe and can interfere with a womans ability to function daily.
Pregnancy anxiety is thought to be caused by hormonal changes, fatigue, stress, and other factors. However, the exact cause is unknown. Treatment for pregnancy anxiety typically includes counseling and support groups. Some women may also need medication to help manage their symptoms.
The occurrence of pregnancy anxiety is thought to be relatively common. A study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found that nearly one-third of pregnant women reported experiencing anxiety during pregnancy.
Pregnancy anxiety can be a difficult and overwhelming experience. If you are struggling with anxiety during pregnancy, it is important to seek help from your healthcare provider or mental health professional. There are many resources available to help you cope with your symptoms and manage your anxiety. You are not alone in this journey.
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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.
What Are Some Symptoms Of Anxiety During Pregnancy
Since there are different types of anxiety disorders, the symptoms vary. Speak with your doctor about any symptoms you experience so he or she can accurately diagnose and treat you. Some common symptoms of anxiety disorders include:
- Feeling nervous, anxious or on edge frequently
- An uncontrollable sense of anxiousness
- Worrying excessively about things, especially your health or your baby
- Finding it difficult or impossible to relax
- Feeling restless and hard to stay still
- Feeling irritable and agitated
- Tension, pain or trembling in your muscles
- A numb or tingling feeling in your limbs, fingers, toes or lips
When these symptoms come on quickly and intensely, you may be experiencing a panic attack. People with anxiety experience the same symptoms and panic attacks regardless of whether they are pregnant or not. However, when you are pregnant, your concerns about the health of your child can increase the effects of your anxiety attack dramatically. That level of anxiety, and the physical effects of anxiety, can have potential risks for your health and your babys health.
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How Are Problems Treated
Treatment for mental health problems may include:
- Prescription medicine. Always talk to a doctor before you start taking or stop taking any medicines during your pregnancy. If you take any kind of medicine for a mental health issue and are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, tell your doctor. Don’t stop taking it unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines may cause problems for a growing baby, but stopping your medicine may make things worse. Your doctor can make a treatment plan that is best for you and your baby.
- Talk therapy. Talking one-on-one with a therapist can be a great way to manage stress, deal with depression, and ease anxiety during pregnancy. Finding a support group where you can share your concerns with other mothers who know what you’re going through also can help. Talking with a social worker or counselor can help you deal with money issues, worries over raising a child, or other stresses in your life.
- Other approaches. Many women find comfort in activities like yoga, exercise, and meditation. If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, talking to a friend, family member, or faith leader can help you feel better.
Many moms feel anxious or depressed at some point in their pregnancy, and some may even need treatment for it. But a mental health problem doesn’t have to be a problem for you or your baby. Get the help you need to feel better, and you’ll be doing the best thing for you both.
Anxiety Medications During Pregnancy
Pregnancy is supposed to be a beautiful time – a time of considerable joy as you await bringing a new life into the world. It’s depicted as a stress free time of anticipation, but the reality of pregnancy is that it can be filled with stress, and the hormonal changes alone can alter your body’s chemistry and create a considerable amount of anxiety.
Unfortunately, most anxiety medications cannot or should not be taken during pregnancy. Only a few are approved for use while pregnant, and even then it’s best to try to find solutions that are not drug related.
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What Anxiety Medications Are Safe During Pregnancy
There are many antidepressants available. Two of the most common classes of antidepressants used for anxiety in pregnancy are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors .
How To Cope With Anxiety
When it comes to coping with anxiety in pregnancy, most healthcare providers will initially treat anxiety with a more holistic approach, says Dr. Chisholm. She encourages pregnant women struggling with anxiety to consider cognitive behavioral therapy, a mind-body practice like yoga, or even acupuncture. Here are some other ways to cope with anxiety in pregnancy.
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What Are Some Treatments For Anxiety During Pregnancy
Fortunately, there are many treatments that can reduce anxiety during pregnancy and help you feel better. For many women, anti-anxiety medication is not an option during pregnancy, as there is little information on the safety of such medication on the fetus. Some women who had previously taken medications for anxiety may wish to discontinue medications during pregnancy for personal reasons.
Therapies such as cognitive behavior therapy demonstrate promise in the peripartum period . CBT focuses on challenging maladaptive thoughts, emotions, and actions, and it uses anxiety management strategies such as diaphragmatic breathing .
If your anxiety is severe, medications may be an option for you. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are commonly prescribed for depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after delivery. It does not appear that SSRIs are associated with an increased risk of major congenital malformations. However, SSRIs may be associated with transient neonatal symptoms such as jitteriness, tremor, crying, and trouble feeding, which resolve on their own in a few days.
The use of benzodiazepines such as lorazepam and alprazolam during pregnancy has long been a controversial topic. Although older studies showed an association between their use and an increased risk for cleft lip and palate, a more recent study looking at benzodiazepine use during pregnancy did not show this link when these medications were used alone .
Risk Factors For Anxiety And Depression During Pregnancy
Doctors once thought that all of those hormones rushing around a woman’s body during pregnancy would shield her from depression. We now know that for some moms-to-be, the opposite is true. But while experts agree that hormones play a role in depression, the exact mechanisms are unknown.
“It may be triggered by any number of physiologic or life stressors,” says Sheila Marcus, M.D., director of the Women’s Depression Program at the University of Michigan Depression Center in the department of psychiatry. “In women with a genetic predisposition to depression, the hormone changes may be one of these stressors,” Dr. Marcus says
Anyone can experience anxiety and depression during pregnancy, but women with these risk factors are especially susceptible:
- A personal or family history of a mood disorder, such as depression or anxiety
- A history of premenstrual dysphoric disorder
- Being a young mother
- Having poor social support
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What Is An Anxiety Attack
Anxiety attacks are extremely stressful events – especially for pregnant women. Often referred to as “panic attacks,” anxiety attacks are moments of intense anxiety that manifest in physical symptoms. During an anxiety attack, you’re likely to experience:
- Rapid heartbeat.
- Leg and muscle weakness or tingling.
- Trouble thinking.
- Shortness of breath.
These are the same symptoms that anyone with an anxiety attack experiences, regardless of pregnancy. What tends to cause more problems is the feeling of doom. During an anxiety attack , there is often this incredibly intense feeling of doom, usually about your health. That’s why so many of those with anxiety attacks end up visiting a doctor.
When you are pregnant, your concerns about the health of the child can increase the effects of your anxiety attack dramatically, because now you’re worrying about the health of two, not just your own.
That’s why anxiety attacks represent such a serious issue for those that are pregnant. That level of anxiety can be devastating and make your quality of life worse, and since doctors recommend trying to be as stress-free as possible when you’re with child, controlling your anxiety attacks becomes very important.
Ways To Manage Anxiety In Pregnancy During The Pandemic
We asked Dr Michelle Tolfrey, Senior Clinical Psychologist and Co-Founder and Clinical Director at Talking Heads, a London-based psychology service, for some advice that may help lower your anxiety levels.
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