Having a baby is an emotional journey and expectant and new moms experience a range of emotions from uncertainty to anxiety and depression. Sometimes, in pregnancy, anxiety can increase from general feelings of uncertainty and worry to a true disorder, including an anxiety disorder.
Common things you may worry about include the health of your baby, how you will labor and birth your baby, whether you’ll be a good mom, and if you will struggle with breastfeeding or parenting. Most women worry about these things, and these are normal concerns. But these worries shouldn’t become overwhelming or be constantly in your thoughts.
If you begin to experience excessive feelings of dread, sweating, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, restlessness or irritability, let your healthcare provider know. Sure, some of these are symptoms in pregnancy but they should not be regularly occurring.
If these symptoms become regular and begin to interfere with your pregnancy, tell your healthcare provider as you may have a complication emerging, including developing anxiety. Between 6%-15% of pregnant women will experience anxiety at some point in pregnancy.
Anxiety takes on many forms: nausea (especially after the 1st trimester), excessive worry, panic attacks, obsessions or compulsions, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are all forms of anxiety. Moms can experience different levels of anxiety in pregnancy and postpartum. You can manage mild anxiety with coping strategies like breathing, relaxation or meditation. When anxiety becomes more severe, you’ll need your healthcare provider’s help to find the best solution for you and your baby.
Remember that having a baby is both a happy and stressful time and anxiety in pregnancy can be managed with the right tools and resources. Reach out; help is out there and you are not alone.
Here’s what different forms of anxiety can look like; these descriptions aren’t all possibilities. If you sense something just isn’t right, always call your nurse to talk through your concerns, and gain a plan and much-needed reassurance:
|Excess worry||This isn’t doing and redoing task lists, this is the kind of worry that keeps you up at night, leaves you exhausted even after you’ve slept, and even causes physical pain in your back or neck|
|Panic attack||You may have a feeling that something bad is about to happen; that you might lose control. Your body responds with a typical stress response—your heart may race or beat faster, you may breathe faster and more shallow, feel sweaty and shake, you may even feel like you’re going to vomit|
|Obsessions, compulsions||This is more than an increased focus on your baby, your house or your nursery. This is focus so intense it gets in the way of everyday life. Some pregnant moms develop obsessions over eating or not eating the right things or organizing the house and baby’s room before birth, even compulsively shopping for baby items out of concern instead of pleasure. You may even have fears of harming your baby or yourself|
|Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)||If you struggled to get pregnant, have had a miscarriage or a previous pregnancy loss, you may find yourself obsessing over what happened. You may skip prenatal appointments out of fear for bad news or you may avoid sharing the news with others so that you don’t have to talk about your pregnancy. You may feel physically sick, sweaty and experience a rapid heart rate|
It’s normal to feel anxious from time to time, and even when you don’t have a serious case of anxiety it’s healthy to reframe your thinking and reel in the physical symptoms you’re experiencing. Reduce those feelings and stress by relaxing your mind and body. When you find something that helps you relax and refocus, stick with it—all that matters is that it is healthy and that it works for you. Consider:
You’re most at risk for experiencing anxiety in pregnancy if you have: