Many people are
predisposed to feelings of anxiety as the result of stressful
events, and if you want to know exactly what stress is you
should read my article about it too. The fact is that 20 to
30% of women will experience some form of anxiety during their
pregnancy. Pregnancy by itself can lead to anxiety because
there is so much physical and emotional transformations, and
also pregnancy can bring new life challenges to you, your
relationship and your family.
Excessive stress with feelings of constant pressure at work, at family, constant worry, fear about childbirth and parenting, feelings of panic can be true signs of your anxiety, and pregnancy can become very overwhelming if that is your case.
Depending if this is something that started with your pregnancy or something that is going on in your life for a long period of time even before you got pregnant, it is important for women to know that most of the times you can experience symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy, and if you were already suffering from anxiety when you become pregnant those symptoms can become worse with all the transformations that come along.
But when should anxiety be a cause for concern? And how can it be treated during pregnancy? The answers are information that every expecting woman should hear.
Depending on the severity and relative levels, anxiety during pregnancy can easily be treated with light psychological therapies or simple meditation and relaxation training that will help you become aware of yourself, your body, your thoughts and feelings, and keep you in the present moment and not in the future or past memories that are triggering your anxiety. Overwhelming stress and anxiety are best dealt with when you make a choice of truly taking care of yourself, your baby and start managing your pregnancy.
Preventing and controlling anxiety
Mental health should be given just as much attention and care as
physical health, especially during pregnancy and after pregnancy.
Women find themselves very lonely when dealing with these issues
during pregnancy because their partner and family do not
understand how it is possible to feel bad in a moment that should
be the best moment of their lives, often after many years of
waiting to get pregnant.
Not much is known about the complexity of factors involved in the development of anxiety during pregnancy and many health providers do not screen their patients for anxiety disorders.
Also, an anxiety disorder can be difficult to accurately diagnose due to the fact that some of the symptoms overlap with the biological symptoms of pregnancy like changes in appetite fatigue, lack of concentration, nausea, etc.
The history of anxiety in the family may predict a woman anxiety, but this can not always the case. Factors such as perfectionism, being too demanding on yourself, not reaching for help, may contribute to the development of a high level of anxiety during pregnancy. A past of miscarriages, fertility problems, separation, loneliness, and other impactful life events may also lead your way to anxiety and even depression.
Women should understand that in order to prevent and take care of what it could be an anxiety disorder, they should make an effort to communicate, share, express your thoughts and feelings even when they feel vulnerable, that the other party does not understand what they are going through. It is the only way to successfully take care of them and their baby, and a baby can give strength to overcome these challenges.
I always remind women that they are creating and inspiring their baby inside, the baby is feeling what the mother feels as if it was his or her own experience. So a mother that decides to act and move through her challenges is also imprinting her baby that challenges can be overcome.
Learning and practicing inner peace, simple and effective breathing and relaxation techniques, perform them regularly, will not only help the future mother move through her feelings of guilt, fear or even embarrassment, but will also help her come back to her body, her breath, focusing on her emotional wellbeing and bond deeply with her baby inside.
But what exactly is normal anxiety and what is not?
There is definitely a difference between being worried about
something and being consumed about being worried. Everyone
worries, it is normal, natural and it is human, it keeps you out
of dangerous situations. Think about thousands of years ago, when
we were back in the wild, we would be worried about our own
safety, we would be on alert for our safety but not on HIGH ALERT
mode all the time. Anxiety is like setting a false alarm in your
system that goes on day in and day out with no need because you
are not in a dangerous situation most of the time.
A lot of women, during pregnancy, feel they are amplifying their worries. Most women worry about whether they are going to be good moms if their babies are healthy. Others might worry about how their relationships will change, how siblings will react to a new baby, or even how their financial life will be, that is normal. You may feel insomnia and become more emotional, sensitive to things that you were not before, that is also natural.
But if you persistently experience:
• trouble in concentrating on your day-to-day life
• trouble in functioning at work or home
• feelings of hopelessness
• frequent sense of fear or restlessness
• thoughts of worry and anticipation all the time
• obsessive thoughts that just don’t go away
• frequent sense of panic
• that it’s hard to enjoy simple things in life that used to make you feel good
• severe fatigue
• restless and disrupted sleep patterns
• if your body is having heart palpitations, hot flashes, dizziness and nausea, and muscle tension.
If you persistently experience powerful levels of some or one of these symptoms, that isn’t normal or healthy, and it definitely affects your ability to function normally. This is when women should talk with a specialist because, for some women, their normal anxiety can escalate and can become an anxiety disorder.
How high levels of anxiety can affect Mother and Baby
When a pregnant woman suffers from high levels of anxiety she may
develop more physical complaints compared to other pregnant women,
have more chance of requesting a primary cesarean section and of
developing posttraumatic stress and postpartum depression.
Long term and high levels of anxiety are also associated with an increase in the risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, low APGARS level in the newborn.
Long term effects associated with maternal stress and anxiety include increased baby’s emotional reactivity, attention problems, fussiness, pour bond between mother and baby. The stress hormones that are triggered with anxiety affect both mother and baby, affecting the emotional and mental development of the baby too.
What about taking anxiety medications during pregnancy?
While studies have shown no long-term effects of exposing babies
to these drugs, many clinicians also admit that could be because
there are so few studies on expecting women. Most drugs that treat
anxiety fall into the same class of pharmaceuticals as
antidepressants, which means some can be tricky to prescribe
When thinking about taking medications for your anxiety during pregnancy a woman should always make a carefully informed decision that includes risk-benefit analysis and a good health care provider should always work with her to decide which one offers the most benefits for the lower dose, with fewest risks. That is why a lot of women look for non-medication therapies to work on their stress and anxiety.
What you can do
There are now effective forms of anxiety treatment throughout
pregnancy and women don’t need to feel unsupported. Remember that
in this equation there is one more member in your team – your
baby, that is there to help you too.
Breathing and relaxation techniques have been shown to significantly reduce anxiety during pregnancy and that does not include any medications. Strategies for self-management have also been found to be effective. For women experiencing anxiety during their pregnancy prenatal yoga and meditation have also been proven to be an excellent modality to help stabilize stress hormones. Prioritizing your sleep cycle, schedule a time during the day to slow down and become aware of your feelings, go for a 10-minute walk or a get time for swimming, for being in the same water environment as your baby, it will also help. Listen to music, eat healthily and find a balanced diet for emotional and physical energy can really make you feel more positive too or get a massage from a professional or even just your partner. In my Stress Free Pregnancy program, I also have included bonding techniques to help women to feel connected and bonded with their baby throughout pregnancy and beyond.
In addition, I give women information about anxiety because it helps them to become aware of their inner environment, triggers and reaction, changing their habits and behavior. Arm yourself with knowledge!
Build a support system. Spend time with friends who are expecting as well and consider joining an online community to connect with others who are coping with the same feelings as you.
These strategies alone or combined may be sufficient to help pregnant mothers experience less stress and anxiety during pregnancy but you should always remember yourself that you will have your baby and your instinct as a mother by your side, and you really will know what to do when your bundle of positive thoughts, confidence, and joy arrives, you are the best mother for your baby and what your baby will really need is simply your love.
Who am I?
Hi! I am Susana, I am a prenatal educator and a yoga teacher. In my daily life, if I am not with my 3 kids, I a serve and give support to the needs of new mothers and their babies. I am the founder of the Stress Free Pregnancy Program to help pregnant women better control the stress of their daily lives and deeply connect with their baby inside.
For me conscious pregnancy, birth and motherhood involve a much deeper connection to yourself, to your body, to your emotions, to the power of your femininity, and a deeper connection and communication with your baby as you surrender to the process of life. I am also the author of the book Yoga and Motherhood (Yoga e Maternidade – released in Portuguese), a member of the APPPAH (Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health) and President of the Norwegian Association of Prenatal Education. I have over fifteen years of experience and have taught hundreds of women worldwide.
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