Experiencing Anxiety During Pregnancy? 5 Ways to Manage Your Symptoms
No matter how excited you may have been initially to see a positive pregnancy test, there’s a good chance that at some point during your pregnancy, anxiety will start to creep in. Whether it’s your first pregnancy or your fifth, the process of growing a new human can trigger all kinds of concerns.
Is the baby moving enough? Is it moving too much? Will childbirth hurt? What if there are problems? What if I can’t breastfeed? It’s perfectly natural to have these and myriad other worries while waiting for your little one’s arrival. Yet for some, the worry can become all-consuming (also known as antenatal anxiety). Let’s take a look at anxiety during pregnancy and some ways you can manage it.
Causes of Anxiety During Pregnancy
Anxiety is complicated and still not fully understood by researchers. Though it’s possible for anyone to experience anxiety during pregnancy, there are certain risk factors that may you more likely to experience heightened anxiety symptoms, including
- family history of anxiety or panic attacks
- personal history of anxiety, panic attacks, or depression
- previous trauma (either from your own experience or from hearing delivery room horror stories)
- use of certain illegal drugs
- excess stress in everyday life (relationship trouble or financial problems)
- underlying medical conditions (like diabetes, hypertension, or chronic pain)
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Symptoms of Severe Anxiety During Pregnancy
Feeling a little hesitant or anxious about pregnancy, labor and delivery, or becoming a parent is normal. After all, there’s a lot during pregnancy that’s beyond your control. However, if your worries start to interfere with your daily activities, you may be suffering from more serious anxiety. These symptoms may include the following:
- inability to focus on daily activities
- irritability or agitation
- excessive worry about your health or your infant’s health
- muscle tension
- obsessive thoughts
- frequent feelings of fear, panic, or restlessness
Natural Remedies for Coping with Anxiety During Pregnancy
Many people find sleep more elusive during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester. Yet getting plenty of rest may help significantly with your anxiety symptoms. Nap whenever possible, and talk to your OB/GYN or midwife before taking any sleep medications.
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2. Open up
Talk to your partner, a close friend, or a family member about what you’re experiencing. They may be able to offer support. Simply communicating your thoughts and feelings may be enough to keep them from overwhelming your daily life. You may also ask your healthcare provider to refer you to a therapist who specializes in treating anxiety.
3. Get active
Light to moderate exercises, like walking or yoga, help your body release endorphins. These work as natural stress relievers in your brain and can help reduce anxiety symptoms. Always check with your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise program while pregnant.
4. Practice mindfulness
Research has repeatedly shown that practicing mindfulness helps reduce stress and anxiety. Activities such as meditation, acupuncture, massage therapy, and deep breathing exercises can help you stay grounded in the present moment instead of latching onto racing thought spirals. The American Institute of Stress suggests deep abdominal breathing for 20 to 30 minutes per day to help relieve anxiety. Doing so will help provide more oxygen to your brain and stimulate your nervous system.
5. Educate yourself
Sometimes anxiety is triggered by fear of the unknown. Learning the basics about what to expect during pregnancy can go a long way in easing your mind and helping you feel ready. Read as much as you can and consider signing up for a parenting or childbirth class.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting, 5th Edition Paperback by Heidi Murkoff is a must-have resource for expectant parents. Filled with practical advice, realistic insight, easy-to-use tips, and lots of reassurance, this book explains each step of your pregnancy explained and demystifies your pregnant body, head (what to do about those headaches) to feet (why they’re so swollen), back (how to stop it from aching) to front (why you can’t tell a baby by mom’s bump).
When to Seek Help for Anxiety During Pregnancy
Though many people try to simply “grin and bear it,” that’s not always the best option for you or your baby. Severe anxiety during pregnancy has numerous damaging effects, both for maternal mental health and for the birth outcome, while also being a risk factor for postpartum depression. Anxiety and stress during pregnancy are linked to fetal heart rate and motor activity, preterm delivery, and infant behavior.
While mild cases of anxiety typically don’t require any specific treatment, it’s still a good idea to mention your feelings to your healthcare provider. In severe cases, your doctor may recommend medication. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) warns that taking any psychiatric medications during pregnancy should always include a careful risk-benefit analysis.
While medication is one way to treat heightened anxiety during pregnancy, it’s definitely not the only way. Attending therapy sessions with a psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor is often the first and most effective way to help pinpoint what’s driving your anxiety and create a plan to help you alleviate your concerns or learn relaxation techniques.
Anxiety during pregnancy is common. It’s also different from person to person, so what helps one individual may or may not work for you. Continue to talk about how you’re feeling with your inner circle, do what you can to manage your stress, and keep your doctor updated on what’s happening. Seeking outside help will allow you to feel more comforted and reassured about your own health and the health of your baby.
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