Pregnant and Managing Anxiety
According to a 2021 Harvard Study, pregnancy is viewed as an exciting time; soon you will become a parent to an adorable, tiny human. Expect to feel the roller coaster of emotions during pregnancy, and these emotions might catch you off guard. Some women feel joy when they see themselves change from week to week. They marvel at their changing bodies. Pregnancy for other some women is hard; they experience fatigue, mood swings, and constant worries. As time goes by, you may start noticing that your thoughts are becoming increasingly difficult to manage, which could affect your job performance and your relationships with others. But how do you deal with your anxiety in your daily life, and should it be treated?
What Causes Anxiety During Pregnancy?
Anxiety during pregnancy is common — even expected. In fact, many women report feeling anxious before they become pregnant, while others feel less anxious once they know they’re expecting. Levels of anxiety during pregnancy are often triggered by hormonal shifts associated with pregnancy, such as increased levels of estrogen and progesterone. Some studies suggest that anxiety during pregnancy may actually help prevent miscarriage since it helps you focus on what’s important and keep yourself safe.
But some women do experience significant anxiety throughout their pregnancies. If you find yourself worrying excessively about something related to pregnancy, it might be helpful to talk to someone you trust about your feelings. Your doctor can provide advice, on any risk factors, as well as give support. Or consider seeking out local resources like childbirth classes, prenatal yoga, and a professional counselor.
What Are Symptoms of Anxiety During Pregnancy?
Many women experience some level of physical symptoms about being pregnant, especially if it is their first child. While many women feel comfortable and relaxed throughout the entire nine months, others may experience feelings of fear, worry, stress, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, or even feelings of panic attacks. Other symptoms of anxiety may include but are not limited to the following: headaches, restlessness, muscle tightness, high blood pressure, irritability, feeling of dread, stomach upset, nausea, dizziness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, sweating, trembling, numbness, tingling sensations, diarrhea, body aches, vomiting, constipation, dry mouth, blurred vision, lightheadedness, fainting, fatigue, and/or chills.
Some women also experience these symptoms as a result of having another type of anxiety disorder, such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Again, it bears repeating, Anxiety symptoms during pregnancy and in early motherhood are common and may affect one in five pregnant women.
If you notice any of these anxiety symptoms, contact your healthcare provider immediately. There is no need to push through alone. You can get the help you need. The good news is there are ways to manage your anxiety during pregnancy. You may want to speak with a mental health professional who specializes in treating anxiety disorders.
How Can Anxiety Be Managed During Pregnancy?
The most effective way to treat anxiety is to identify its cause and address it directly. For example, if you have been diagnosed with major depression, then medication is likely necessary. However, if you only have mild anxiety, you can still benefit from treatment.
Therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) demonstrate promise in the peripartum period (the period shortly before, during, and after giving birth). CBT focuses on challenging maladaptive thoughts, negative emotions, and behaviors, and it uses anxiety-management techniques such as diaphragm breathing (adapted for pregnant women).
Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT) can also be used during pregnancy and postpartum periods. DBT helps women learn how to cope with difficult situations and develop skills that will enable them to regulate their emotions and behavior more effectively.
EMDR Therapy, when dealing with anxiety and worry, has been shown to reduce both physical and emotional distress. It involves using eye movement, sound, touch, and other stimuli to facilitate the release of negative memories and emotions. A specialist trained in EMDR works with pregnant women dealing with anxiety to help reduce the intensity of their symptoms and process any difficult experiences they might be dealing with.
The above therapeutic modalities mentioned above are just a few examples of what is available to help manage anxiety during pregnancy. Establishing a relationship with your therapist is essential to managing anxiety successfully. If you have a history of anxiety be sure to communicate this as your therapist should be able to answer questions regarding treatments and additional therapies.
Other types of care include:
- Engage in regular exercise. In general, it is safe to engage in physical activity during pregnancy. Take care of your overall well-being; avoid extra stress. Exercise helps reduce stress and anxiety. It also improves mood and energy levels. However, if you are at risk for preterm labor or have pregnancy complications, consult with your doctor first to rule out any restricted activities. Try to schedule activities that will allow you to unwind and enjoy life.
- Eat healthy foods. When pregnant healthy food choices are important because they provide essential nutrients needed to support fetal development. Healthy eating habits also promote weight gain and prevent gestational diabetes. Avoid alcohol drinking altogether! Alcohol consumption during pregnancy has been linked to miscarriage, premature delivery, low birth weight, and other adverse outcomes. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and other substances that may have the tendency to increase anxiety.
- Ensure adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation has been linked to increased anxiety. Aim for at least seven to eight hours of continuous sleep every night. Avoid excessive screen time on your smartphone or tablet. If you wake up often at night, try going to sleep earlier. If you’re unable to fall asleep within twenty minutes, consider using a relaxing technique such as progressive muscle relaxations. Whether it’s a calming bedtime routine, pregnancy pillow, or other means, make sure you get enough quality sleep, at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night if possible. Sleep deprivation has been linked to anxiety and depression.
- Practice mindfulness. Research shows that mindfulness may reduce worries about labor, and it may even prevent postpartum depression. Mindfulness involves focusing on the present moment without judgment, and it helps us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings. It may help you manage anxiety during pregnancy.
- Journaling. Writing about your worries about being pregnant can be helpful. If you find yourself worrying, write down what you are thinking and how you are feeling. This will help you identify patterns in your thoughts and feelings. Not to mention, detailed entries give you a sense of control over your situation.
- Schedule worry time. Pregnancy makes you feel anxious all the time. You might start to feel overwhelmed by your fears. Schedule some “worry time” where you can sit quietly and think about your concerns. Remember to write them down so you don’t forget them. Talk to someone. Talking to others who understand your situation can help you cope with anxiety. Ask your partner, family members, friends, or health care provider for advice.
- Medication. Consult a professional medical doctor regarding taking anxiety and/or antidepressants during pregnancy. Be sure to provide a full medical history.
Pregnancy is an exciting time in any woman’s life. It is important to take good care of yourself during this period. You may want to consider yoga, massage, meditation, or acupuncture. Experimenting with different relaxation techniques may be difficult at first, but once you’ve found one that works well for you, its benefits will carry through into your pregnancy and beyond.
It’s important to note that while these treatments may work well for some women, they may not be appropriate for everyone. Remember, no two pregnancies are alike. Talk to your health care provider about what works best for you!
Get Support From A Therapist Who Understands How Pregnancy Affects Your Body
If you or someone you love is pregnant and going through anxiety, talk to your doctor about getting treatment from a psychologist, psychiatrist, and/or mental health specialist, who understands how pregnancy affects the body. These professionals who specialize in mental health issues can help diagnose and treat your condition. The goal is to assist you in getting your anxiety under control. Your baby and yourself are worth every effort to ensure that you’re both happy and healthy. During your pregnancy, your mental health needs to be just as important as your overall well-being.
Call New Heights Counseling at (850) 757-1552 to set up an appointment with one of the professional counselors we have available for therapy. Read our staff’s biographies on our website at meet our team. At New Heights, we’re here for you every step of the way. We’ll work with you at your own pace and help you overcome the challenges you might face. Contact our team for assistance.
- How Can You Manage Anxiety During Pregnancy?-Harvard Health, Stephanie Collier, MD, MPH, Contributor
- Anxiety During Pregnancy: Tips for Coping – Ashley Marcin
- Anxiety How Do I Know, written by Shareen Ancog
Other Mental Health Services We Offer At New Heights Counseling
New Heights Counseling provides counseling services for you and your family. We offer both individual and couple counseling for a wide range of psychological issues, as well as EMDR therapy for anxiety and traumatic events such as pregnancy loss and postpartum depression. We provide services for children, adolescents, young adults, and adults, in our office at our Fort Walton Beach, FL location and offer online counseling in the states of Florida and Virginia.
New Heights Counseling is located on the 2nd floor of WorkSpace Suites at 1992 Lewis Turner Blvd, Suite 1057, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547. Get directions to our office from Google Maps or visit our office location webpage.
About the Author:
Cassandra is a PRE-LICENSED Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern and understands what pregnancy can do to a woman emotionally and physically. She knows untreated anxiety, stress, and depression during pregnancy can lead to complications for mother and child. Cassandra is a veteran of the United States Air Force and has traveled around the world with her husband. She is also a military spouse and has grown up in a military family. Cassandra has worked with clients ranging from children to older adults and is committed to her client’s well-being. She is passionate about helping them achieve their absolute best selves both mentally and emotionally and services the Fort Walton Beach, Crestview, Niceville, Destin, and surrounding communities. Book an appointment by contacting Cassandra!