Anxiety in pregnancy

Is it normal to worry in pregnancy?

Yes. Pregnancy is a life-changing event, so it’s only natural for you to feel scared or uneasy sometimes. The hormone changes that pregnancy brings can also play havoc with your emotions, making you more vulnerable to worry. You may find yourself worrying about:

– your pregnancy symptoms and what they mean

– how your baby’s developing

– your relationship with your partner

– money

Low mood and worries in pregnancy usually resolve themselves. However, it is a good idea to discuss any concerns you have with a specialist. A specialist can reassure you, and may offer extra support to prevent your anxious thoughts from getting worse.

When does worry become a more serious problem?

Worry becomes a problem when you find it difficult to control your thoughts, or when it starts to interfere with your daily life. For example, you may be avoiding public places because crowds make you feel nervous or because you worry what people think of you.

If this is the case, or if your anxiety’s making you feel miserable or depressed then you may have clinical anxiety. This is also known as generalised anxiety disorder.

The main symptoms of clinical anxiety are:

– feeling nervous, anxious or on edge a lot of the time

– not being able to stop or control your anxious thoughts

– worrying lots about a range of different things

– finding it difficult or impossible to relax

– feeling restless and finding it hard to keep still

– being irritable and short-tempered

– feeling afraid, or thinking that bad things will happen

You may also experience physical symptoms, such as:

– racing heartbeat and rapid breathing

– dizziness

– excessive sweating

– tension, pain or trembling in your muscles

– a numb or tingling feeling in your fingers, toes or lips

Sometimes, these symptoms can come on quickly and intensely for no obvious reason. This is known as a panic attack.

How will my anxiety be treated?

When you see a specialist about your anxiety, will discuss the risks and benefits of different treatments with you. Try to be as honest as possible about how you’re feeling so she can recommend the right treatment. Another kind of psychological treatment that can help with anxiety is applied relaxation. A therapist will teach you how to relax your muscles properly, and give you a trigger word that should help you to calm yourself when you start feeling anxious. Applied relaxation usually involves an hour-long session every week for a few months.

Use relaxation techniques

Try to set aside a moment for relaxation every day, or even a few times a day if you can. You may find it easier to calm yourself when you’re next feeling anxious if you practice how to relax when you’re feeling good.

You could simply sit still and focus on your breathing, taking deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Or try visualising a happy place or listening to some music. This relaxation audio is a great place to start. Some people find it helpful to deliberately tense and then relax all of the muscles in their body. Start with your toes and finish with the muscles in your face.

A meditation technique called mindfulness may also help. As you breathe try to focus on the sights, sounds and smells around you. If a negative thought comes into your head, don’t fight it. Just let it pass by without judgement. This can be difficult at first, so you may find it helpful to find a mindfulness course in your local area.

– Exercise regularly

Gentle exercise isn’t just great for keeping your body healthy while you’re pregnant – it can also help your mind. This is because exercise prompts your brain to release feel-good chemicals that can boost your mood and help to relieve anxiety. Walking, swimming, yoga and Pilates are great options. Or you could see if your local gym has any classes designed for pregnant women.

– Eat sensibly

Some people find that a healthy diet helps them to manage their anxiety. This may be because highs and lows in blood sugar can affect mood.

Read more on how to enjoy a balanced diet in pregnancy.

It’s also important to stay away from stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes. Apart from being bad for your baby, they can contribute to panic attacks and make it harder for you to control your anxiety in the long term.

– Talk about how you’re feeling

Sharing your concerns with someone you trust may help you to feel more positive. Try telling your partner how you feel, or even a friend or family member. You could also look up local support groups.

– Keep a diary

This may help you to identify any triggers for your anxiety and to manage your symptoms. Perhaps you often get anxious at a particular time of day, or when facing a particular challenge or activity. A diary can also help you keep track of times when you’ve successfully controlled your feelings, so you learn what works.

– Try complementary therapies

There’s not much evidence to support the use of complementary therapies during pregnancy but many women find them helpful. You may like to try:

– massage

– reflexology

– hypnotherapy

Aromatherapy, herbal treatments and flower remedies can sometimes help with anxiety.

In general, there are fewer cases of anxiety in women after the birth than during pregnancy. If you didn’t have any mental health problems before you became pregnant, it’s likely that you’ll start to feel better after your baby is born.