Understanding Prenatal Anxiety for Expecting Families

The moment you see that double line on your pregnancy test, you experience an ecstatic, indescribable joy! However, a few months down the line, you may start becoming anxious and stressed.

It is normal to think of something going wrong even if everything is perfectly fine!

This feeling is also known as anxiety. It’s natural to have anxiety during pregnancy.

It’s a feeling that you can’t just shake away because it starts to take over your life, and it affects your everyday routine.

Pregnancy is supposed to be a happy and joyous time. However, it may make things more complex if you suffer from anxiety, especially during this already challenging time. So, here’s more about what prenatal anxiety is and how to cope with it.

What Is Prenatal Anxiety?

Prenatal anxiety is ongoing anxiety during pregnancy that you can not manage. It affects both the baby and the mother.

A father and mother holding their baby in the air.

But with the right kind of help, you can get the treatment you need. Moreover, many new parents worry that the anxiety will cause potential harm to their baby. However, there are many resources and tools now available that can help manage your symptoms.

This article will guide you to have more information about prenatal anxiety, its causes, symptoms, and the treatments available for it.

Anxiety During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time when your body goes through a significant change. Many conditions may affect a person’s pregnancy, such as postpartum depression. Moreover, many women even have panic disorders while being pregnant.

Causes

Hormonal changes may impact the chemicals in your brain during pregnancy, which can cause anxiety. Pregnancy is a crucial period in a woman’s life because it brings numerous physical and psychological changes.

According to a study, 150 women were examined for anxiety during pregnancy, 104 had trait anxiety.
Unfortunately, these aren’t good numbers. Stress can cause future complications during pregnancy.

Thinking about that alone can keep you up at night. But don’t worry! Mental health conditions are not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, you can keep your anxiety at bay if you use the proper medications and coping treatments.

However, anxiety doesn’t always have to be because of hormones. There can be some other contributing factors:

Risk Factors

Anyone can develop anxiety in pregnancy, but some risk factors contribute to the mental condition. Here are some of them.

  • Use of drugs
  • Excess stress 
  • Personal history of depression or panic attacks 
  • Past trauma 
  • Family history of anxiety or depression 

Symptoms Of Anxiety 

It’s not a rare occurrence to feel worried. It’s a natural feeling during pregnancy. But, if it’s your first time, the process may be new and confusing at times. 

You may even be stressed because you have faced past situations such as miscarriage which are a cause of concern. In the long run, concerning problems often lead to anxiety. Here are some of the symptoms of stress that may interfere with your daily life. 

  • Lack of concentration 
  • Poor sleep
  • Feeling anxious
  • Having tense muscles 
  • Excessively worrying about the baby
  • Feeling agitated 

Furthermore, sometimes anxiety leads to panic attacks. Panic attacks can occur along with the symptoms above or with time if the anxiety is left untreated. 

Panic attacks are sudden feelings of fear and anxiety that cause physical symptoms. Physical symptoms of panic attacks make the experience much worse. The symptoms of panic attacks are as follows:

  • Having trouble breathing, it feels like you cannot breathe
  • Feeling like something may go wrong or that something awful may happen 
  • Feeling that you may go crazy 

Can Pregnancy Trigger Anxiety?

Pregnancy can trigger or worsen anxiety. Anxiety disorder is a prevalent psychiatric disorder in pregnant women.

A study shows that 11% to 17% of pregnant women have this mental condition. In addition, with changes in hormonal effects come feelings of fear and worry. According to a study in 2016, the following factors increase the risk of an individual developing prenatal anxiety: 

  • Unwanted or unplanned pregnancy 
  • Lack of social support 
  • Miscarriage 
  • Past or present pregnancy complications
  • Lack of support from partner 
  • History of abuse or violence

All in all, anxiety symptoms may range from being mild to severe, varying from person to person. Furthermore, a pregnant person can be diagnosed with both anxiety and depression at the same time. Around 30% to 58% of pregnant women experience both.

How To Cope With Anxiety

There are many ways for a person to cope with anxiety. It may be with the help of a health care professional or by the individual. For example, a professional may give you certain medications to help with anxiety.

However, not everyone likes to go through the medication route. Some might not use medications because of being scared that it might cause damage to their babies or because they simply don’t want to depend on drugs.

Here are some tips on coping with anxiety:

Find An Activity

Engaging yourself in something other than pregnancy might be a good option for you. Find an activity that lowers your anxiety and stress.

Furthermore, finding physical activities will help your body to release endorphins. Endorphins act as painkillers in your brain. Some of the activities you can do include:

  • Yoga
  • Running 
  • Walking 
  • Jogging 

Any activity that involves moving around will have positive effects. However, be mindful and ask your doctor before you do any exercise or straining activity during pregnancy.

Talk To Someone

Anyone pregnant may feel anxious at some point during their pregnancy, whether it’s before the pregnancy, in the middle of it, or after it. However, you don’t have to feel guilty about it, and you certainly don’t have to go through it alone.

Talking to someone about your feelings may help you release some of the stress. Share your feelings with friends, family, or your partner, but don’t let them take over your life. 

You can also talk to your doctor about it, who might get you to consult a therapist. A therapist is trained to help people with anxiety.

Try Relaxation Techniques

Man praying.

If you don’t feel like doing physical exercise, you can also try other relaxing techniques such as: 

  • Meditation 
  • Breathing exercises 
  • Acupuncture 
  • Massage therapy

With these techniques, your body will release endorphins even if you don’t work up a sweat for it. In addition, meditation, along with the other relaxation techniques, helps you to relax and destress.

The American Institute Of Stress recommends following the abdominal breathing technique for 20 to 30 minutes.

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The Takeaway 

Having anxiety in pregnancy is common. However, it isn’t something to worry about if you follow proper treatment. 

Medications, therapy, and self-care can help you manage your anxiety symptoms. If you’re experiencing prenatal anxiety, make sure to consult your doctor for appropriate expert advice and treatment.

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