Pregnancy Anxiety And The Pandemic: 4 Ways To Manage Symptoms
Experiencing some anxiety when you’re pregnant is normal. There’s a lot to process when you find out you’re expecting, especially since half of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned.
Even if you revel in watching your bump grow, it’s common to worry about what could go wrong. Approximately 40 million U.S. adults have an anxiety disorder, and nearly 10% of women experience anxiety during pregnancy.
But since the pandemic, rates of pregnancy and postpartum anxiety have more than doubled. A showed that while 29% of pregnant women reported having anxiety prior to the pandemic, a staggering 72% reported it during the pandemic.
Unfortunately, fewer than 40% of people with anxiety seek treatment. Many assume its just a normal part of life or their personality. All their lives, they’ve been labeled as a “worrier” or “nervous Nellie.”
But it’s not JUST anxiety. Symptoms such as fear of leaving the house or being unable to relax can increase your risk of social isolation, depression, and sleep deprivation. And continual stress elevates your adrenaline system the body’s fight-or-flight response. Feeling constantly on edge can wear you down and increase your risk of heart issues, preeclampsia, or having a preterm or low-weight baby.
Tips For How To Reduce Stress During Pregnancy
If you are pregnant, it is likely that you will experience stress at some point. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help yourself better cope with stress when it does come up. Taking care of your body and mind and seeking support and education are helpful ways that you can combat the impact of stress during your pregnancy.
Here are ten tips for reducing stress during pregnancy:
Whats A Normal Amount Of Anxiety During Pregnancy
Some amount of anxiety during pregnancy is considered normal.3 Many women experience some worry about pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum recovery. Normal pregnancy anxiety is mild and does not cause a woman too much distress. A pregnant woman with a normal level of anxiety can still function in her day-to-day life, manage her responsibilities, and find pleasure in things. It does not affect her appetite, sleep, or other areas of her life. When anxiety reaches the point of causing distress and interfering with life, then a woman may be dealing with an anxiety disorder.
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Aim For At Least 8 Hours Of Sleep Per Night
Sleep is essential for mental well-being, but can be especially challenging during pregnancy. Pregnant womens sleep may be interrupted by feeling uncomfortable and frequent trips to the bathroom. Lack of sleep during pregnancy can both cause stress and also be a symptom of stress.11 If you are already feeling stressed, you might find your mind racing when its time to go to bed. There are steps you can take to try to improve your sleep, but if you continue to have a hard time, consider discussing this issue with your medical provider or a sleep specialist.
To improve the quality of your sleep, try to practice good sleep hygiene.12 This includes avoiding caffeine, sugar, and large meals before bed, not utilizing electronic devices in the evening hours, and making sure that your bedroom area is cool, dark, and quiet. If you need noise to fall asleep, opt for relaxing sounds or white noise, which are less stimulating than having a television on in the background.
Create a bedtime routine that includes laying down and waking up around the same time each day, including on weekends. Try to exercise earlier in the day, which can help you feel more tired during bedtime. Also, if you are having trouble falling asleep, avoid watching the clock. Instead, practice some deep breathing or mindfulness to help you feel more relaxed.
Attend A Labor And Delivery Or Newborn Preparation Class
For some women, stress during pregnancy is caused by the unknowns of the future. Pregnant women may feel overwhelmed thinking about labor and delivery or caring for a newborn. To help ease your concerns, consider attending a class that is designed to help you prepare for birth or motherhood. Women who attend birthing classes report feeling more positive and confident about labor and delivery.16
Many hospitals, birthing centers, and local midwives and doulas host classes for this purpose. If there are no classes in your area, you may be able to find one online. Attending one of these classes will give you an opportunity to learn more about what to expect and answer any questions that you may have. This can help you feel more certain about the future and confident moving forward in your pregnancy.
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Feed Your Body Regularly Scheduled Healthy Meals
Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar can lead to feelings that mimic panic, explains Snyder. This is compounded in pregnancy as hypoglycemia can also lead to increased nausea.”
Eating small, high protein meals throughout the day can reduce the sense of panic that comes with extreme hunger and can also minimize nausea.
When To Call The Doctor About Stress During Pregnancy
If you have attempted to cope with your stress on your own but are continuing to struggle or if your stress is severe and impacting your ability to function, you should consider getting professional help. Treatment for stress during pregnancy may include therapy, medication, or a combination of both. To find out more about these options, speak with your physician, OBGYN, or midwife about how you are feeling and what options may be available to you.
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What Types Of Stress Can Cause Pregnancy Problems
Stress is not all bad. When you handle it right, a little stress can help you take on new challenges. Regular stress during pregnancy, such as work deadlines and sitting in traffic, probably dont add to pregnancy problems.
However, serious types of stress during pregnancy may increase your chances of certain problems, like premature birth. Most women who have serious stress during pregnancy can have healthy babies. But be careful if you experience serious kinds of stress, like:
- Negative life events. These are things like divorce, serious illness or death in the family, or losing a job or home.
- Catastrophic events. These are things like earthquakes, hurricanes or terrorist attacks.
- Long-lasting stress. This type of stress can be caused by having financial problems, being abused, having serious health problems or being depressed. Depression is medical condition where strong feelings of sadness last for long periods of time and prevent a person from leading a normal life.
- Racism. Some women may face stress from racism during their lives. This may help explain why African-American women in the United States are more likely to have premature and low-birthweight babies than women from other racial or ethnic groups.
- Pregnancy-related stress. Some women may feel serious stress about pregnancy. They may be worried about miscarriage, the health of their baby or about how theyll cope with labor and birth or becoming a parent. If you feel this way, talk to your health care provider.
The Fix: Gather A Team
Putting together the babys room can definitely be fun, but with so many tasks to complete, it can also feel overwhelming. Once youve narrowed down everything that needs to be purchased, borrowed, or completed, enlist the help of friends and family to tackle each todo. While it might be tough to give up control, getting others to pitch in will relieve some of the anxiety during pregnancy pressure on you and allow them to share in all the baby excitement as well.
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Can Stress During Pregnancy Hurt My Baby
Regular, everyday stress during pregnancy, such as stressing to make a work deadline or finish the babys nursery, wont hurt your baby.
But extreme , chronic and long-term stress can, in some cases, increase the risk of:
- Developmental delays in the baby
Babies born too soon or too small can face more complications than full-term, normal-weight newborns.
Physical Symptoms Of Stress In Pregnancy
- Overeating or not eating enough
- Increased likelihood of consuming alcohol, nicotine, or other addictive substances
Its normal to feel some amount of stress in our day-to-day lives. Stress motivates us to adjust to new situations and develop new coping strategies to face lifes problems.
But, when you are under stress for too long it is time to talk about what youre experiencing with your partner, midwife, a close friend, and/or family member. Especially if any of the symptoms listed above are very intense and last for more than two weeks.
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Work With A Therapist
Psychotherapy can help you get a better handle on your panic attacks while pregnant. Your first therapy session will involve talking about your symptoms, medical history, and current life stressors. Through the therapy process, you will gain a better understanding of your symptoms and develop ways to cope with your condition.
Your therapist can also use psychoeducation to assist you in understanding your symptoms. The knowledge and support provided through therapy can help reduce fears related to your symptoms and offer a sense of control of your panic attacks during pregnancy.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most common forms of psychotherapy. CBT strives to shift negative thoughts and behaviors toward healthier perceptions and actions.
For example, you may be experiencing anxiety-inducing thoughts, such as Will my anxiety affect my pregnancy? or Does it upset the baby when I have a panic attack? Such thoughts may contribute to increased feelings of fear, anxiety, and panic. Through CBT, you can learn to identify and change these types of thinking patterns to more positive and less anxiety-provoking ones.
What Are The Common Pregnancy Fears And Worries
Pregnancy is a very beautiful phase for most women. At some points in those nine months, it can be an on-top-of-the-world and exciting time, and at others it can plunge you in the depths of gloom and despair. Mood swings are common during pregnancy due to all the hormonal changes that are happening in the body. These hormonal changes, in turn, affect the levels and functioning of the neurotransmitters leaving the pregnant woman exposed to a range of emotions and reactions. Every woman has her own threshold of dealing with anxieties and stresses: for some, it is more difficult to cope with the changes and uncertainties that pregnancy brings, while for others the pain of delivery might be giving them jitters. Some of the common worries, shared with me, by some pregnant women include:
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Brilliant Ways To Reduce Anxiety In Pregnancy
Is anxiety taking over your pregnancy and stopping you from enjoying it? Would you like to take back control and find ways to reduce your pregnancy anxiety?
Below youll find 21 ways to do just that but first lets take a look at anxiety in pregnancy in general.
Around 20-30 % of women will experience anxiety in pregnancy to some degree or another so you are definitely not alone. Worrying about a whole host of new things is par for the course.
Aside from the normal worries of pregnancy, its important to realize when anxiety is taking over and severely affecting your day to day life.
At that point it can be damaging to your physical health and the health of your baby.
If youre an anxious person in general or youve already been diagnosed with anxiety, then the chances are that your pregnancy is going to be affected by anxiety to some degree too.
Having said that, women who are generally very laid back in regular life also find anxiety creeping in during those nine months.
Hormones. Stress. Change. Responsibility. Money Worries. Relationship Difficulties. Health concerns.
Thinking about all these things can make for a very anxious time but you can take steps to address these issues and start enjoying your pregnancy.
How To Cope With Anxiety During Pregnancy
I can still remember sitting on the edge of my bed wondering if I would ever be ‘normal’. My dad had just passed away unexpectedly and I was nine weeks pregnant with my first child. Filled with panic and nervousness, I spent hours each day predicting the worst outcome to any situation.
Reviewed byDr Sarah Jarvis MBE
21-Dec-17·6 mins read
The internal dialogue in my head kept telling me to be afraid, but I didnt know what I was afraid of, and I felt stuck in a never-ending cycle of worry. It felt like my body was consumed with a constant energy that I couldnt shut off and the only thoughts that seemed to consume my mind began with what if.
These paralysing feelings were not new to me, but the fear and sheer terror of something inexplainable happening to my unborn baby was. They seemed to spike when I became pregnant and the need to control every aspect of my life that could cause harm to this life growing inside of me took over.
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Tips For Managing Panic Attacks During Pregnancy
If you are worried about pregnancy and panic disorder, these tips on how to manage panic attacks while pregnant may help you.
If you or a loved one are struggling with panic attacks, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Consult With Your Doctor First
When it comes to pregnancy, it seems that everyone has his or her own personal anecdotes and steadfast opinions. For example, you may have a sister who shares her pregnancy experiences and advises you on what foods to avoid or perhaps you have an aunt who likes to tell you old wives’ tales and pregnancy myths. Regardless of any advice you receive from others, always consult with your doctor first.
Let your doctor know what concerns you have about your panic disorder during pregnancy. Your doctor will be able to help you sort out fact from fiction. She will also be there to thoroughly discuss treatment options while pregnant, including potential risks and benefits of medications for panic disorder.
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Symptoms Of Anxiety During Pregnancy
Some degree of worry is natural during pregnancy. After all, the process may be entirely new for you. You may have faced situations in the past, like miscarriage, that give you reason for concern. But if these worries start to interfere with everyday life, you may have anxiety.
- feeling an uncontrollable sense of anxiousness
- worrying excessively about things, especially your health or baby
- inability to concentrate
- having tense muscles
- sleeping poorly
Occasionally, bouts of anxiety may lead to panic attacks. These attacks may start very suddenly with the symptoms above, and progress. During a panic attack, your symptoms may be very physical in nature, which can make the experience that much worse.
Symptoms of a panic attack include:
- feeling like you cannot breathe
- feeling like youre going crazy
- feeling like something awful may happen
While anyone can develop anxiety during pregnancy, there are certain risk factors that may contribute, including:
- family history of anxiety or panic attacks
- personal history of anxiety, panic attacks, or depression
- previous trauma
- use of certain illegal drugs
- excess stress in everyday life
Mild cases of anxiety usually dont require any specific treatment, though its a good idea to mention your feelings to your doctor.
In severe cases, your doctor may recommend medication after weighing the benefits and risks.
Natural Remedies To Relieve Stress During Pregnancy
If you are seeking some form of stress relief, you can also use available natural remedies. Natural remedies can help relieve some anxiety associated with pregnancy, including worries about the health of the unborn child, etc.
One of the most popular natural remedies is to do yoga exercises to calm you and to help you relax your body. You should seek the advice of your doctor so that you can avoid any dangerous side effects of certain medications you may be taking.
If you choose to use herbs or vitamins as natural remedies, you will be able to find a suitable way to help reduce the amount of stress in your body and reduce the amount of worry you are experiencing.
For many expectant mothers, having a family comes first. You may feel as though the baby will arrive days before the actual birth date. But that is perfectly normal, and in fact, many women and couples find themselves feeling stressed out with the excitement of finally being able to share their precious bundle of joy with the world.
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What Are Common Symptoms Of Anxiety While Pregnant
For many, the signs of anxiety during pregnancy can also be confused with pregnancy symptoms. Lack of sleep, shortness of breath, and heartburn could all be symptoms of pregnancy as well as anxiety. It is a good idea to let your healthcare provider know about any symptoms that you experience to rule out physical causes. If other health-related causes can be ruled out, it is possible that anxiety is to blame.
The symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy and the postpartum period might include but are not limited to:
- Constant worry about your health or your babys health
- Racing thoughts
- Feeling detached from reality or ones body
- Fear that one is going crazy
- Fear that one is dying
What Is Antenatal Anxiety
We all know that its almost expected to feel anxious while pregnant, but for many women, this occasional feeling of anxiety can escalate and turn into a disorder, or worse, exasperate a mental health problem that already exists.
If your anxiety level seems to be more than just the normal worries about pregnancy and it’s affecting your everyday life, you may have antental anxiety – a form of the condition experienced during pregnancy.
Research puts antenatal anxiety above depression, with prevalence ranging anywhere from 13 to 21% of pregnant women experiencing serious anxiety during pregnancy.
In fact, severe anxiety is three to four times more common than depression during pregnancy and early motherhood, according to research from the University of British Columbia. The study suggests that anxiety disorders in new mums are outpacing depression, yet health care professionals have given postnatal depression much more attention.
How to cope with anxiety during pregnancy
- Rapid pulse tight chest, sweating, muscle tension, nausea, loss of appetite
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