Isn’t pregnancy supposed to be a time of joy? Then why do I feel anxious?
Pregnancy is a time of tremendous change. Some of these feelings and sensations are welcomed, while others are downright uncomfortable and scary.
Being pregnant means your body is adjusting and changing in ways you have never experienced before. Internally your hormones are changing, and externally your body is adjusting. So not everything that makes you feel anxious is under your control.
There is uncertainty with what can happen and you’re trying your best to get on with life as best you can. Of course, you will feel anxious, as well as thrilled and a number of other emotions.
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 the feeling of anxiety takes over and you are struggling to manage everyday life, it is important to seek some support where you can develop strategies to manage the anxieties.
Here are eight ways to cope with pregnancy anxiety:
1. Talk about your pregnancy
One of the toughest and isolating times during pregnancy is the first trimester. If you and your partner are the only people who know that you're expecting, it's natural to feel like you have no one to rely on or talk to when your anxiety takes over.
Remember to keep the line of communication open with people you love and make a mindful decision of who you want support from. If you’re feeling very anxious during your pregnancy, it’s important to tell someone. Your partner, a close friend, or family member may be able to offer support.
2. Find a release
You can try activities for your mind or body that support your stress levels such as meditation, massage therapy, deep breathing exercises, acupuncture, prenatal yoga and even taking a bath!
You may also find that writing down your thoughts and feelings helps you organise or prioritise your worries. You can track different triggers to share with your partner, therapist or doctor too.
Another important factor is to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. We underestimate the importance of sleep on our mood and especially towards our overthinking thoughts. Making sleep a priority may help significantly with your anxiety symptoms.
4. Don’t compare yourself
Remember anxiety during pregnancy is common and it is highly individual, so what may help your friend may not be the thing that will help your worries.
It is so easy for us to fall down a rabbit hole and think “what is wrong with me?”. But whether this is your first child or fourth child, your pregnancy will be different, and you will be having changes that you have never experienced before. Be patient with yourself and offer yourself compassion.
5. Choose your sources for information wisely
It is important for mums to learn as much as they can, but there needs to be a balance. There is so much information about pregnancy anxiety available online – so be mindful of how much you are consuming.
Putting every question you have into Google can do more harm than good, especially if you are already feeling anxious. Not all online sources are reliable or come from a trusted source. Please be mindful of what you are reading and where it comes from.
6. Focus on staying healthy
Making small changes during pregnancy will help you and baby be as healthy as possible. Try to focus your energy on what you can control, instead of looking elsewhere. For example, things like your diet, exercise, and the amount of rest you are having.
These foundations can really help you with your mental health on a daily basis. Eating healthy and participating in regular exercise will help you feel better both physically and mentally.
7. Practice self-care
When there is so much focus on the baby we can forget about ourselves. This is why self-care is so important; it gives you space, focus and clarity to re-connect. It can also be difficult to listen to your body if prior to pregnancy you have always been active and you can often feel disappointed and annoyed with yourself.
Schedule in your self-care time to help you stay on track and most importantly listen to your body. Remember there's a lot going on in and out of your body when you're pregnant, especially during the first trimester, so if you feel like you need a break, take one.
If you feel tired and need to take a nap, take it. If you cannot make a scheduled yoga class because you feel exhausted, rearrange it. If you don’t feel up to meeting with friends, cancel and say no. Your wellbeing comes first.
8. Connect with additional mental health resources
You should never feel embarrassed about sharing your thoughts and feelings, especially if they concern you. If you are really struggling with pregnancy anxiety then please do reach out to speak with your GP or another service that could help.
The sooner you get help, the sooner you’ll be able to gain peace of mind for your health and the health of your growing baby. Beyond referral to a therapist, there may be medications you can take to ease your most severe symptoms.
There can be a stigma around going to therapy for support, but by developing tools and becoming resilient, it will help you on your ongoing journey into motherhood.
Dr Lalitaa, Psychologist
Dr. Lalitaa is an award-winning Psychologist and renowned coach. Her mission is to help transform women's lives by helping them understand and accept their emotions, attachments and relationships.