by Tehani Gunasekara
Pregnancy is usualy considered to be a happy time. You are eagerly anticipating the birth of your little bundle of joy and are positively glowing with happiness. While this may be the experience of some, it is certainly not the experience of all mums-to-be.
Pregnancy involves a lot of change and many thoughts about the future. For some this can result in increased stress and even Anxiety.
Anxiety refers to feelings of fear or dread about the future. It is a normal and useful response when triggered in the right context; namely when one's life is in danger. However, when it is triggered in the absence of physical threat it can be counterproductive and cause much suffering.
During pregnancy women could become anxious about the safety of the baby, giving birth etc. A pregnant woman may be anxious about eating the wrong thing or she may be hypervigilant about her baby's movements. Equally a mum-to-be may be anxious about the changes to her body or how she will cope once baby comes along. This anxiety may continue when baby is born, morphing into anxiety about the baby’s ongoing safety, the mother’s ability to cope and being a 'good mum'. This can compromise the wellbeing and adjustment of the mother and baby.
The good news is that you are not alone and there are highly effective therapies for Anxiety.
Research shows that approximately 20% of pregnant or new mums experience depression or anxiety. Dads-to be and new dads can also experience depression or anxiety. Furthermore, studies have found therapy to be highly beneficial. In addition, social support and self-compassion have also been found to help reduce anxiety during this period.
So, if you are pregnant and anxious I strongly recommend you talk to your GP and / or consult a Psychologist as soon as possible. In addition the following tips may be helpful:
Don’t go through it alone – as a mum-to-be / new mum it’s easy to feel the pressure to be happy and you may be afraid to open up to anyone. Yet, as we've already seen you are not alone, so don't go through it alone. Talk to one or two people whom you trust will understand and support you. Talk to other mums who may have already been through this and have got through it. Ask trusted family and friends for practical support once baby comes along and even put a plan in place for support post birth.
Take care of yourself – it’s easy to get so busy planning for baby that you lose sight of yourself. Yet making time to take care of yourself can make a big difference to your experience. One way of doing this is to make time for brief periods of rest, go for walks, ensure adequate sleep before baby comes long and ensure you are engaging with friends and family.
Be your own best-friend - if your friend was anxious would you simply tell them to "toughen up" or "get over it"? I hope not! So, if you are experiencing anxiety treat yourself with the same compassion that you would extend to a friend. The first step here is to notice and acknowledge your feelings. Acknowledge that it is difficult and then extend kindness to yourself. Speak to yourself kindly and compassionately and do something nice for yourself such as a soothing activity or a self-care activity.
Practice mindfulness- Anxiety is about the future. You expect something bad to happen in the future, no matter how near that future may be. So grounding yourself in the present can be helpful. There are several helpful apps out there such as Smiling Mind or Mind the Bump to help with this.
So if you are pregnant and anxious, please remember you are not alone, you are simply human, speak to your GP or a Psychologist and try out one or more of our tips above.