Tips for Dealing with Pregnancy Anxiety

Pregnancy Anxiety In my 20 week pregnancy update I mentioned I had been dealing with some pregnancy anxiety the week prior. Thankfully it has been much better this past week, but I'm sure I will have bouts of it again over the next 19 weeks!

I really was having more of an issue dealing with mini panic attacks than anxiety (which is more pervasive and ongoing than the acute issues I was having.) I immediately flashed back to when I was in middle school and first got my braces put on. I remember crying in the shower when I got home knowing that for the next two years I wouldn't be able to take them off my teeth. My teeth and jaw were throbbing, I hated how they looked, and I had zero control over it. My pregnancy was starting to feel similar.

I would see photos of women nearing the end of their pregnancy, see how giant and stretched out their stomachs were, and start to panic. I was already having such a horrible time breathing I couldn't imagine getting so much bigger and being able to function. Then I'd start to imagine labor and how painful it will be, and what life with a constantly crying newborn would be like, and suddenly I felt like there was a 100 pound weight on my chest.

As with most of my panic attacks I think the trigger was physiological; my irregular breathing. Once I started catching on to that early I was able to stop the panic attacks entirely. During pregnancy I've avoided almost all of the things I used previously to calm my anxiety; teas, essential oils and vigorous exercise. It's crazy but the solution to my problem was so simple! {Skip to "how to manage it?" below to see what worked for me.}

What is pregnancy anxiety?

Anxiety that is experienced while pregnant. Some research has found that up to 33% of women experience clinical depression or an anxiety disorder during their pregnancy, yet fewer than 20% seek treatment.

Who is prone to get it?

  • Women with a history of anxiety or depression
  • Being a young mother (under 20)
  • History of premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  • History of miscarriage/s
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Poor social support
  • Financial difficulties
  • Marriage/relationship problems
  • Low Income
  • Having more than 3 children

Really - who doesn't have at least 1 or 2 of those risk factors? 

What are the symptoms?

  • Excessive worry
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension/aches
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling restless
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Panic attacks (may be a separate diagnosis of panic disorder)

What are the risks?

  •  Low birthweight
  • Premature birth
  • Low APGAR score (test of how healthy the baby is immediately after delivery)
  • Respiratory distress and jitteriness

How can you manage it?

  • The #1 thing that helped me with the mini panic attacks was taking 10 deep breaths in. That's it. In the midst of a anxiety/panic attack it's about the only thing I could manage. I'd inhale while counting to 5, and exhale counting to 5. Honestly by the 3rd or 4th breath I'd already feel better. I also keep some lavender essential oil on the end table now to take a whiff of if the breathing doesn't help.
  • Eat well and avoid large amounts of sugar and caffeine. Caffeine is a huge trigger for anxiety!
  • Exercise daily! Even if it's just a 20 minute walk. Move. Preferably outside in the sunshine and fresh air.
  • Seek professional help. I'm still on the hunt for a good therapist in the area that specializes in cognitive behavioral training.
  • Make sure you are getting enough Omega-3's (I love this one for vegetarians.)
  • Embrace self help books. I love: Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, Mindful Way through Depression, Worry,  The Now Effect and Full Catastrophe Living.

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More I've written on anxiety:

I have perfectionist anxiety (and social media makes it worse)

I worry in an attempt to control things

My stress relief toolkit

Stressing out about small stuff can kill you