Anxiety in pregnancy is far more common than people think. Recent reports estimate at least 1 in 5 women suffer with symptoms of anxiety and depression during pregnancy. The causes can vary, but a history of anxiety, previous birth trauma, a long IVF journey, and challenging life circumstances greatly increase the risk of anxiety during this time.
If anxiety is left unchecked, anxiety can escalate and can lead to an increased risk of birth complications and post-natal depression.
How to recognise pregnancy anxiety
Most pregnancy worries are easily reassured, and don’t interfere with everyday life.
The following are signs of anxiety and the need to start taking action:
- constant worrying and feelings of dread
- spiral thinking about the health of the baby, your health and/or the birth (this includes the cycle of worrying that the anxiety is harming the baby which leads to further anxiety)
- restlessness or inability to concentrate & enjoy normal activities
muscle tension and the inability to relax or rest
- irritability and anger
- Trouble sleeping due to racing thoughts
- Physical experiences of panic or being out of control
Here are some common aspects of perinatal anxiety. Recognising these in yourself can be useful to help you realise it’s time to act and also know that you are not alone.
1. Worries About Pregnancy and Birth:
This is when worrying and overthinking become excessive and consuming. This can be about the health of the baby, the mother’s body/health, the birthing process, and potential complications.
Birth is inherently unpredictable so can trigger deeper fears of the unknown and not being able to manage the uncertainty.
2. Being unsure about parenting
Some individuals experience excessive worries about their ability to be a good parent or take on the responsibility. This might include worries about money or care of other children.
3. Worries about physical changes or body damage
The physical changes that occur during pregnancy can trigger anxiety related to body image, weight gain, and discomfort. Some individuals worry excessively about how their bodies will change after childbirth or how birth might affect their sex life.
4. A trauma response
Fear stemming from past traumatic experiences can significantly impact individuals facing pregnancy and birth. For those who have undergone challenging or traumatic birth before, a new pregnancy can evoke intense emotions.
Similarly, individuals with a history of sexual abuse or traumatic hospital encounters might find the concept of giving birth triggering. This reaction is entirely understandable, as the mind and body are designed to protect you against perceived threats.
5. Fear of death or loss
If someone previously experienced miscarriage or baby loss, or has recently been bereaved, it’s common for the fear of death and loss to become heightened. It is possible to find a gentle way to process grief and build confidence for birth.
6. Specific phobias
Pregnancy and childbirth encompass elements that trigger phobias in many individuals including blood, injections and hospitals. For those who’ve suffered with tokophobia (fear of birth), actually being pregnant can be very challenging.
7. Anxiety about current circumstances
Money or relationship worries can contribute to a heightened experience of anxiety. Sometimes, fears might be related to losing a job or ending career prospects. It is far easier to work out practical solutions when you are more balanced and able to manage your emotional state.
All of the above are fears and worries that clients have overcome through the process of Confident Childbirth. The key is to work on specific needs as each person experiences anxiety differently and needs a unique combination of help.
Other Mental Health Issues:**
Pregnancy anxiety can sometimes be connected to pre-existing anxiety disorders or depression. Some more severe mental health conditions need a different type of approach including medical guidance which is outside of the Confident Childbirth remit. (for example, bipolar disorder, psychosis, severe depression etc. Contact us if you are unsure about what might work for you.)