Overwhelmed rather than overjoyed, more irritable than excited? Not to worry – you probably have what’s known as pregnancy anxiety.
This post is going to guide you through this commonly untalked about pregnancy symptom, from why it happens to what you can do about it! So relax, and read on…
Why does pregnancy anxiety happen?
It’s easy to blame anxiety on our ever-evolving hormones us women experience.
Though we will be going through those said hormones, we’re also going to dig a little deeper into common worries it’s totally NORMAL to be having right now.
So, let’s talk about the hormones, before anything else:
Estrogen is the hormone that controls the functions of all the other hormones during pregnancy.
Without estrogen, we wouldn’t have our high fertility period in which we’re able to conceive. The production of estrogen continues throughout pregnancy and can lead us to feel:
That’s because it creates higher levels of serotonin (1). Let’s move onto our next hormone..
Progesterone plays a very important role during pregnancy as it prevents an early labor from ocurring.
Progesterone, however, is quite the opposite of our friend estrogen – it can leave us feeling anxious and irritable.
In fact, science says that the increase in progesterone has a stimulating effect on the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that controls our fight and flight response. (2)
You may have already heard of relaxin, which is the hormone responsible for allowing your ligaments and muscles to stretch more to accomodate your bump.
It also allows the uterus to expand and prepare for birth.
Though this may sound utterly disconnected from anixety, relaxin will often leave you feeling ‘loose’ or in pain – ultimately making you cranky and fed up.
I could go on about other influencing hormones, but I think it’s important that we talk about what else can cause pregnancy
While it’s perfectly normal to track your baby’s growth and development week by week, observing every small change in your body can make you anxious and on edge.
When I was pregnant, I would often look up bizarre symptoms on Google only to feel even more confused than before.
And I know I’m not the only one – who else felt could identify with that feeling? Pregnancy is such a delicate time and it’s hard not to get swept away in all our feelings.
So how do you know when to draw the line?
I would say, if all you’ve gathered is conflicting information and you have a real concern – your best bet is to talk to your doctor or midwife.
At least you’ll gain some reasurrance that what you’re experiencing is probably perfectly normal.
Or, you could just shrug your shoulders and blame it on pregnancy and it’s bizarre symptoms.
Changes in your couple life
Preparing to have a baby is both an exciting and scary even for any couple. Suddenly, romance is not the highest on the menu as you begin to slip into new roles and habits.
The more you talk about any worries you’re having about when the baby will arrive, the more prepared and relaxed you’ll feel.
If you’re not sure what to say, check out my post on The talk you should have before baby arrives.
Once you’ve laid down your cards and got your values out in the open, you’ll be able to move forward with confidence in your couple.
It’s true that having a baby rocks every couple’s life, for sure – but what rocks it more is not talking things through enough.
So go have that little chat!
Anxious about giving birth
Don’t worry if this is you! I was the same during the first few months of pregnancy, only worse.
I was sometimes even paralysed by the thought of it, until I found out a way to overcome that fear and even better, I’m now creating a course about how you can do just that too.
I’ll be going through some tips further on in this post on how to manage anxiety but I would say focus on:
- Identify what it is about giving birth that you’re scared of
- Journal down your thoughts
- Remember that birth is a process, not an event
- Educate yourself according to what birth you plan to have
You can also read my post on How to overcome the fear of birth.
New life as a mother
Here’s the thing: everyone will tell you how much your life is going to change after having a baby but no one ever gets damn specific!
Have you ever noticed that?
I mean, of course, we know that sleep may or may not be a thing of the past for the next coming year.
But there’s so much more to it than that. I don’t say this to scare you – I think that the more you know, the better prepared you can be.
So, some major changes you may find:
- You don’t have time for seeing friends as often
- Baby brain continues even after pregnancy is over
- You question your identity as a woman
- You may feel lonely at times in motherhood
- You don’t feel understood
These are perfectly normal reactions to such a life-changing event as having a baby.
So plan ahead for this – get on the same page as your friends, organise to meet at least a month.
Continue to do an activity that you used to do pre-baby. For me, that was singing but it could be anything crafty, writing, or maths if that’s your thing.
Connect with other mothers too, find mom and baby groups if possible – or La Leche League if you’re planning to breastfeed is a great place to find
General anxiety-coping tips
So far, we’ve touched on some of the reasons you might be feeling anxious during pregnancy, now let’s see how we can best deal with it!
1) Talk it through
There is no better way to dissolve anxiety and worries, than talking about it to someone you can confide in.
No matter how seemingly silly the worry is, getting it out in the open will help you feel reassured that you’re not alone.
Obviously the easiest choice is your partner, but you might feel more at ease with a girlfriend or even speaking to a professional.
This is why it’s so important to stay connected with your support circle during pregnancy.
Talking to a friend who already is a mother can really help you feel identified too. Plus, they usually know what to do and can give you good advice if you’re struggling with something.
2) Write it down
Maybe you don’t feel like chewing your best friend’s ear off again, that’s okay.
Or perhaps you need an outlet that’s just for you to know about. Studies show that there are great benefits in journaling.
There are many benefits of journaling, including:
- Helps you get it all out without limiting yourself
- You can decipher your thoughts
- Seeing them on a page can make more sense
- Your worries seem smaller when written on paper
If you’re not sure of what to write or need a few prompts to get you going, I’ve created a Pregnancy Thought Journal especially for that.
3) Find a way to release
Perhaps talking or journaling is not your thing – it’s equally possible to release anxiety by engaging in something that you love doing, too.
Think of something that will lower your stress levels and bring your awareness to your body, like yoga or meditation.
If you can, find an antenatal yoga class – that way you can get your downtime in and meet new moms like you –
Find whatever works for you though, it could be dancing to your favourite songs, going for a walk in the nature, painting…
Try a few different activities until you hit one that you can see yourself keeping up long-term.
You can even find a whole range of antenatal videos on Youtube these days, so you don’t have to move from your living room if you don’t feel like it!
Read my post on Motivation tips for Pregnancy exercise too or save it for later!
4) Get some rest
If you read that, and secretly snorted because rest and pregnancy just don’t seem to go together – I get that.
I had some real trouble getting some decent shut-eye in when I was pregnanct. Here’s what I learned:
- Create the right ambience for rest
- Write down your to-do list before bed
- Invest in a decent pregnancy pillow
- Reduce stimulating activities before bed
- Listen to some relaxation music
Something that reall helped me out as well, was to tire myself out during the day (within reason, obviously) to be able to rest more at night.
As well as a great serotonin boost from the exercise, my muscles would be tired out, sending the message to my brain that it was time to wind down.
Read this post on How to get more sleep while pregnant.
5) Cut back on the coffee
You can still enjoy a cup or two of coffee during the day while you’re pregnant, but if you’re feeling more anxious than normal, it might be time to cut back a little.
Something you could try is cutting it out completely for a few days then drinking it again, seeing if it’s having any negative effects on your mood.
If you’re a coffee lover like me, it can be difficult to not get your dose! That’s why I’ve thought of some alternatives you can try out and see what you think:
Tastes a little like coffee, but actually comes from a root that is then grounded in a similar way to coffee too.
What’s great about chicoree, is that it’s naturally high in fibre, which will give your digestive tract a boost (cause ya know, pregnancy constipation is a thing) and it’s naturally low in sugar.
Another great and safe coffe alternative to coffee is rooibos tea, which is actually caffeine free!
Not only that, it might actually help you get a good night’s sleep.
Slightly bitter in taste, but equally delicious is yerba mate. It has half the amount of caffeine in your normal cup of coffee, and it’s full of antioxidants. (3)
6) Avoid anxiety triggers
Once you start writing down your anxiety, you might notice a pattern emerge in why you became anxious in the first place.
Try and avoid these triggers as best as you can. For example, if something making you anxious is everyone staring at your bump, find a way to avoid huge public places.
I’m not saying don’t go out of your house – just reduce the hustle and bustle to a minimum, and go out with friends that make you feel good so you’ll be distracted.
Similarly, if all the symptoms have you worrying, try not to overdo it when searching through Google. It’s always best to consult your doctor or midwife if you’re really unsure about something.
When to get help
If you feel like your symptoms aren’t going away even with the help of some of the tips in this post, it might be a sign that you need to see someone who can better advise you.
Getting help is a sign of strength, not of weakness. You’re protecting yourself and your baby from your anxiety excalating. Here are some signs to watch out for:
- Your worries are constant/don’t fade away
- Heart rate increases dramatically
- Sweating in the palms of your hands
- Breathing faster than normal
- Dizziness/loss of perception
Some of those symptoms also apply to panic attacks. If you start to see these signs regularly, please consult someone.
Overall, pregnancy can be a wonderful but also tough time to get through. Remember that you’re not alone and it doesn’t make you anything less of a mother for feeling anxious.