Anxiety During Pregnancy
Pregnancy can bring on a lot of feelings. Becoming a new mom myself I began to understand that this life transition, like many others, can provoke a lot of thought and introspection. Many feelings can come up during the childbearing year. There is so much to think about, so much to plan for, and many unanswered questions. What kind of mom will I be? Am I able to provide for this child? Will I make it through the birth? All these questions can lead to a whole lot of anxiety. Anxiety can mess up a pregnancy and birth experience just as much as it can mess up life in general. The truth is that anxiety during pregnancy can not only effect how you experience your pregnancy but also your birth and parenting experience.
If you are someone who suffered from anxiety before pregnancy, your childbearing year might be a trigger to bring it back into your life. I provide counseling to women who are dealing with anxiety during pregnancy in my Ann Arbor office and some of the most frequent symptoms I see in people dealing include:
Feeling wound-up, tense, or restless
Easily becoming fatigued or worn-out
Significant tension in muscles
Difficulty with sleep
At a time when your physical body is already going through a significant amount of changes that might affect energy, mood, and sleep, anxiety can just compound how you are feeling. Anxiety and depression during pregnancy was shown to lead to post-natal depression and anxiety. Additionally, anxiety can have an effect on how you are approaching your big day and the outcomes of the birth. Ann Arbor Doula, Amber Miller, owner of Gentle Birth by Amber, explains her experience working with anxious moms and how their mood affects their birth.
Women who are feeling especially anxious or afraid have a much more difficult road ahead of them when it comes time to giving birth. The tension and fear that has built up can get in the way of your body’s ability to labor effectively, often leading to inductions for post-dates, longer labors, and unfortunately more painful contractions.
Just like in life without pregnancy, anxiety can trigger a negative chain reaction. Anxiety can make you tense and cause your mind to become preoccupied with worry. That worrry and physical tension can then lead to making situations more difficult because you are not functioning as your natural, relaxed, and clear minded self. Then when you approach those same situations in the future you will anticipate them going poorly. Some examples might include social situations with new people, performance anxiety, or public speaking. Amber explains this process in pregnancy as the “fear, tension, and pain cycle.”
Moms are afraid that the contractions will hurt or that they will not be able to handle birth and they tense their muscles, these tense muscles heighten the sensation of contractions to a painful level and also make them less effective. Now the mom feels validated that her fears were correct and she can’t handle the pain, and she becomes more tense, the contractions become more painful, and she is unable to relax her muscles between contractions, and the cycle continues. This is exhausting for her and it takes a lot of help from the doula to pull her out of this.
Overcoming anxiety can be a freeing experience and it is completely possible. It can unchain you from those undermining thoughts and fears to allow yourself to function in the way you were meant to. Learning to be present in the situation and leave fears behind can be a productive start that will encourage our body’s to follow. In reverse, learning to pay attention to the body, calm a racing heart, and release tension from tight muscles can encourage the mind to follow.
When women are able to check their fears at the door, and truly open themselves up to whatever their body is telling them to do, they relax more fully, they work well with their body and their baby during contractions, and their labors tend to be shorter and go more smoothly. Gail Tully, the owner of Spinning Babies always reminds us that, “there is only room for one head in the pelvis, and it’s not yours.” The attitude and emotions that your enter labor with will have a strong impact on your overall experience.
In my experience, the women who have the most satisfying birth experiences are those that are able to be open with themselves and their support team about how they are feeling (voicing any fears and then letting them go), are open to whatever their body is telling them to do, and trust their body’s ability to give birth.
Anxiety is highly treatable and there are even things you can do to minimize your daily stress so it doesn’t build up to the point where you feel out of control. Integrating self-care activities into your daily life like going for walks, getting out of the house, spending time with friends, watching a movie, getting a pedicure, doing yoga, or writing in a journal are just a few ideas. Find activities that you enjoy, feel good, and are safe for you during pregnancy. For more ideas on self-care check out this other blog I wrote on the topic here.
Integrating self-care strategies can improve anxiety symptoms however if you are beyond that point and are concerned with how your anxiety might be effecting your baby and pregnancy outcomes, please call me. I can support you through counseling to overcome your anxiety so you can enjoy your pregnancy and approach birth and motherhood with more confidence.