With all the changes happening to your body and to your life when you fall pregnant, it is natural to feel some anxiety about it all.
However, there does come a point when the anxiety becomes more than just a ‘little worried’.
Antenatal anxiety is just as common as antenatal depression, which affects 1 in 10 women and 1 in 20 men. If left untreated it could lead to postnatal depression or anxiety after the baby is born.
So what exactly are the symptoms of anxiety in pregnancy? And how do you know when you need help?
Here is some information on anxiety in pregnancy as well as tips on how to combat it.
What are the signs or symptoms of anxiety?
If you have one or more of these symptoms then you should seek help for your anxiety.
- anxiety or fear that interrupts your thoughts and interferes with your everyday life
- panic attacks
- persistent worries that you can’t get rid of
- trouble sleeping because of anxiety and not being able to relax
- tense muscles, tightening in the chest, heart palpitations
- a constant feeling of being ‘on edge’ or irritable
9 ways to help combat anxiety in pregnancy
Find a support group
A support group is a good idea. This can be a group of friends and family that you talk to — or a group of people who suffer the same anxiety, and will know how you feel. You can find local anxiety support group through your local council. There are also forums like ours where you can find a lot of support.
Say no to visitors
Restrict visitors when you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, unless they are part of your support group. If you don’t feel up to seeing people, you don’t have to. Either explain to them that you aren’t up to it, or make up a line about being busy.
Focus on the present
Take things one step at a time — don’t try to look too far ahead if it makes you feel anxious. Focus on the things that are happening in the present, right now — and not even as far into the future as tomorrow, if that is causing you anxiety. Try something like, “I know I’ve got an appointment tomorrow that I’m worried about, but today I’m going to listen to some music while I go for a walk, and then make myself a yummy lunch. I’ll focus on that.”
Don’t bottle up your feelings
Don’t bottle up feelings — discuss them with people in your support group. As soon as you talk about an issue, you’ll feel better. This might be because it just isn’t so scary when said aloud, or the person you tell would have something calming and helpful to say back.
Eat a balanced diet
Being healthy in your body can help to be healthier in your mind.
Practise deep breathing and muscle relaxation techniques
Find a relaxation technique that works for you, to help you calm down when you are feeling anxious.
- Coherent breathing – where you take 5 breaths per minute: try counting to five while breathing in, then counting to five while breathing out.
- Breath moving – where you imagine your breath is moving to the top of your head every time you breathe in, and moving to the base of your spine every time you breathe out.
- Tire your muscles – tense each muscle in your body one at a time for 10 seconds, then release and feel the relaxation. Start from your feet — one foot tensed for 10 seconds, then release, and follow on to the next muscle until your whole body is relaxed.
Try to establish good sleeping patterns
Sleep helps your mind and body rejuvenate, and keeps your body healthy.
Get outside help
Whether that’s a cleaner, a babysitter for older kids, or something else, that little bit of time-off will relieve some stress and help to keep your anxiety under control.
Remember your needs are important too.
Take care of yourself, and take some time every day to do what you want to do. There is no point in running yourself into the ground to make everyone else happy, or their lives easier. This is especially true if it fuels your anxiety. Take some time as often as you need to and just do something you like. See a movie, read a book, or have coffee with friends, and leave your worries to the side for at least that moment.
Where to get information and support
1300 22 4636
Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA)
1300 726 306 (Mon – Fri 9am – 7:30pm EST)
For more information on anxiety and depression in pregnancy and parenthood
visit our perinatal and postnatal depression and anxiety info hub