Managing Anxiety During Pregnancy

Team Peanut4 months ago6 min read

Anxiety during pregnancy is common—really common. As in one in three women experiences some form of it. Whether anxiety has been a part of your life forever, or you are experiencing it for the first time, know that you’re not alone. You’re not doing anything wrong. And there is help available.

Anxiety During Pregnancy

When we feel unsafe or simply out of our comfort zones, our bodies (quite amazingly) respond with warning signals—and that’s what’s going on when you feel anxious. It’s your body’s communication system sending messages to basecamp that there’s some sort of threat.

And the threat doesn’t have to be big—or even real. Sometimes just the thought of something bad happening can cause anxious feelings to erupt.

But if your feelings of anxiety are completely overwhelming, not letting up, and/or coupled with symptoms of depression, you may be dealing with an anxiety disorder. Talk to your doctor. It is treatable, and you don’t need to go through this alone.

What anxiety during pregnancy feels like

Being anxious in pregnancy can make you feel as though you’re trapped in a vicious cycle. It looks a little something like this:

You feel anxious. Then you start getting anxious about your anxiety – “Why is this happening? Is it bad for the baby?” Your anxiety about your anxiety snowballs and causes even more anxiety.

Sound familiar?

We often speak of anxiety as a blanket term, when in fact the story is far more colorful. Anxiety during pregnancy can feel all sorts of ways and stem from all sorts of reasons.

Hate to state the obvious here, but there’s a major life change going on right now. Coupled with a major body change. You’re confronted with hormone shifts, pregnancy symptoms, and a body that is altering in ways that may feel pretty alien.

Plus there’s that whole giving birth thing at the end of this, which can cause all sorts of feelings. No matter how prepared you are, it just never feels enough.

But wait, there’s more (of course). Having to go for constant check-ups, blood tests, and scans can all be pretty nerve-wracking.

Put this all together and being pregnant and anxious sound like they go hand in hand.

While both depression and anxiety during pregnancy can be experienced by anyone, there are some factors that may put you more at risk.

These include:

  • If you have experienced anxiety and/or depression before.
  • Family history of anxiety and depression.
  • Having had a miscarriage before.
  • Any health challenges you or your baby face.
  • Life drama (relationship trouble, money issues, work stuff).

Anxiety during pregnancy can manifest itself both physically and mentally. These are some of the symptoms of an anxiety attack while pregnant:

  • Appetite loss
  • Sleep trouble
  • Increased heart rate
  • Stomach issues
  • Muscle tension and twitching
  • Dizziness
  • Constant worry
  • Tightness in your chest
  • Thoughts that go a million miles per hour
  • Doom thinking (jumping to the worst-case scenario)
  • Brain fog

If you have serious symptoms that come on quickly, you might be experiencing an anxiety or panic attack. If you feel faint, suffocated, numb, shakes, and/or have chills or hot flushes, reach out to a healthcare provider as soon as you can.

Can anxiety during pregnancy affect the baby?

Dealing with anxiety is challenging at the best of times. Dealing with anxiety and pregnancy? Maybe doubly so. The question, Can stress and anxiety hurt my baby? in itself can cause you to feel anxious.

So what is the deal? Can your baby feel what you’re feeling? And if so, what sort of impact will those feelings have?

The answer is, it’s complicated but, most of the time, nothing to worry about.

Feeling some degree of anxiety during pregnancy is normal and will likely not have a serious impact on your baby.

But if you are really struggling with anxiety symptoms, it’s important to get help—not only for your baby’s health but yours as well. The right treatment and support are out there. You don’t have to try and figure this one out on your own.

Some early research suggests that high levels of anxiety may have an impact on the development of your baby’s brain. We know. The last thing you need to hear right now. But this doesn’t have to be yet another thing to feel anxious about. Instead, it can be a call to get the support you need. You got this, mama.

So next question: How can I calm my anxiety while pregnant? There are so many ways. We’ll take you through them.

How to deal with anxiety during pregnancy

Basically, anxiety during pregnancy operates in different ways in different people.

For some, it’s the experience of pregnancy that gives them symptoms of anxiety. For others, anxiety exists and they have to navigate it while pregnant.

Your journey is your journey. Here are some tools to help you along the way:

First, sometimes just knowing that anxiety during pregnancy is normal can do wonders.

Then, in terms of treatment, there are various options available. You do what works for you:

  • Talk therapy
  • Yoga and meditation
  • Prenatal massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Accessing support networks so that you don’t feel alone

If you think it’s right for you, talk to your doctor about the use of anti-anxiety medication. While the topic is somewhat controversial, there are some safe options available that might be of help to you.

Then, some other things that can really help include:

  • Moderate exercise
  • Decreasing your caffeine intake
  • Good food
  • Journaling (Getting those thoughts out of your head and onto the page can really help slay the monster.)
  • Prioritizing sleep

There are also all sorts of resources available, such as Postpartum Support International that can help you navigate this journey. And you know what else? Chatting with other moms (on Peanut or IRL) who are going through the same thing.

If it feels safe to do so, tell your friends and family that you are experiencing anxiety. Explain to them how they can support you. There really shouldn’t be any guilt or shame attached to what is a totally common experience.

We really need to normalize the conversation around anxiety during pregnancy. The more we talk about it, the more it becomes a shared rather than a solitary experience. That in and of itself can help soothe the symptoms.

We’ll say it again and again and again:
You don’t have to do this alone.
You don’t have to do this alone.
You don’t have to do this alone.