WORKING WITH ANXIETY DURING PREGNANCY
When I found out I was pregnant, I was ecstatic, but a sudden surge of anxiety came over me and lingered around for the first 3 to 4 months. I was always nervous and consumed by thoughts about what could happen or go wrong with the bub, how my life would change, how my my independence was about to be taken from me, how I would I financially cope without working while finishing my studies, and whether I would be a good mum.
After reading and understanding the human body and the hormonal changes undergone by a female while she is pregnant, I knew these feelings were normal. The body is changing, the hormones are surging and your mind is on fast forward. After understanding the science behind it all I was able to slowly let go, enjoy the journey and surrender. I used meditation, yoga, and writing affirmations to do this. Pregnancy is a gift and it is a time we should enjoy without becoming our anxiety driven thoughts.
One of my close girlfriends is studying to become a midwife. She follows pregnant women throughout their pregnancy and has had the privilege of working in the antenatal, birthing and postnatal wards of the Royal Women’s Hospital in Randwick.
Anxiety is one of the main emotions felt by pregnant women. Together we decided it was important to openly speak about it to help future pregnant women suffering from anxiety manage it and enjoy their pregnancy and the birth of their baby.
Pregnancy and the transition to motherhood is one of the most intensely physical, psychological and spiritual periods of growth a woman undergoes in just over 40 weeks.
Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy and the postnatal period can drastically affect the way we feel about ourselves and the relationships around us. From first trimester thoughts of “will I make it to the 12 week mark?!” to the third trimester “oh my gosh I’m going to push a baby out soon!”, most of the time these changes are completely normal and can (weirdly) be a positive sign of your stage of pregnancy. While there a times when it feels as though the random crying or insecurities might just be a result of our fluctuating hormones (here’s looking at you, oestrogen and progesterone!), there are times when the grip of anxiety can be overwhelming enough to hinder your enjoyment for the blossoming life both inside and around you.
1 in 10 women in Australia will experience perinatal anxiety or depression, or both. Globally, serious anxiety affects 21% percent of pregnant women, making it one of the leading morbidities of pregnancy.
If you have a history of anxiety or depression, you will know that its triggers can be varied, dealing with it is no easy feat, and it is not always easy to define. Thankfully, it’s 2019, and there is much positive change coming to the way we understand anxiety and depression. It is no longer something to be cured or beaten, but something to be embraced and dealt with through a number of strategies and tactics.
Boost your love hormones - Oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’, is important during pregnancy and especially when it comes to birth! Cuddles and kisses with your partner, getting a big hug from your best girlfriend or your mum, or just spending time around people that make you laugh can boost your oxytocin levels and help you feel loved and relaxed.
Eat well - Eating well is vitally important for a number of reasons. It ensures the growth of a healthy baby, as well as giving you the energy to get about your daily life while growing said baby! There is growing research linking gut health to mental health, so keeping well by eating a high-quality foods with adequate macro and micronutrients will means you’re in in the best condition to feel well and grow a happy and strong baby. And while you may just want to eat hot chips covered in melted chocolate, there are a lot of delicious food out there to keep (some) of those cravings at bay. Check out the 10 Essential Nutrients You Need During Pregnancy for tips and recipes.
Meditation - Practising mindfulness meditation during pregnancy has been shown to reduce women’s stress during pregnancy. Participants of a recent study reported that an eight week mindfulness meditation program helped pregnant women increase their awareness and positive feelings, and overcome fears. A mindfulness teacher in the study reported that one of her participants cancelled a scheduled Caesarean section, feeling that she was confident in herself to get through the birthing process. Guided meditation apps such as The Bump by Headspace are a great place to start if you’re new to the practice.
Speak out - During your antenatal appointments with your midwife or doctor, you will be given the Edinburgh Depression Scale to complete. This is an opportunity to assess your current emotional state and address any major anxieties you may be having at the time. It can also be a great time to access many of the services available for pregnant women coping with anxiety. Your midwife or doctor may be able to refer you to the Mental Health Care Plan which is covered by Medicare, so that you can access a psychologist that specialises in perinatal mental health