Birth Anxiety with IOME


Birth Anxiety

What is it? What causes it? How can we decrease it?

Right now, you may be thinking of starting a family, you may be pregnant with your first child, or be preparing to bring your 2nd/3rd/ or even 4 children into this world. No matter where you are in your journey, you may be having feelings of birth anxiety. 

At some point during pregnancy, mothers-to-be tend to experience rising anxiety about labor and birth. You may be excited to meet this baby and look forward to being a mother, but actually having the baby can induce some serious sweats which bring about some conflicting emotions.

It’s very normal to feel anxious about giving birth. First-time mamas, even women having subsequent babies, and those of you who are thinking about starting a family, are facing the unknown. Whether you’re a first-time parent or are adding to your family, nine months of pregnancy can raise all sorts of concerns. You may wonder: Why is the baby kicking so much … or so little? How will I bear the labor pains I've heard so much about? How can I be a good mother if I have no clue what it’s like to take care of an infant? Or how can I take care of an infant with other children running around? The reality is that nearly every woman — behind that baby belly and “pregnancy glow” — is a bit anxious, worried or hesitant about some aspect of pregnancy, childbirth, or parenting. 

So, what is Birth Anxiety? Signs and symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy

There are a number of circumstances that can lead to stress during your pregnancy, including fluctuating hormone levels, uncertainty about the future, or physical discomfort. With that said, other everyday life circumstances can combine with these and cause some anxiety. 

Anxiety is the most common mental health problem, especially for women. It's estimated that women are 60% more likely than men to experience an anxiety disorder over their lifetime. It's hard to pinpoint exactly how common anxiety disorders are during pregnancy, but several studies have shown that many women experience anxiety during pregnancy.

The following are some symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy: 

  • Experiencing a frequent sense of panic, fear or restlessness
  • Feeling over-anxious all the time and not able to control it
  • Worrying about several events and activities-in pregnancy, this could play out as constant worry about your baby
  • Unable to concentrate-mind going blank
  • Feeling irritable
  • Sleeping badly
  • An inability to concentrate on your day-to-day life
  • Trouble functioning at work or home
  • Having obsessive thoughts
  • Not enjoying things that used to make you happy
  • This level of anxiety goes beyond the normal, everyday form of worrying

After touching on symptoms and signs, you may be wondering what causes anxiety during pregnancy?

Anxiety during pregnancy is a complicated condition that can have more than one cause. It can be caused by an underlying health issue, which you could consult with your doctor for. 

On the other hand, It may stem from a fear of giving birth (you may have heard a scary delivery room story), it could be the unknown of changing life roles you and your partner will be taking on, or a stressful situation at home or work (like relationship problems or financial troubles). It may even be triggered by the pregnancy itself, especially if it was unplanned.

Regardless of what’s behind these feelings or thoughts, know that anxiety during pregnancy is a medical condition — it is NOT the result of anything you did.

What are the risk factors for anxiety during pregnancy?

Just about anyone can develop anxiety during pregnancy.  In fact, a poll by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that 52 percent of pregnant women report increased anxiety or depression. That said, there are a few criteria that put you at higher risk for a severe anxiety disorder, which means that you should pay extra-close attention to how you’re feeling when you’re expecting, including:

  • A previous diagnosis of an anxiety disorder
  • Anxiety during a past pregnancy
  • Previous pregnancy loss or fertility struggles
  • Pregnancy with complications or bed rest 
  • Stress at home or work 
  • Age (younger pregnant women can be more likely to have anxiety than older pregnant women)

Again, these are risk factors that can contribute to a heightened risk of anxiety during pregnancy. This does not mean you need one of these risk factors to be experiencing anxiety symptoms.

What is a “normal” amount of pregnancy anxiety?

Anxiety is not only part of being pregnant, it’s part of being human. We all worry, and pregnancy can often amplify those worries.

Some women — especially those who've had previous pregnancy losses, difficult pregnancy or delivery,  or fertility problems — worry about whether their babies are healthy. Others might worry about whether they’ll be good parents, how their relationships with their partners will change, how siblings will react to a new baby, or the financial aspects of having a child.

Even if you worry about all these things, that’s normal too.

But there’s a difference between everyday worrying and all-consuming anxiety during pregnancy, also known as antenatal anxiety. 

Think about talking to a health care provider if your anxiety is preventing you from concentrating, causing you to have trouble functioning, making you extremely panicky, or causing some physical symptoms including rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath.

Anxiety becomes a problem when the feelings you experience are so powerful, they don't go away or start to interfere with your daily life. If your thoughts stop you from doing things you would normally do, then it could be a sign that you might be struggling with birth anxiety.

Why seek help for pregnancy anxiety?

Many women are under the mistaken impression that the best way to deal with anxiety is just to struggle through it. But if your anxiety is affecting your daily life, there are a few reasons it’s best to seek help.

Although you might tell yourself “I’ll just feel better once the baby is here,” research has actually shown that women who have anxiety during pregnancy are more likely to have postpartum depression after their baby is born.

So although anxiety and depression don’t necessarily occur together, they are closely related — and by learning ways to control your anxiety before your new little one arrives, you’ll increase the odds that you’ll be able to enjoy those joyful first few months.

What’s next? What should you do if you have anxiety in pregnancy?

Talk to your midwife, Doula, doctor or us at IOME if you are experiencing any of the symptoms I previously mentioned. Or if you want to have a space to talk about concerns before they turn into anxiety symptoms.

  • You feel anxious most of the time for more than two weeks.
  • Anxiety is making you feel physically ill with a fast heartbeat, fast breathing, sweating, feeling faint, or feeling sick.
  • You have panic attacks.
  • You have unpleasant thoughts that keep coming back and you can’t control them.
  • You find yourself repeating an action (like washing, checking, counting) to feel better.
  • You are so afraid of giving birth that you don’t want to go through with it.

Tips to calm anxiety while pregnant

Going to therapy sessions with a counselor is usually the first and best way to help pinpoint what’s causing your anxiety and develop a plan to help you ease your worries or learn relaxation techniques.

In addition, the following anxiety-alleviating strategies can help too: (brief overview, see blog for more details)

  • Catch more Zzzs. Some research has found that lack of sleep could exacerbate anxiety, so aim for seven to eight hours a night whenever possible. If lifestyle changes haven't helped you sleep better or problems persist, talk to your doctor about sleep aids. 
  • Eat whole, fresh foods. A growing amount of research has shown that what you eat can have a big effect on your mental health. Eating a well-balanced diet — nutrient-dense, whole, and unprocessed foods— instead of processed and fast foods is thought to support healthy bacteria in the gut, which in turn may help lessen anxiety.
  • Stay active. Something as quick and easy as a 10-minute walk can decreases levels of tension. People who get regular exercise are less likely to develop anxiety or depression.
  • Arm yourself with knowledge. Learning the ins and outs of pregnancy and parenting can go a long way in helping you feel prepared. You could even consider taking a childbirth class.
  • Build a support system. Spend time with experienced parents or friends who are also expecting. You can also join an online community to connect with others who are coping with the same feelings as you are.
  • Schedule time in your day to relax. Scientists have found that regular meditation and acupuncture have benefits for people with anxiety. Or try yoga, listen to music or get a massage from a professional or even just your partner. You could also come to see us at IOME and we can help you find ways to engage in some guilt free self-care!

Lastly, try to learn to remind yourself that you really will know what to do when your bundle of joy arrives. Even if you've never held a baby, instinct is on your side — and what your little one will really need more than anything is simply your love.

If you feel you are struggling with anything I have discussed in this video today, know you are not alone. Please reach out for support, we are here to help you navigate this journey you are on! 

Please reach out to Morgan at [email protected] for further questions or feedback. 

Together we are better, 
Morgan for more information on Guilt Free Self Care and our Prenatal Emotional Awareness Course. 



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