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Managing Anxiety during Pregnancy the Right Way

calendarNovember 18, 2016
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How to control anxiety attacks during pregnacy?

Having periods of anxiety during pregnancy is a common experience for most women. After all, bringing new life into the world is going to come with its worries! It’s a big change, not just for the mother but for the whole family too. Being a first-time mother can be especially daunting.

Having worries and concerns about the health of the baby or the birthing process is natural. Suffering from complications or problems with previous pregnancies may also bring on anxious feelings. Pregnancy causes many emotional and physical changes and these changes may be unsettling. They may also be a cause of stress during pregnancy.

If these periods of severe stress begin to affect your day to day life then it could be time to seek help. If your symptoms have become more severe or frequent, speak to your GP (general practitioner), Midwife or Health visitor. They will be able to arrange help in a variety of different forms so you can pick the best method for you and your baby.

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Experiencing anxiety in pregnancy is more common than experiencing depression in pregnancy. Though it is normal, many women overlook the symptoms of anxiety as they may develop over time. Women can blame their feelings on hormones of typical symptoms of pregnancy instead.

Anxiety affects people both physically and mentally but the general symptoms of anxiety include:

  • worrying thoughts;
  • heart palpitations;
  • feeling shaky;
  • tense muscles;
  • feeling restless;
  • panic attacks;
  • insomnia.

These symptoms can become so severe that woman begins to display avoidance behavior. This means women try to stay away from certain situations and this may have a huge impact on daily life. Simple things might become impossible. Some women begin to regularly seek reassurance from family and friends.

Research suggests that anxiety may be worse in the first and third trimesters. Managing anxiety during pregnancy is easy as long as you recognize the symptoms early and seek help.

Causes of Anxiety while Pregnant

  • Some women who have suffered from previous periods of anxiety find that they become worse during their pregnancy.
  • Sometimes, anxiety during pregnancy may be brought on simply by the general fears and worries of having a baby or the stress of pregnancy.
  • Other women find that the hormonal changes that accompany being pregnant can have an impact on their levels of anxiety.

Define the exact cause of anxiety may be difficult as there may be many contributing factors. Every woman's experience with anxiety is different and personal and may affect them in different ways.

Will It Affect the Baby?

The majority of women will go on to have an uncomplicated pregnancy and a happy, healthy baby. However, continuously high levels of stress or anxiety while pregnant can increase the risk of mothers being susceptible to preterm labor or low birth weight.

A vast amount of attention is focused on other aspects of the woman's pregnancy and means that the mother’s mental health needs are often overlooked. It’s important to take care of yourself first. Reducing your stress levels can only lead to a healthier pregnancy so it’s not only the mother who benefits but the baby too.

Risk Factors of Anxiety during Pregnancy

Severe anxiety during pregnancy left untreated can have unexpected consequences for the baby and the mother. There are other risks linked to high levels of anxiety and stress. As mentioned above, these include the risk of mothers being susceptible to preterm labor or low birth weight.

Women who suffer from anxiety also report more physical symptoms of pregnancy. More importantly, there are risks to the mother herself. These include an impaired attachment with the baby after birth and preeclampsia.

The mother can also begin to ignore her own physical health which can impact on the baby. A rare effect may be that the mother suffers so much that she wishes to end the pregnancy. Woman can also have suicidal thoughts or develop post-traumatic stress syndrome after.

These might occur in extreme cases but it is important for the mental health of the mother to be assessed. Not just throughout the pregnancy but after the birth of the baby too. If you are suffering from suicidal thoughts then you should seek professional help immediately.

How to Prevent and Calm Down Anxiety during Pregnancy?

How to deal with pregnancy anxiety?

If you find yourself feeling stressed or anxious there are steps you can take to prevent these. Prevention the symptoms can give you more control over your thoughts and feelings.

  1. Taking care of yourself is the most important. Ensure you are eating well and getting the right amount of rest as this can reduce negative thoughts. A nutritious diet will provide your body with everything it needs to keep your baby healthy. This will help to fight off the feelings of stress. Avoiding things that are harmful such as drugs or cigarettes will make you and your baby healthy and happy.
  2. Getting enough sleep is important for a healthy mind and baby. Ensuring you have 7-8 hours of sleep a night can help elevate your mood. If you find it difficult to switch off at night then try meditation or taking your mind off things by reading.
  3. Undertaking moderate exercise several times a week reduces cortisol levels. This will help to reduce the adverse risks to you and your baby. Women who exercised regularly experienced fewer symptoms of anxiety than those who didn't. Try swimming or yoga.
  4. Discover what makes you stressed. Find out what can provoke your stress or anxiety. If you are able to control them, then you can take the steps needed to address them. Cutting back on work hours is one way of reducing stress. Undertaking therapies such as massage therapy or acupuncture may also help with relaxation.
  5. Ask for help. Surround yourself with people who understand and are able to give you the support you need. Isolation can lead to symptoms worsening. Family and friends will want to know how you are feeling and if there is anything they can do to help. Discussing your worries might often put certain thoughts into perspective. This will allow you to work through any burdening worries you've been having.
  6. If you are unable to lower your stress and anxiety levels then speak to a health care provider. If things have become unbearable then it is time to work out the next step for treatment. Seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness. Instead, it proves that you want to do the best for you and your baby.

Panic Attacks during Pregnancy

Some women find they can suffer from an increasing amount of panic attacks when they are pregnant. This may cause a significant amount of worry about the health of the baby. Not only this but it causes the mother to suffer greatly too. A history of panic attacks can lead to a greater chance of developing them whilst pregnant.

There are other factors which may influence panic attacks. These can be down to significant hormonal changes within the body. The general worries and stresses involved with pregnancy can also be a cause of panic attacks. Women who suffer from panic attacks in pregnancy are more likely to experience them postpartum. Getting them under control early can reduce the risk of ongoing issues.

The symptoms of a panic attack do not differ in pregnancy and are typical recognized as:

  • rapid heartbeat;
  • difficulty breathing;
  • chest pain;
  • dizziness.

There are healthy ways in which panic attacks can be controlled during pregnancy:

  • Focus on your breathing. Whilst in the midst of a panic attack it can be extremely difficult to rationalize things. If you can get a grasp on controlling your breathing, the panic attack should begin to ease. There are many different breathing techniques which are successful in calming panic attacks. An effective one is known as the 7-11 breathing technique. This involves breathing in for seven seconds and exhaling for eleven. Focusing on this exercise allows your body to relax and the panic attack to subside.
  • Try relaxation techniques. Meditation, visualization or progressive muscle relaxation are ways to reduce stress and anxiety levels. Behavioral techniques such as mindfulness exercises can also help to reduce stress levels.
  • Control your stress. This is undoubtedly difficult but reducing levels of stress can significantly reduce the severity of future panic attacks. The less severe an attack is, the more manageable it will become.

Treatment Options

If the symptoms of anxiety have become unbearable then it is important to seek help. A health care professional can provide help so that day to day life can return to normal. There are different treatment options available to help manage pregnancy anxiety. Your midwife or GP will be able to discuss the options available to you and the best approach to take. Sometimes, they may refer you to other health care providers. Weighing up the benefits and risks of each treatment is important. Though the final decision on how best to treat the anxiety is down to the mother.

CBT (Cognitive behavioral therapy) is a psychotherapy. It works by ‘rewiring’ how the brain thinks. Therapists will work with you to try and alter the way you process and manage thoughts and emotions. It can be effective and is often used to help people suffering from phobias. Women who have suffered long term from anxiety attacks may benefit from this type of therapy.

Medications such as tricyclic antidepressants are safe to be administered. They have not been associated with any birth defects and therefore are safe to use whilst pregnant. In severe cases, benzodiazepines can be administered and are safe to take if taken for a short amount of time.

Treating anxiety when pregnant is personal and differs from person to person. What works for one person may not work for another. Sometimes it is beneficial to experiment with a few different treatments. It is important to find one that works for you. It may be that a combination of therapy and medications are needed in order to.

This combination may keep the anxiety under control for longer. Make your GP and midwife aware of the situation and keep your family and friends updated. The sooner you find help the sooner you’ll have peace of mind and be able to return to normal life. Help is always available when you ask for it.

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