How To Manage Your Anxiety Through Pregnancy and Motherhood
Dr Natasha Bijlani, a consultant psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Roehampton with a specialist interest in women’s mental health issues and pregnancy-related mood disorders, has put together information and advice on how to manage your anxiety during pregnancy and early motherhood.
There are many different aspects of pregnancy and early motherhood that can lead women to worry. It is important to recognise that in most cases, such feelings are common and completely normal.
If you are affected by an anxiety disorder, or have been in the past, it is likely that you’ve thought about the impact your mental health may have on you and your baby. While anxiety can increase during pregnancy and the risk of an anxiety disorder is higher in those who have a previous or family history of anxiety or other mental health conditions, there are steps that you can take to effectively manage your mental health during this time.
How will my anxiety impact on my pregnancy and my baby?
Untreated anxiety during pregnancy can lead to a sustained elevation of stress hormones and the development of unhealthy coping behaviours such as poor sleep and a disturbed appetite, which could affect the course of pregnancy and foetal development.
If you currently experience anxiety or have previously had an anxiety disorder, it is recommended that you speak with your doctor so that you can take steps to monitor and manage it during your pregnancy. Speaking to a medical professional can provide you with reassurance and access to practical coping strategies which can help with managing anxiety-related thoughts, relaxation and sleep. Your doctor can also give advice and information with regards to use of medication.
Strategies for managing your anxiety
Speak to your doctor about your anxiety medication
Before you make any changes to your anxiety medication, it’s important to book an appointment to talk to your GP or psychiatrist. They will be able to provide you with updated information about the possible effects of your medication during pregnancy, and help you to weigh up the pros and cons of stopping or continuing it.
If possible, try to meet with your doctor when planning your pregnancy. But if this hasn’t been possible, don’t worry and don’t attempt to stop or reduce your dosage without seeking medical advice. You can still make these decisions when you are pregnant.
Never abruptly stop taking your medication as you may experience unpleasant discontinuation symptoms and even re-experience the original symptoms you were being treated for.
Make the time to look after yourself
Be proactive in putting time aside for yourself. You may choose to have a weekly meet-up with friends, have a bath in the evenings or go for a daily walk in the local park. These activities can lift your mood and energy while helping you to re-focus and step away from your worries.
Look after your physical health too. Exercise can help with anxiety, so discuss your options with your midwife. Also, make sure that you’re getting enough sleep, rest when you can and eat regular, healthy meals.
Talk to others
Communicate your worries to your partner or a person you feel able to trust. This can give you the opportunity to release any pent-up feelings and worries you have been carrying around. If you have a particular concern or question about pregnancy or motherhood, don’t be afraid to talk to your midwife or doctor, who will be able to give you the advice and information you need.
It’s essential to seek professional guidance if your anxiety symptoms persist or worsen. Your doctor or psychiatrist can provide you with coping strategies that are useful for pregnant women with anxiety, as well as access to talking therapies, which can provide you with a time and place to talk, an opportunity to make sense of your feelings, and learn ways to manage your emotions effectively.
Taking the time to read factually reliable information on pregnancy, birth and motherhood can help you stay well-informed about the changes to expect at this time. This valuable knowledge can give you the opportunity to feel more in control and reduce any anxiety you have about the unknown.
If you have a severe mental health problem, it is highly recommended that you request to be referred to a perinatal mental health service. Here, a team of mental health professionals who specialise in caring for women who have mental health problems in pregnancy and after birth will be able to provide you with the individually targeted care and support that you need.
And an extra note from LushTums; remember there is also some great movements and breath practices that can help us manage anxieties as well. Pop along to class to find out more or check out our YouTube video here. https://youtu.be/l3y1NGm7Zio
LushTums Pregnancy & New Mum Meditations: