Understanding And Coping With Pregnancy Anxiety
You've been anticipating this moment for months, or maybe even years. You are finally in the last trimester of pregnancy—the home stretch—but things don't feel like you were expecting. But it's not the trouble getting comfortable at night or the heartburn that shows up no matter what you eat. And it's not worrying about your baby's health or what your labor and delivery experience will be. Instead, it's overwhelming anxiety that feels like it's consuming you and leaves you wondering if pregnancy anxiety in the third trimester is normal.
There are a lot of changing emotions that come with pregnancy, and it's also a time of life with many unknowns. You may struggle with feeling like many things are out of your control as you near the end of your pregnancy and the arrival of your little one.
Understanding pregnancy anxiety
It's common for expectant mothers to worry during pregnancy. Some of the common worries include things like:
Am I doing the right things to keep my baby healthy?
What will labor and delivery be like?
What if I'm not a good parent?
Will my body ever look "normal" again?
If you struggled with infertility or loss in the past, you may be experiencing anxiety and fear of losing the baby or having complications in your pregnancy.
In addition, there are additional worries and concerns that you may be experiencing as an expectant parent right now such as the rising cost of groceries due to inflation, the formula shortage, and all the unknowns of what is happening in the economy. The past couple of years have brought additional concern for everyone, including new and expectant parents.
But even aside from these, some women experience anxiety that disrupts their daily life. It is believed that 1 in 10 women experiences an anxiety disorder while pregnant. Some of the symptoms to watch for include:
Obsessive or intrusive thoughts
Increased irritability or anger
Feeling like it's difficult to breathe
Identifying anxiety symptoms can be challenging during pregnancy because some of these symptoms sound like the regular changes that people experience during pregnancy. That is why you need to speak with your doctor or a mental health professional if you don't feel quite like yourself. It's always better to be safe for your mental and physical health.
Prenatal anxiety and postpartum depression
You may find that your anxiety is building as you enter and move through the third trimester. As you move closer to your baby's arrival and the next stage of your life, it's common for anxiety to build. However, just because some stress is typical does not mean you should ignore it.
Prenatal anxiety can be a risk factor for postpartum depression. It's important that you seek treatment and support for anxiety during pregnancy to feel your best right now while also getting prepared for life after your baby arrives. Don't let your doctor, family, or friends brush you aside because there are a lot of changes that come with pregnancy. It may be common for women not to feel their best when pregnant, but that doesn't mean you need to struggle daily with anxiety or depression.
If you have any concerns at all, don't be afraid to voice them until you find someone willing to help.
Calming anxiety while pregnant
There are many coping strategies you can use for anxiety while pregnant. Many of the techniques that can help are the same that help anyone struggling with anxiety. This includes things like:
It can be helpful to get your anxious thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Writing it down can help you gain a new perspective on a situation while also removing some of the power the worry has over you. In addition, it can help you see what action you can take in areas and what areas don't need your attention.
You may have read or heard about Lamaze breathing in the pregnancy books or childbirth classes. This breathing technique is often used to help women in labor manage anxiety and pain. It includes things like rhythmic deep and focusing on an object. These strategies can also help you manage anxiety during pregnancy.
Deep breathing is often recommended for people looking to manage stress and anxiety. When we begin to feel anxious, we tend to take shallow quick breaths, contributing to an elevated heart rate. Using deep breathing techniques can help slow your body's physical response, helping you feel in control. They also help you shift your thoughts away from your anxiety.
Self-care activities like getting enough rest, nutritious eating, exercise, and participating in hobbies you enjoy are also helpful when pregnant. It's important to remember that with the changes your body experiences during pregnancy, you will have changes in what you need to feel your best. For example, you may need more sleep at specific periods of your pregnancy, and your eating habits will likely change. If you have questions on what health habits are best during your pregnancy, speak with your OB/GYN.
Connect with your support system
Spend time with friends and family who put you at ease. If there are loved ones in your life who you end up feeling stressed after spending time with, this is a good time to put up boundaries to help you continue feeling your best. You may want to limit time with these individuals and spend time with people who help you relax and feel your best.
If you don't have a strong support system in friends and family, you may enjoy connecting with others who are pregnant and at the same stage of pregnancy as you. This can be helpful to have a group of people with shared experiences so you can support and encourage one another while also getting advice from others who understand.
Talk to a therapist
The NEST Clinic has therapists in Stillwater, MN, who specialize in reproductive and perinatal mental health, including perinatal anxiety and depression. Whether you have questions or fears about pregnancy, birth, or the postpartum period, we are ready to offer you support at our baby-welcoming, family-friendly office. We also provide telehealth therapy to make access to help easy. Get started by contacting us today to be matched with a therapist.