Anxiety in Pregnancy: What you can do to overcome it
Firstly, I just want to say that it is so common to feel some anxiety in pregnancy, especially for first time mums as you often have no idea what to expect or what is ‘normal’. Even women who have had a baby before can feel anxiety, especially in the last trimester, worried about how baby will fit into the family or about their previous birth if it wasn’t a positive experience.
My top tips for dealing with anxiety during pregnancy
- Talk through your fears with your partner or midwife. Don’t worry – it is normal and healthy to have a certain level of heightened awareness about your baby when pregnant. When the level of anxiety starts to affect your quality of life such as stopping you sleeping or eating, talk to your midwife, GP or an organisation such as Anxiety UK who have a helpline. It can be useful to talk to someone outside the situation to discuss your fears and worries.
- Research what it is that you are worried about – evidence can be reassuring. Childbirth is a normal and natural event. Understanding how our bodies are designed to give birth and what *actually* happens rather than from frightening stories from friends or family can be a relief.
- Try a technique such as Square Breathing to help you relieve stress and anxiety. You want to inhale to the count of four, hold the breath for four, exhale for four and hold the lungs empty for four (hence the square i.e. 4 x 4 x 4 x 4).
- Visualise a happy place. Close your eyes and imagine you are holding your newborn, perfect baby and let the positive feelings soothe you until you are feeling relaxed and calm.
Secondly, if you are experiencing a significant and extreme level of anxiety around pregnancy and birth you might have what is known as Tokophobia (literally meaning fear of childbirth). It can present through a number of symptoms including nightmares, difficulty in concentrating on work or family activities, panic attacks and psychosomatic complaints.
You are more likely to develop tokophobia if
- you have had extensive gynaecological problems
- fear of childbirth is in your family and you have heard frightening stories about birth from family
- you have had an anxiety disorder
- you have a strong need to remain in control at all times
- you have had a previous traumatic birth
- you experienced sexual abuse as a child
- you have experienced sexual assault or rape
- you have depression.
Tell your midwife or doctor about your fears, as early in your pregnancy as possible. They should refer you to talk with a healthcare professional who is trained to provide mental health support for pregnant women, and specifically someone with experience of childbirth fears. For many women with tokophobia, this helps them to overcome their fears about giving birth. You can even request a caesarian if your phobia is so bad.
Remember, you’ve got this mama!