The problems of anxiety during pregnancy are more common than you may think, but fortunately there are techniques to reduce them effectively.
Pregnancy, despite being an event normally expected and desired, involves numerous physical and psychological changes to which we must know how to adapt and cope. For example, daily situations of stress that were previously handled easily, during pregnancy can lead to states of anxiety that you do not know how to control.
Numerous studies show that anxiety problems occur more frequently in women than in men, especially when it is subject to the changes and stress of pregnancy. In the same way, anxiety problems that the woman suffers before this can be increased.
Anxiety in Pregnancy
These emotional alterations are usually strongly influenced by the hormonal changes that are part of the maternal response to pregnancy, although other aspects such as changes in the couple’s relationship and in their lifestyle or the fear of pain during childbirth also influence it.
High levels of anxiety interfere with the psychological and social functioning of the mother, even to lead to anxiety disorders such as panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder.
In addition, multiple studies have shown that excessive levels of anxiety can be associated with alterations in the baby such as low birth weight, or changes in the activity and development of the fetus.
Likewise, anxiety problems during pregnancy are not only suffered by pregnant women. Their partners may also get to suffer this type of problem during that period of waiting for the arrival of the new member of the family. For them, it also means a radical change in their lives, even if they do not experience the physical changes corresponding to pregnancy.
If you are pregnant and you are suffering from anxiety problems or you think you may get to suffer them, then I present a series of steps you can follow to reduce that anxiety and get a little more of your pregnancy.
Steps to reduce anxiety during pregnancy
1- Know what happens to you
Knowing what happens to you and why it happens will help you to control the symptoms of anxiety.
The states of anxiety are excessive reactions to situations that we consider threatening or stressful. It is important to differentiate this type of anxious responses, from anxiety as a trait or characteristic of the personality, which is responsible for the predisposition of some people to respond anxiously to any adversity.
The most frequent symptoms are usually agitated breathing, tachycardia, muscular tension, insomnia, intense fear sensation …
Something important that you should have clear and that will help you overcome the state of anxiety is that these symptoms, just as they come, go away. The more attention you give them, the more intense they will be. I know it’s hard not to focus on them when they occur, but distraction will be your best weapon.
2- Identify what triggers your anxiety
Normally the states of anxiety during pregnancy are usually triggered by negative thoughts derived from the uncertainty of pregnancy itself and insecurity in the performance of the role of mother, especially if you are new.
However, these thoughts usually have no real foundation, so it tends to exaggerate its negative consequences and that is where anxiety begins to arise.
3- Evaluate what aspects of your life generate more stress
Analyze your current situation and identify those situations that may be causing stress and hurting you. Although they may seem unimportant, the accumulation of pending issues can be a source of stress.
It is possible that the labor issue, economic, some problem with your partner, the family … are affecting you in a negative way more than you think. In this case, observe what may be causing you discomfort, assess your real capacity to face it in your current state and develop a plan to deal with it.
4- Share your concerns
All those thoughts and problems that torment you can be made smaller by sharing them with other people. Whether your partner, your family, friends … They can give you an objective and even experienced vision of what happens to you and how to solve it.
Also, your partner may also need to share your concerns with you. So, in addition to venting, strengthen your relationship a little more and you can join forces to face all the changes.
5- Prepare for childbirth
The uncertainty about how the birth will be, if you will endure the pain or how your partner will react when the time comes, is usually the issue that causes more anxiety.
You can get books and magazines or visit specialized websites where you can find the necessary information about the stages of birth, the physical and emotional changes that mark each of them, etc.
It is also advisable to attend childbirth classes, which usually start at week 28 or 30. They will help you solve all your doubts and even keep you in shape through exercises adapted to pregnant women.
6- Do activities that you like
For many pregnant women, the center of their world becomes pregnancy, forgetting themselves as a woman and as a person.
Therefore, it is important to set aside time for yourself, to do all those things that you like so much, and to put aside all those bad thoughts and problems.
Strolling, reading, going to the movies, bricolage … whatever your hobbies, dedicating time will help you relax and improve your mood.
7- Spend time with your partner
There are times when the couple’s relationship suffers during the time of pregnancy. Insecurity, numerous changes, too much fatigue to have sex … All these things can affect the relationship.
You can plan an activity for the weekend, something that both you like and you can enjoy as a couple.
If you have difficulties to organize leisure plans, a very useful technique is to write down on different pieces of paper what you would like to do as a couple and keep them in a box or bag. Once a week you can pick up some of those pieces of paper and carry out the activity that is written down. That way you will be sure to do something new and fun every week.
Dedicate time to enjoy each other and communicate, improve the relationship and get away from the negative aspects.
8- Do not forget about family and friends
Although there are times when the family is more a source of stress than leisure and fun, if this is not your case, spending time with them will help you to relax and relax in the most tense moments.
The same happens with friends. Being with them, talking, sharing how you feel … will improve your mood.
It is demonstrated that social support brings great benefits: it improves the state of health and the feeling of satisfaction before life, favors the resolution of problems and conflicts, reinforces the immune system … In fact, the lack of social support is considered a factor of risk of suffering from diseases.
Some research advocates that the quantity and quality of social relationships serves as a buffer against the damaging effects of stress and anxiety by helping you see stressors as less threatening and better cope.
9- Perform physical exercise
It is more than proven how beneficial is physical exercise to achieve the well-being of body and mind.
When exercising, the brain releases a series of substances ( serotonin, dopamine and endorphins ) that positively influence our mood. These are responsible for the feeling of pleasure and relaxation that you feel when you exercise regularly.
You can check with your doctor what kind of exercises are recommended according to the state of your pregnancy and enjoy!
10- Practice relaxation exercises
The best for anxiety problems are relaxation techniques, since they invite you to stop, breathe, focus on the moment and connect with your body. A study conducted by Nereu, Neves de Jesus and Casado (2013) confirms that women who practice relaxation are reduced levels of anxiety, depression and stress.
There are various methods of relaxation, from exercises focused exclusively on relaxation such as Jacobson’s relaxation technique or Schultz’s autogenic training. As well as more complete ones like mindfulness or meditation.
But without a doubt, if you want to take advantage of the benefits of physical exercise and relaxation, all in one, the best option is yoga.
11- Take care of the food
Eating a healthy and balanced diet is essential for your body to obtain all the necessary nutrients, in addition to influencing a positive mood.
There are some foods that can help you balance the effect of hormones during times of stress. For example, foods rich in B vitamins, such as bread and brown rice, increase serotonin levels, thus improving your mood.
12- Rest whenever you can
Sometimes it is difficult to find time to rest, between work, home, social relationships … However, this is beneficial for both you and the baby, so do not feel guilty for spending some time doing nothing.
One of the symptoms of anxiety is insomnia and, in turn, the inability to sleep increases the sensitivity to anxiety symptoms, thus entering a vicious circle. For this, using some relaxation technique before sleep can be very useful.
It is likely that during these nine months you go through bad times, good times and better times, so why focus only on the bad? The good moments also deserve to be enjoyed and we tend to leave them aside.
You know that in the end you will have in your arms that which you have waited so long and everything will have been worth it. So, be happy and enjoy pregnancy and everything that is to come.
Other ways to treat anxiety
If these tips do not seem enough and you need an extra contribution, there are other methods that can work to reduce that anxiety. Anxiety problems can be combated by drugs and / or psychological therapy.
The use of anxiolytic drugs is quite widespread, although its use during pregnancy is often a challenge due to doubts about its possible effects on the development of the baby.
It is true that there are drugs that can be harmful to the baby, however, numerous studies argue that the continued presence of anxiety problems too intense has the same probability of generating negative effects on the development of the baby that the consumption of some types of anxiolytics .
According to the American Academic of Pediatrics, the most suitable anxiolytics in the case of acute anxiety problems, that is, limited in time, are some benzodiazepines such as lorazepam and alprazolam . While, for prolonged treatments, lorazepam would be more appropriate , due to the risk of dependence that can cause the alprazolam .
Even so, it is important to know that the purpose of anxiolytics is to relieve the symptoms of anxiety, not eliminate the problem that causes it. So once you stop taking them, the initial problem will remain there pending resolution.
Numerous investigations show that the combined effect of pharmacological treatment and psychological therapy is much more beneficial than the use of drugs alone when the anxiety disorder is very disabling.
So, if you are not entirely convinced to resort to medication, it would be prudent to go to a qualified psychologist to help you reduce that anxiety that bothers you so much.
Psychological therapy will give you the necessary skills to face this new stage of your life, helping you to work those negative thoughts and teaching you techniques to relax and enjoy your pregnancy.