Pregnancy can be a wonderful time in your life, but it can be a frightening and nerve-wracking experience for some women. For some women, it can even cause anxiety attacks. If you’re one of them, don’t worry — pregnancy anxiety is totally normal, and doesn’t mean you’re going to be a terrible mother or that you don’t want your baby. It does mean that you need to discover what’s causing your anxiety and learn how to deal with it.
Anxiety attacks during pregnancy can take a couple of different forms. Unlike normal anxiety, which can usually be controlled with stress management techniques like meditation or exercise, anxiety attacks cause serious emotional and physical reactions that you can’t control. You may become obsessively worried about your baby’s health and convinced that something is wrong with your baby or that something will go wrong during labor. You may also experience cold sweats, rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms and feelings of dizziness or faintness that can feel as if you’re having a heart attack.
Several factors might contribute to anxiety attacks during pregnancy. If you have a personal history of anxiety or depression, the physical and emotional changes of pregnancy can cause anxiety symptoms to flare back up. Anxiety attacks may be more common among women dealing with a challenging pregnancy, whether because of fertility problems prior to pregnancy, complications during pregnancy or previous miscarriage, explains the BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board on BabyCenter.com.
To deal with pregnancy anxiety attacks, try lifestyle changes first, recommends labor nurse Jeanne Faulkner in “Fit Pregnancy” magazine. Avoid anything you know is an anxiety trigger for you, whether it’s crowded stores, babies-in-jeopardy television shows or long conversations with your mother-in-law. Increase your daily activity level, since exercise can help you manage stress, and don’t short yourself on sleep. Finally, meditation might be a little awkward if you’ve never done it before, but it can be an effective way to manage anxiety, says Faulkner. Take a meditation class or find a quiet place to sit where you can focus on just one thing, such as your breathing or a calming word, for five to 10 minutes at a time.
If you experience anxiety attacks during pregnancy, you may be at increased risk for postpartum depression, according to the BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board. Help lower your risk by dealing with your anxiety during pregnancy and putting measures in place to make the transition to motherhood a little easier. Enlisting the support of your friends and partner, prepare the baby’s room, clothing and supplies in advance and stock your freezer and pantry with easy-to-prepare meals and snacks. Throughout your pregnancy, put priority on taking care of your own health and needs so that you’ll be in top shape when your baby arrives.
Even if you’ve taken anti-anxiety medication in the past to deal with anxiety attacks, do not take prescription, herbal or over-the-counter anxiety remedies without talking to your doctor. Many anti-anxiety medications aren’t safe during pregnancy, especially not during the first trimester, says Faulkner. If you need medication to manage your anxiety, your health care provider can help you find a medication that will reduce your anxiety without endangering your baby.