World mental health day last week, really got me thinking, it was an inspiration to read everyone else’s stories and how they have been affected. For me, pregnancy was a time for anxiety to rear its ugly head. I have put together this piece all about pregnancy anxiety which I suffered from and my tips to help to deal with it.
Perhaps you have always been a worrier, the kind who always questions whether they actually did turn the straighteners off and worries about the house burning down every damn day….but it never has. Or perhaps until now, you have been living a carefree life until you found out that you were pregnant.
You are now responsible for growing and birthing another human being and for some this might feel like a burden.
Maybe it’s was an unplanned pregnancy, maybe you have been struggling with IVF, maybe it’s money worries or relationship issues, maybe your so bloody sick every day and missing work is causing you stress
I was working in a very stressful job when I fell pregnant. Working long hours, not enjoying it and suffering from insomnia and acne brought on by the stress. I was at peak burnout and was going to hand my notice in that week. Until…..
I did a pregnancy test….okay that just turned my world upside down!
Many would consider me lucky enough to get off relatively free when it came to morning sickness and pregnancy symptoms,I barely had any, and just felt a tiny bit hungover in my first trimester (the irony!)
For me this was a real trigger for my anxiety, I worried that it wasn’t real, maybe it’s just a phantom pregnancy, I told myself, Maybe my periods had stopped for another reason like stress despite having done 3 positive pregnancy tests. I worried that life choices I had made in the past would come back to haunt me and that I didn’t deserve the happiness that the baby would bring so I worried I would lose my baby.
The fear was constant.
Hormones didn’t help It was a real rollercoaster and this just amplified it all
When I went for my first scan, I cried all the way to the hospital with tears of sadness and cried all the way back home with tears of joy upon seeing a healthy little bean in my belly.
After discovering that I was in fact not ‘making it up’ I spent the next 5 months shitting it about pushing a tiny human out. Thankfully I discovered Hypnobirthing to help me deal with that anxiety and was able to release my fears and birth with confidence.
Here are my tips for dealing with pregnancy anxiety. This list isn’t exhaustive by any means but it’s a way to make a start.
Talk to someone.
Start with someone you feel comfortable opening up to, be it a partner, relative or friend. It may help to discuss this with your GP or Midwife who can talk you through your options when it comes to dealing with this.
You don’t have to suffer in silence or do this alone. Your feelings are valid and there is no need to feel guilty about what you are feeling. There are lots of amazing resources available such as PANDAs, Best Beginnings or Maternal mental health alliance
I only wish I had been more open about how I was feeling at the time.
Build your village
Call in help, help can come in many shapes and sizes and its OK to ask for it!
Maybe your partner could do a bit more around the house?
Maybe you need a cleaner to take the load off?
Maybe it’s time to start delegating more at work?
What does it mean to you to take care of yourself? To some it is baths, to others, it will be eating well or even just going to bed on time.
To me, it just means making you a priority for at least a bit of the day and doing the things which make you feel GOOD.
Physical exercise releases endorphins, it’s our reward for moving our body and they feel good! It can be walking, yoga, weightlifting, pilates! Consider whether it’s a good idea to take on anything brand new in your first trimester and look for pregnancy-specific classes where possible as the instructor will be specially trained in helping you to safely modify your practice in pregnancy.
During pregnancy, my yoga class 2-3 times a week was a haven from all the chatter in my head and I always felt great after, it’s part of the reason I teach pregnancy yoga now. One of the great things about a pregnancy-specific class it’s it’s a really nice way to meet like-minded pregnant women in your area too.
Investigate complementary therapies
Acupuncture, Massage, aromatherapy, Reiki, reflexology, Craniosacral therapy. I could go on. Whether you choose to believe in their power or not is up to you. They do however have one very important thing in common, they help you to relax. When we relax. We enter the body’s calm rest and digest response AKA the parasympathetic nervous system. The stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline are reduced and we slip back into our natural state of being.
In my experience, the therapist always wants to ask about what’s going on in your life so this in itself can be quite cathartic and it’s good to have a safe space to share that.
Build in some quiet time
Be it meditation, mindfulness, a guided relaxation, breathing, There’s no one size all approach here but again it’s all relaxing and helping to reduce those stress hormones that are giving you shit.
Pregnancy was a very exciting yet very vulnerable and transformative time for me. My journey inspired me to give up that stressful job and work with women who may be feeling the same as I was and help them work towards a more enjoyable pregnancy and birth. I now teach hypnobirthing, hold a regular pregnancy yoga class and pregnancy retreats in London.