Being responsible for the health and well-being of an unborn child is no easy task. Because of this, soon-to-be mothers tend to worry about the following aspects of life during a pregnancy:1
• Pregnancy symptoms and their meanings2
• Progress of the baby’s development3
• Relationship with a partner
• Monetary issues
Given that there are hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, emotions may be more pronounced and make pregnant women more vulnerable to anxiety.4
Prevalence of Anxiety Disorders During Pregnancy
Anxiety disorders are actually common among pregnant women. A 2009 poll conducted by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) found that around 52 percent of pregnant women experienced anxiety or depression.5 Factors that pregnant women should watch out for that may increase their risk for an anxiety disorder include:6,7
A previous diagnosis or a family history of anxiety
Experiences of anxiety during a past pregnancy
Previous pregnancy loss8
Pregnancy with complications
Stress at home or work
Financial or marital issues
Warning Signs of Anxiety Disorders in Pregnant Women
Anxiety can be considered an indicator of a pregnancy, especially during the first trimester.9 Although it’s normal to worry about certain events during this time, it can be a serious problem when a woman finds it difficult to control worrying thoughts or has a problem remaining calm. These actually are the first signs of an anxiety disorder in a pregnant woman, along with other symptoms like sleeping difficulties, panic attacks and muscle tension.10
How Anxiety Disorders Could Affect a Mother and Her Child
Consulting a psychiatrist or mental professional as soon as these first indicators of anxiety disorders appear is important, because they can have adverse effects, such as:11
|Risks for the Mother||Risks for the Child|
• Low birthweight
• Premature birth before 37 weeks
• Low APGAR score, a test performed one and five minutes12 after birth to check a newborn's health
• Poor adaptation to life outside the womb, such as development of respiratory distress and jitteriness
Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Your Stress Levels
Don’t forget to incorporate these stress-busting practices into your lifestyle to help reduce stress and anxiety during pregnancy:13
• Getting enough sleep: Studies have shown that lack of sleep could trigger anxiety symptoms, so try to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
• Eating whole and fresh food: A diet composed of fresh and organically grown fruits and vegetables, high-quality grass fed protein, and healthy fats benefits both mental and physical health. Plus, a healthy diet is also known to help boost the amount of beneficial bacteria in your gut.
• Exercising: Apart from enhancing mood and potentially lessening anxiety risk,14 getting a good but safe workout while you’re pregnant may also improve sleep and lower possibility of back pains. The right type of exercise may even help you prepare for birth since it assists in strengthening muscles and building stamina.
Some of the best exercises for pregnant women include brisk walking, low-impact aerobics, yoga,15 stretching16 and even weight training.17 Make sure you consult with your OB-GYN before doing any of these exercises to know the proper form and prevent injuries.
• Building a support system: Isolating yourself because you have an anxiety disorder can exacerbate symptoms. Spend time with friends or seek the advice of other people who have undergone the same experience as you. You should also consider joining support groups, whether in person or online, so you can share your experiences with people who feel the same way you do.18
• Scheduling relaxing activities during the day: Making time for activities such as regular meditation, yoga, listening to soothing music19 or a massage may help alleviate anxious feelings.20