Early Pregnancy Anxiety: Our Top Tips For Dealing With It

Anusuya Mukherjee
Dec 12, 2023 By Anusuya Mukherjee
Originally Published on Feb 17, 2021
Women can feel anxious sometimes, even in a healthy pregnancy.

Whether you are adding to your brood or it's your first-time venture into parenthood, you spent a long time wanting to fall pregnant, or the discovery came as a surprise, nine months of impending pregnancy can bring about all kinds of worries.

Perhaps you are looking up every sign of early pregnancy anxiety, wondering if it is normal as you are navigating your way through reams of health information and terms such as [baby crowning] or venturing into birth and [C-section plans].

Or, perhaps you are finding you could be feeling anxious for no reason, if this sounds all too familiar, read on for our guide on how to handle early pregnancy anxiety.

What Causes Early Pregnancy Anxiety?

First things first, It’s important to remember anxiety isn’t just exclusive to being pregnant, it’s a part of being human! At every stage of our lives, worry creeps in, and pregnancy may exacerbate this.

You may be questioning, how could I possibly look after a little one when I don’t know how to look after a baby, how will I manage with labor after all the scary stories I've heard, or why is my baby kicking so much or so little?

Or maybe even, how do I break this news to my partner, friends, or family?

These are all usual worries, and joining the world of parenthood means you’ll have plenty of questions that both time and experience will answer.

Without getting too scientific, It’s also essential to remember hormones play a big part in your first trimester and anxiety.

Hormones that are a part of your regular menstrual cycle, progesterone and estrogen, jump dramatically, and even a new hormone, one that’s unique to pregnancy, called human chorionic gonadotropin, begins production.

The changing hormone levels affect brain chemicals that regulate your moods, meaning you are far more likely to experience anxiety, feel worried, and experience mood swings, especially in your first trimester.

What’s more, the rise in estrogen is also linked to that dreaded phenomenon, morning sickness.

Although anyone can develop pregnancy anxiety, some factors mean you may be more prone to developing it.

These include: if you have a family history of anxiety or panic attacks, have a long term health condition, previous baby loss, miscarriage or fertility difficulties, have been under additional stresses such as money or relationship problems, have experienced a traumatic event or abuse, or if you’ve had anxiety in the past.

What Are The Symptoms?

You could be wondering at what point does worrying become anxiety. There is a difference between "normal” worrying and anxiety, also known as antenatal anxiety.

If it’s impacting your day to day functioning, you’re unable to focus on your day to day life, you are experiencing a frequent sense of panic, restlessness, or fear, have reoccurring obsessive thoughts, or no longer enjoy things that used to make you happy, it’s symptomatic of anxiety.

Other signs of a more severe anxiety disorder can show physical effects, such as heart palpitations and muscle tension. This anxiety level isn’t normal or healthy for you, but the right treatment can help you tackle both depression and anxiety in early pregnancy.

It’s Really Important To Speak To Your Doctor Or Midwife If:

You feel anxious most of the time, or for more than a two week period.

Your anxiety is taking its toll on you physically. This could be having a fast heartbeat, rapid breathing, sweating, feeling dizzy, or feeling like you want to vomit and getting an upset stomach.

You find yourself repeating a behavior over and over, to make yourself feel calm.

You are experiencing panic attacks.

Negative and worrying thoughts keep circulating in your head and creeping in.

You are not sleeping well, or enough.

You have become afraid of labor, to the point that you find yourself feeling you can't face it at all.

You are so afraid of having blood tests that you avoid them altogether or you have started to skip appointments.

You may also be wondering if anxiety during pregnancy is affecting your baby. Feeling concerned about whether anxiety or stress will affect your baby is entirely understandable; however, it can also lead to developing a vicious cycle of thoughts.

For example, you may be feeling anxious during your pregnancy, then begin to worry if it impacts your baby and so become even more anxious.

It is very unlikely that your baby will be affected by your anxiety or that your anxiety will cause a miscarriage, especially if you get the right treatment and support. Try to refocus on seeking help and establishing ways to manage your symptoms right from the first trimester of pregnancy.

How To Deal With It

Many of us are made to falsely believe we should cope with it by ourselves, put up with anxiety and ride out stress during pregnancy, but if the symptoms are severe enough, there are many reasons to seek professional support.

Women who experience pregnancy anxiety are more likely to later experience postpartum depression.

Although they don’t always come together, the link between anxiety and depression is closely related, so it’s important to stay on top of how you feel and learn ways to control your anxiety during pregnancy before your little one makes their appearance.

Antenatal anxiety is treated with psychological and talking therapies such as relaxation training, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or mindfulness strategies. You may also be encouraged to alter your lifestyle to reduce stress by exercising more often and eating healthily.

In more severe cases, your doctor might wish to prescribe you medication.

They will advise which medicines are safe to take during pregnancy on a case by case basis. Besides professional help and guidance, here are a few ways you can help manage symptoms, take care of your health and find ways of dealing with anxiety in early pregnancy.

Sleep More

It’s true what they say; those precious Z’s really will make you feel better. One common side effect related to anxiety is sleep disturbances, try to ensure you’re getting a good seven to eight hours when you can, and if sleeplessness persists speak to your doctor.

Keep Moving

As well as your mental health, take care of your physical health too. Even a brisk ten-minute walk can help alleviate your symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy.

Research has found pregnant women who engage in regular exercise are 25%  less likely to develop anxiety or depression. Why not consider something new such as water classes, or yoga If you haven’t tried it before?

Clue Yourself Up

Try not to overload yourself with health and pregnancy-related information, but why not attend a class? Hooking up with other mums to be in your situation can help ease worries, support your mental health and help you to make some new friends as you go through this journey together.

What’s more, nowadays you don’t have to go physically, there are plenty of great courses where you can also meet others online.

Avoid Looking Up Every Symptom

While of course, it’s prudent to be cautious. If you find yourself looking up and trying to interpret everything, you could find yourself in a wormhole of worry, with health-related searches often leading you down the most dangerous path.

Remember, MDs spend years at medical college to diagnose accurately, so should you feel worried about any concerning signs always speak to a trained professional.

Take Time Out To Rest

Take some time out to embrace in some “me time”, whether that’s a hot bath, a good book, or your favorite series. There’s also plenty of fantastic apps for meditating. Many health spas also offer pregnancy massages and treatments designed with you in mind. Be sure to schedule some time into your day where you can chill out.

Talk To Those Around You

Speak to friends and family and build up your support network around you, and be open.

There’s also a balance to strike here, as you may find many people have lots of ideas and are trying to support you, but remember at the end of the day it is up to you to decide what’s best for you and your baby.

Additionally, if you are going through pregnancy without the support of a partner, remember you can take a family member or a close friend to all of your antenatal appointments.

You can also choose someone to be your birthing partner.

Take Each Day At A Time

Embrace each day as it comes, and whatever you are doing at that moment. Psychologists often call this “savoring”.

It means noticing and appreciating the positive aspects of life, not being too harsh on yourself, and recognizing the difference between the "what if’s" and "what is". Ruminating on yesterday’s mistakes or tomorrow’s uncertain decisions means missing out on today.

To actively stay in the present, try to focus more on what’s going on around you, and reduce your internal chatter.

Finally, don’t forget to remind yourself that you really will know what to do after birth, when your new baby arrives. Even if you have never held a baby, don’t forget your human instinct is on your side, and what your newborn will truly need more than anything is simply your love.

If you found this article helpful, then why not take a look at our article about whether you can [run when pregnant] or what to do if you get [chills during pregnancy]?

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Written by Anusuya Mukherjee

Bachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

Anusuya Mukherjee picture

Anusuya MukherjeeBachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

With a wealth of international experience spanning Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East, Anusuya brings a unique perspective to her work as a Content Assistant and Content Updating Coordinator. She holds a law degree from India and has practiced law in India and Kuwait. Anusuya is a fan of rap music and enjoys a good cup of coffee in her free time. Currently, she is working on her novel, "Mr. Ivory Merchant".

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