Welcoming a newborn baby into your life can be a very exciting moment, when you experience many new feelings and emotions, most of them being of joy and happiness. But after you find out you are pregnant, you can also start to experience certain worries and concerns about what is going to happen next. These thoughts are normal especially if it is your first time being a mom, but sometimes they can become overwhelming and lead to anxiety, and you definitely don’t need this kind of negativity in your life.
Therefore, I chose the three most common cases in which moms struggle with anxiety and I am offering my advice as a psychiatrist on how you can avoid anxiety by understanding its causes and dealing rationally with them.
Anxiety during Pregnancy
During your pregnancy you start thinking about your health and the child’s, whether or not you are eating right, why isn’t your baby moving yet, what is the best way to deliver, whether or not you are going to be a good mom, can you handle all that responsibility. And these thoughts are normal and human, but when you can’t sleep at night because you worry too much it means you have a problem. This entire constant worrying will most certainly lead to anxiety and this cannot be good for you or for the baby.
Anxiety can be caused by many factors, here are some of them:
- Stress at home or at work
- A family history of anxiety
- A previous complicated pregnancy
- Experiencing complications during your current pregnancy
- Difficulty in getting pregnant
- Previous pregnancy loss
The scientific explanation for anxiety when expecting a child is that your estrogen levels go very high and this makes your hormones fluctuate and cause these mood changes. Also, estrogen interacts with serotonin, which is the “happy hormone” in your body and sometimes this can cause anxiety or even depression.
Many women see anxiety symptoms during their pregnancy as simply mood swings and choose not to deal with them. In fact, anxiety does not go away by itself. Because medication of any kind is not safe to take during pregnancy, there are a few methods you can trust to help you with your problem:
- Sleep well. You need to sleep for at least 8 hours at night because the lack of sleep contributes in a major way to anxiety. If you have insomnia, you can use a few sleeping techniques that may help you relax, like deep breaths or happy thoughts.
- Eat properly and have a healthy diet. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, omega-3 and whole grain foods and stay away from caffeine, alcohol, sugar and junk food. This way you can keep yourself and your baby healthy.
- Stay active. Now that you are pregnant it doesn’t mean you should give up on your hobbies or your friends. Go outside as much as possible to socialize or even for a walk. This way you will keep a positive attitude and you will not feel like you are going through this alone.
- Do the research. Always be informed. Search the answer for any question or doubt that you might have. If you educate yourself, you can understand what causes your anxiety and how you can manage it.
Anxiety about Giving Birth
The majority of women have an unpleasant feeling about giving birth for the first time mostly because they do not know what to expect. “Will it hurt?”, “How long will the labour last?”, “Can I have someone there with me?”, “What complications can there be?” These are questions that any new mom should ask herself. But some women are too anxious about this moment and develop a kind of fear, named Tokophobia.
Tokophobia is the fear of childbirth and it can be caused by the following factors:
- Negative ideas about giving birth learned from others’ stories
- A predisposition to anxiety you had before your pregnancy
- The previous birth experience being a painful and traumatic one
- General depressive feeling during your pregnancy
If you feel fearful about this experience, it is better that you find ways you can cope with it.
You can, for example, think that a woman’s body is made to give birth and this is a beautiful experience in which nothing will go wrong. Or you can see it as a challenge that you can overcome as you did before.
Another method to get rid of this fear is to join a pregnancy class. Going there will teach you more about giving birth and additional information about how to take care of a baby. Plus, you can discuss your issues with women who are in the same situation as you are and even with someone qualified to give you all the information that you need.
Anxiety about Breastfeeding
After the pregnancy is over you might start being anxious about taking care of your newborn. This starts with breastfeeding and it can be a little scary for some. Actually, there is a medical term given to this type of anxiety feeling, dysphoric milk ejection reflex; also known as D-MER. For some women this feeling can last a few minutes just before the milk ejection, for others it can occur every time they breastfeed.
The anxiety in this situation comes from different concerns, such as:
- If you have enough milk to breastfeed
- If your baby is eating enough
- If your breast milk is nutritious enough for the baby
- The discomfort associated with the process
Whatever your concern would be, the best solution is to talk with other moms or with your doctor about it. Another thing you could do to help you relax is distract your attention while you are breastfeeding by talking on the phone with a friend, watching television or listening to music.
You need to remember that pregnancy is a unique experience in your life and you shouldn’t have to deal with negative thoughts while you go through it. Try to relax and think positively because this helps both you and your baby. Don’t forget to make the best of this experience and rest while you can because, once your child is born, you will have plenty of things to worry about.
Dr. Carlo Carandang is a psychiatrist and an anxiety expert; he was Assistant Editor for the Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Dr. Carandang has extensive experience with research in the areas of anxiety, depression, and psychopharmacology, as evidenced by his 32 publications and 6 research grants to date. His website: http://www.anxietyboss.com is a resource for those who want to learn more about anxiety and its purpose is to help them eradicate anxiety from their lives.