What is Perinatal Anxiety and How Can You Cope?

What is Perinatal Anxiety and How Can You Cope? September 28, 2020Leave a comment

Pregnancy is a time of many changes – there are physical changes as your belly grows, social changes such as being the first in a circle of friends to become pregnant, and emotional changes, such as feelings of excitement and nervousness for what’s ahead. The increase in changes happening in a pregnant woman’s life means it is more likely for her to experience perinatal anxiety[1].

What are the chances of you experiencing perinatal anxiety?

>> Find out how you can reduce your risk for perinatal anxiety here.

Some factors that can increase your risk for perinatal anxiety are:

  • A history of experiencing anxiety
  • If you have experienced a pregnancy loss or struggled with infertility in the past
  • If you have a chronic health condition[2]
  • Genetics and family history
  • Aspects of your environment that may affect your emotional wellbeing
  • How you think and cope[3]

>> Do you know what the warning signs of antenatal anxiety or prenatal anxiety disorders are? Click here to find out.

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What are the signs of anxiety in pregnancy and after birth?

Some signs of perinatal anxiety are:

  • Feeling overwhelmed all the time
  • Lacking feelings for the baby – e.g. struggling to bond with baby
  • Non-stop irritability
  • Avoiding pregnancy milestones
  • Constant worry – e.g. that something may be wrong with the baby
  • Panic attacks
  • Feeling physically tense

>> Read more about the signs and symptoms of perinatal anxiety here on our blog and here on the Australia’s Centre for Perinatal Excellence website.

Tips for caring for your emotional wellbeing

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Recently we’ve had many more requests for help with perinatal anxiety and depression. Here are some tips on how you can care for your emotional wellbeing.

Get help

  • Talk with your doctor or other healthcare provider – he or she may be able to refer you to a counselling service.
  • Call a mental health support service or crisis helpline if help is not available.
  • Reach out to an online service such as 7cups.com where both volunteers and professionals are ready to listen and offer support.

Accept support

  • Identify friends, family and professionals who can be a trusted to support you. *
  • Talk about how you feel with your partner, family, friends, and/or healthcare provider.
  • Ask for what you need. Here’s a great tip for staying emotionally healthy—learn to state exactly what it is that you need. Asking for help may sound obvious, but when you’re exhausted and overwhelmed it can be tough getting to the point. If you were raised to not to ask things of others, it can be doubly hard. This is where practice helps and no better time to practice than during pregnancy to prepare you for the demands of being a new mother.

Care for your wellbeing

  • Try to eat regular healthy meals and drink plenty of water.
  • Make time for yourself. If you feel you have no time, can you try to start with 5 minutes? Then bump it up to 10, 15, 20. Caring for yourself can help relieve some stress.
  • Try to get sleep. While this can be hard with young children, try to get as much sleep as possible. E.g. Nap when they nap, instead of doing something else.

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>> Struggling to sleep at night while pregnant? Here are 9 tips for getting better sleep.

  • Try to get some exercise and go outside if possible. Moderate exercise such as gentle stretches can be just as helpful as a run[6]. Being outside in nature has also been shown to be beneficial for wellbeing. A concept known as forest bathing[7] has shown that being in nature may be beneficial in reducing anxiety and stress. If you live in a city and can’t get out into nature easily, try to visit a park instead.
  • Try practicing some mindfulness techniques, writing down your thoughts or deep breathing. Here are some more ideas on how to practice mindfulness.

*Know that not all friends and family are prepared to offer support. Some may not understand what you are going through and may add more stress instead. It is also important to know that friends and family do not replace the advice of your doctor or other healthcare provider. Georgie Collinson from @georgiathenaturopath puts it this way, Your friends should not be a replacement for the care, space-holding, attention and support you get from a trained professional, mentor, therapist or coach. Good friends get support elsewhere too.”

You are enough

Sometimes when we are struggling it may feel like we are ‘not good enough’. We may blame ourselves for why we are struggling and try to be ‘strong’ by not crying or telling ourselves that others have it worse. Please know that feelings of stress, depression and anxiety is sometimes a cry for help. Experiencing emotions is a normal human reaction and it is okay to feel sad sometimes. Just know that healing is possible, and that you deserve help and healing because you have worth.

September is suicide prevention month, but it’s important to keep being gentle with ourselves and ask for help when we need it beyond September. Although situations may feel hard now, it is a chapter, and better days are possible. Please contact your crisis helpline and your doctor if you are struggling. Recovery is possible.

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[1] COPE: Centre of Perinatal Excellence, 2017, “Antenatal anxiety – A guide for women and their families,” Centre of Perinatal Excellence, https://www.cope.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Antenatal-Anxiety_Consumer-Fact-Sheet.pdf

[2] Dawn Kingston, September 22, 2017, “Anxious and Pregnant: How Much is Normal?” Dr. Dawn Kingston, https://www.drdawnkingston.com/anxious-and-pregnant-how-much-is-normal/

[3] COPE: Centre of Perinatal Excellence, 2017, “Antenatal anxiety – A guide for women and their families,” Centre of Perinatal Excellence, https://www.cope.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Antenatal-Anxiety_Consumer-Fact-Sheet.pdf

[4] Dawn Kingston, September 22, 2017, “Anxious and Pregnant, How Much is Normal?” Dr. Dawn Kingston, https://www.drdawnkingston.com/anxious-and-pregnant-how-much-is-normal/

[5] Sedov, I. D., Cameron, E. E., Madigan, S., & Tomfohr-Madsen, L. M. (2018). Sleep quality during pregnancy: A meta-analysis. Sleep medicine reviews38, 168–176. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2017.06.005

[6] Dawn Kingston, November 1, 2017, “Can a Mile a Day Keep the Baby Blues Away?” Dr. Dawn Kingston, https://www.drdawnkingston.com/can-a-mile-a-day-keep-the-baby-blues-away/

[7] Harriet Sherwood, June 8, 2019, “Getting back to nature: how forest bathing can make us feel better,” The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/08/forest-bathing-japanese-practice-in-west-wellbeing

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