Strategies for managing peripartum anxiety

Pregnancy can be an anxiety-provoking time. Your lifestyle may be changing significantly if you’re a first-time mom, and for anyone adding another member to their family, it’s hard to know how your existing family dynamic will shift.

Risk factors for anxiety during pregnancy

There’s a difference between worrying about your baby’s health and your future together, and feeling that that worry is all-consuming. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that approximately 6% of pregnant women and 10% of postpartum women develop anxiety. There are a handful of factors that put expecting moms at higher risk of developing anxiety during pregnancy, including:

  • Previous diagnosis of an anxiety disorder
  • Anxiety during a past pregnancy
  • Previous pregnancy loss or fertility struggles
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Stress in personal or professional life

Signs of anxiety during pregnancy

Most expecting moms feel at least a little bit anxious at times, but how do you know when these feelings of anxiety are cause for concern? If you have a history of anxiety and are currently pregnant, it’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about your mental health. And if you don’t, there are still a few signs to look out for, including:

  • Constant worry
  • Unwanted, intrusive thoughts
  • Feeling that something bad is going to happen
  • Racing thoughts
  • Disturbances of sleep and appetite
  • Inability to sit still

Signs of a more serious anxiety disorder can manifest physically as well, with muscle tension, heart palpitations, dizziness, hot flashes, or nausea.

The impact of anxiety on pregnancy

Anxiety during pregnancy means an increased risk of a postpartum mood disorder like depression, anxiety or OCD. There’s no known way to prevent a postpartum mood disorder so talk to your partner and family about keeping a careful eye on your mental health during pregnancy and the postpartum period. It’s also important to stay in close touch with your mental healthcare provider and other members of your healthcare team.

Other safety measures that can be taken if you have a history of anxiety include sticking to established treatment routines, like taking your medication regularly as prescribed, and keeping up with talk-therapy appointments; tracking your moods; sticking to healthy eating and regular sleep routines (tracking can help with this, too!); seeking out support groups; and reaching out to your support system.

Anxiety and depression are both treatable conditions, and help is available. Not everyone with a history of anxiety will have trouble postpartum, but it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on your mental health, and to stay in touch with your healthcare providers as you move through pregnancy and beyond.

Read more
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Coping and support.” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Sep 25 2014. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Treatments and Drugs.” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Sep 25 2014. Web.
  • Melinda Smith, Lawrence Robinson, Jeanne Segal. “Anxiety Disorders and Anxiety Attacks.” HelpGuide., Sep 2016. Web.
  • “Anxiety Disorders.” NIH. US Department of Health and Human Services, Mar 2016. Web.
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