Every woman can experience some level of anxiety during her pregnancy. Hormonal changes are usually to blame, however if you have suffered from anxiety bouts before becoming pregnant, chances are your anxiety level may rise during pregnancy. According to an ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America) online poll, 52 percent of women experienced an increase in their anxiety during pregnancy while 32 percent saw a reduction.
Feeling a little worried during your pregnancy is completely normal, however, if you’re finding that these worries are taking over and interfering with your everyday life, you could be experiencing anxiety. Symptoms include:
Some women might even experience panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden and intense episodes of fear represented by a series of physical and mental reactions, despite a lack of actual danger. Symptoms can include:
If your anxiety is more bothersome than severe you can try to manage this condition with self-care at home.
If you find it hard to relax, start with some deep breathing. Controlled breathing exercises not only slow down your heart rate and promote relaxation, but also release happy chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. Start your breathing practice off by sitting comfortably with your back supported by a firm pillow. You can also put another pillow under your knees. Close your eyes and breathe slowly through your nose. While inhaling, balloon out your belly slightly, then expand your middle ribcage and fill to the top of your lungs. Hold your breath to the count of “three.” Exhale slowly from top through the middle ribcage and your belly, contracting the abdominal muscles slightly. Repeat six times. You can start with three breaths and work your way up over time. Incorporating a daily breathing practice into your routine will help you get rid of the toxins, increase oxygen in your blood, slow down your heart beat and calm you down.
GET MORE SLEEP
Getting enough sleep is essential for managing anxiety during pregnancy, however, between pregnancy hormones disrupting your sleep patterns, backaches, heartburn, and frequent trips to the bathroom, getting quality zzzs can seem nearly impossible. Making a few adjustments to your habits can set you up for sleep success. If you find yourself restless at night, consider cutting out sugary foods and coffee past lunchtime. Both of these can make you jittery. Try creating a relaxing bedtime routine. Drink a cup of tea, listen to sooting music, read a book or soak in a warm bath with a few drops of lavender essential oil before you go to sleep. Keep your bedroom as dark as possible at night and skip electronics at least an hour before bed to avoid melatonin suppression.
Exercise is not only a great way to keep you in shape and help you prepare for childbirth, it can also help with keeping your anxiety in check. Something as simple as going on a 20-minute walk can help you reduce your stress and anxiety levels. Swimming has also proven to be a beneficial form of gentle exercise that has the added benefit of helping soothe those pregnancy aches and pains.
Prenatal yoga is known for effectively being able to reduce anxiety and possibly prevent postpartum depression. It has been shown to be safe during pregnancy and have a host of benefits like increased flexibility, muscle strengthening, reduced back pain, better sleep, and possibly even less morning sickness. Make sure you talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program. (https://www.pregnancyhealth.net/safe-exercise-pregnant/)
EAT YOUR WAY TO CALM
Good nutrition has been shown to have a positive impact on your anxiety and your overall health. Eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can not only have a positive impact on your baby’s visual and cognitive development, it can also help stabilize your mental wellbeing. This mood boosting nutrient can be found in foods like salmon, sardines, walnuts or chia seeds, all of which are safe to eat during pregnancy. Foods rich in magnesium such as leafy greens, legumes, nuts, whole grains can also help you feel calmer as well as loading up on vitamin B rich foods such as asparagus, avocado, chicken meat, eggs, and almonds. Tryptophan is yet another nutrient found in poultry and oats that has been shown to induce a state of relaxation.
On the other end of the spectrum, try to stay away from foods that can make your anxiety worse. Sugary foods and drinks like sodas and fruit juices can make your insulin levels yo-yo, resulting in fatigue and anxiety. The same goes for artificial sweeteners. Foods high in sodium can deplete your body’s potassium which helps your nervous system to function properly. In general, avoid highly processed foods all together as they often contain all off the above. You should also keep consumption of coffee and caffeinated beverages to a minimum and remember, if you’re opting for supplements be sure to consult your doctor, dietitian or a certified nutritionist first.
HAVE SOMEONE TO LEAN ON
Managing your anxiety during pregnancy may prove to be challenging, however, having someone to lean on and talk to such as your partner, friends or family members, can help you keep calm. In fact, research has shown that women who receive social support from the start of their pregnancy have a lower change of developing postpartum depression.
WHEN TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP
If you start to feel overwhelmed by your anxiety or start to experience frequent panic attacks, consult your doctor. Untreated anxiety can bring on serious health conditions such as preeclampsia or even affect the future health of your unborn child. In cases of severe anxiety, your doctor may recommend treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or prescribe medication.
Having a good support system in place, getting plenty of rest, eating whole, natural foods and sticking to an exercise routine can all have a positive impact on your anxiety. Just remember, soon enough you’ll be holding your baby for the first time in your arms and that will make everything worth it!
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“Pregnancy and Exercise.” WebMD, WebMD, 9 Sept. 2018, www.webmd.com/baby/guide/exercise-during-pregnancy#2.
“Prenatal Yoga: What You Need to Know.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 17 Jan. 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/prenatal-yoga/art-20047193.
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Bhandari, Smitha. “Pictures: Foods to Avoid If You Have Anxiety or Depression.” WebMD, WebMD, 10 Oct. 2017, www.webmd.com/depression/ss/slideshow-avoid-foods-anxiety-depression.
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