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Anxiety is feelings of worry, stress or fear, and is a normal part of life. However, if these feelings are persistent and strong enough to interfere with your daily life, this may be an anxiety disorder, a type of mood disorder.
Feeling anxious while pregnant is completely normal. It’s natural to worry about whether your baby is healthy, have fears about being a good parent, or stress about how your relationship with your partner will change. The changes in your hormone levels that come with pregnancy can also affect your mood and emotions, making you more prone to worry and stress.
However, there is a difference between normal worries and a more serious anxiety disorder during pregnancy, also called antenatal anxiety. If these anxieties become all-consuming, are difficult to control and regularly interfere with your ability to function day-to-day, you should speak with your doctor to find better ways of managing those feelings. Long-term, severe anxiety can increase your risk of preterm labor or of delivering a low birth weight baby, and increase the chance a child will later develop emotional or behavioral challenges.
It is important to seek out help and speak with your doctor if you experience signs or symptoms of anxiety during your pregnancy.
Antenatal anxiety is a very common experience. More than 1 in 10 women experience anxiety at some point during their pregnancy.
Since there are different types of anxiety disorders, the symptoms vary. Speak with your doctor about any symptoms you experience so he or she can accurately diagnose and treat you. Some common symptoms of anxiety disorders include:
You may also experience physical symptoms with antenatal anxiety, including:
When these symptoms come on quickly and intensely, you may be experiencing a panic attack. People with anxiety experience the same symptoms and panic attacks regardless of whether they are pregnant or not. However, when you are pregnant, your concerns about the health of your child can increase the effects of your anxiety attack dramatically. That level of anxiety, and the physical effects of anxiety, can have potential risks for your health and your baby’s health.
Most women experience some anxiety during pregnancy, and just about any woman can develop a severe anxiety disorder during pregnancy. However, there are some risk factors that can put a woman at greater risk for developing severe anxiety during her pregnancy. These include:
Mild cases of anxiety during pregnancy typically don’t require specific treatment. However, if you experience any symptoms of anxiety, inform your doctor so he or she can help you learn to manage the symptoms safely and effectively. Some treatment methods your doctor may recommend include:
Making changes at home may also help you manage your anxiety symptoms. Speak with your partner, family, or friends about your issues and ask for support. Allow yourself to relax, slow down, cut down on chores and tasks, and put your health and well-being first. Taking care of yourself is vital to taking care of baby. Some other changes that may help manage anxiety symptoms include:
Even if you experience only mild symptoms of anxiety, it is important to inform your doctor. They can recommend the best methods for you to manage those symptoms, and can then monitor you throughout your pregnancy for signs of worsening anxiety.
If your anxiety is affecting your daily life or if you’re having frequent panic attacks, you should call your doctor right away. Only they can diagnose you with an anxiety disorder and recommend the best, most effective treatment options for you.
Seeking help is the best step you can take to ensuring that you and your child stay safe and healthy.