Pregnant and Anxious? There is hope!
Most of us have heard about postnatal depression. We have all heard the phrase countless times and many of us know people that have been through it. However, not many have heard of perinatal anxiety. So what is it? What does it feel like? And what can be done about it?
Firstly, perinatal refers to the period from the start of pregnancy to a year after baby is born. Anxiety refers to feelings of worry and / or nervousness that don’t go away and can make it extremely difficult to function on a day to day basis. Anxiety can range from mild to severe and can be debilitating.
The perinatal period is a period of considerable change and during this time women could become anxious. This anxiety could centre around the safety of the baby. A pregnant woman may be anxious about eating the wrong thing, she may scan and worry about whether baby is moving enough. Equally a mom-to-be may be anxious about the changes to her body or how she will cope once baby comes along. This anxiety may continue when baby is born, leading to anxiety about the baby’s ongoing safety, the mother’s ability to cope, and compromise overall feelings of well being.
Seeking help early with Perinatal anxiety, and reaching out is important to help someone feeling this way. To begin with:
Don’t go through it alone – as a mom-to-be / new mum it’s easy to feel the pressure that “this should be a happy time!” Yet many women experience sadness, worry, depression or anxiety. Talk to one or two people whom you trust to understand and support you. Talk to other moms who may have already been through this and have got through it. Ask trusted family and friends for practical support once baby comes along. Learn to say “yes” when someone offers to help by cooking a meal or hanging your washing out or simply giving you some time for yourself.
Make time for fun – it’s easy to get so focussed on baby that you lose sight of yourself, whether this is preparing for baby’s arrival or whether caring for baby after birth. Yet it’s important for both baby and you that you make time to take care of yourself and one way of doing this is to make time for fun. Schedule something fun to do each week even if it is something as small as going for a walk by yourself or making some time to read a book. Ask someone to step in and help, maybe your partner or family, to free up some time for you to go ahead and do your fun activity.
Practice mindfulness- Worry is an anticipatory state. We worry that something is going to happen. So grounding yourself in the present can be helpful. There are several helpful apps out there such as Smiling Mind or Mind the Bump to help with this.
Talk to your GP or a psychologist- Anxiety can be quite debilitating but there are highly effective therapies for anxiety. Find a psychologist with experience in perinatal anxiety who can provide you with evidence based strategies and techniques to help you through this time.
For more information and resources www.panda.org.au is a wonderful site built just for Perinatal and Postnatal depression for mums AND dads.
Perinatal and Post Natal Depression Interest Area
Tehani Gunasekara (M Psych, B Adv Science, Hons Psych) is a Clinical Psychologist who is passionate about helping people live their best possible lives despite the challenges that inevitably come our way.
While warm and empathic Tehani is a straight talking and practical Psychologist who uses the principles of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Positive Psychology and Neuroscience to obtain outcomes for her clients. She will empathically support people to move forward with their lives and reach for a full and meaningful life regardless of their circumstances.