Women's Health

Anxiety and Pregnancy


Anxiety and stress are normal and common feelings.

Anxiety disorder:
It is a mental health condition that occurs when anxiety gets in the way of daily life meaning that the anxiety is more than a temporary fear, and it is severe or lasts for a long time or both, and it is the most common type of mental health problem, as nearly 1 in 5 adults suffer from anxiety disorder including pregnant or postpartum.

Common types of anxiety:
  • General Anxiety Disorder: Feeling very worried about life most of the time, and it is difficult to stop negative thoughts, as it may be accompanied by trouble sleeping, upset stomach, or headache.
  • Panic disorder: Feelings of terror for short intense periods of time. These reactions are called "panic attacks," and may be accompanied by a racing heart, sweating or nausea, or chest pain.
  • Social anxiety disorder (social phobia): Feeling nervous or afraid of social situations, and may avoid being around other people.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are also associated with anxiety disorders. OCD causes repetitive, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and urges to repeat certain behaviors. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may occur after exposure to a trauma (e.g. Exposure to violence, death, serious injury, or sexual assault).

Onset of anxiety:
A woman may feel anxiety for the first time during pregnancy or after childbirth, as anxiety can start at any time during or after pregnancy, and often begins immediately after childbirth and up to 6 weeks, although it may occur up to a year after childbirth, and sometimes anxiety begins after weaning the baby from breastfeeding and when menstruation returns.

Risk factors:
  • Having an anxiety disorder in the past.
  • Having family members with anxiety disorders
  • Having experienced a previous pregnancy loss
  • Having health problems during pregnancy or labor and delivery
  • Having health problems (e.g.: current or past mental health).
  • Having a child with health problems
  • Exposure to childhood trauma (e.g.: violence, abuse or neglect).​
Symptoms vary from person to person but usually include:
  • Feelings of extreme anxiety or fear for long periods of time.
  • Mental and emotional symptoms (e.g.: persistent anxiety, stress, and a feeling of death).
  • Physical symptoms (such as difficulty sleeping, fast heart rate, dizziness, chest or stomach pain, headache, or nausea).
  • Changes in behavior (such as avoiding what you fear, avoiding leaving the house, or constantly watching for danger).
When to see a doctor:
When feeling anxious, or if the woman has suffered from anxiety in the past, or is taking medication for anxiety or other mental health problems.

Benefits of getting treatment for anxiety disorders:
Treating anxiety can help pregnancy. When a woman is less focused on worrying, she may take better care of herself, she may have the energy to eat healthy meals, exercise regularly and follow advice, and she may be less likely to give birth early and have a baby with a low birth weight.

The benefits of treatment continue after pregnancy, as severe postpartum depression may be less likely, and the baby may be less likely to have long-term mental health and behavior problems.

How to treat an anxiety disorder:
Anxiety is usually treated with "talk therapy" psychotherapy, as it helps to:
  • Recognizing unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors that cause anxiety.
  • Developing positive ways to change these patterns.
  • Improving disturbing symptoms that affect daily life.
Tips for improving mood and general health:
  • Make time for activities and try to do one simple, fun activity every day.
  • Do physical activity, where being active for a few minutes can be beneficial.
  • Follow a healthy diet.
  • Ask for help from family (e.g.: spouse, parents, other family members or friends).
  • Talk to family and spend time with them, being present can be helpful, when you don't want to talk about feeling.
  • Take enough sleep and stay away from stimuli that do not help sleep (such as: caffeine late in the day, watching TV or mobile just before bed).
  • Breathe slowly from the lower abdomen for a few minutes, twice a day.

Last Update : 07 June 2023 02:10 PM
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