Getting pregnant can be a truly joyous occasion! It can also be a truly terrifying and anxiety-riddled experience for some women.
Especially for my patients who have struggled to get pregnant, or for those who have experienced pregnancy loss before, there can be a powerfully confusing mix of excitement and fear that comes up when they finally find out they're pregnant.
What you're feeling is normal
If you are newly pregnant and feeling less than great about it, you are not alone. I work with women all the time who try very hard to get pregnant and then freak the fuck out when they finally are. I've seen it a hundred times, it's totally normal!
Even just knowing what you're feeling is super common can normalize it and de-stigmatize it a bit for many women.
You don't always have to be happy
There seems to be a preconception that many people carry which expects pregnant women to be decisively happy and grateful for being pregnant...all. of. the. time. Often, if a pregnant woman complains about something, especially pertaining to their mental health, they are met with pleasantries, a change of subject, or even being told they shouldn't feel that way and to just think positive instead. As if that's so easy!
The thing is, no one can be happy and positive and practice gratitude 100% of the time, that's just not realistic. And trying to suppress negative feelings does nothing but feed them.
Yes, practicing gratitude can be very helpful, but just because it feels like your friends or family or partner want you to be happy and stay grateful for being pregnant doesn't mean you have to every minute of the day. Give yourself some space to have and process feelings of anxiety and they won't feel quite so overwhelming and shameful.
Find a nonjudgemental ear
Not talking about anxiety only makes it worse, maybe not at first, but those anxious thoughts and feelings have nowhere to hide. Talking about it openly and non-judgmentally with someone else is a great way to process what you're feeling.
A therapist and/or support group can be especially helpful to talk to because they can be non-judgmental and unbiased in a way that's hard for even friends, family, or a partner to be. Plus, working with a therapist can give you tools for managing your anxiety throughout your transition into motherhood.
Know it will get better
I've battled with anxiety for most my life and I've treated many many patients through bouts of anxiety and depression. One simple thing that really helps to deal with anxiety is to know it's temporary, it's something that always gets better, sometimes slowly, but it always does get better. Especially if you put work into getting to know your anxiety and how to manage it, it will get better.
When a particularly bad bout of anxiety happens during pregnancy several treatment options, such as many pharmaceuticals and herbs, which are commonly used for anxiety are ruled out*. The most effective management options tend to be talking therapy, acupuncture, meditation, practicing mindfulness, and eating anti-inflammatory foods. These methods aren't instant, but they do work. So even when if you're slogging through panic and fear, know that if you are doing the work, you are on the path to feeling better.
*Not all medications or herbs are contraindicated in pregnancy, some are safe depending on the patient, consult with a psychiatrist and/or herbalist.
Some resources that might help
- SAMHSA's Treatment Locator at 1-800-662-4357 provides you with information about local mental health services.
- The Anxiety and Depression Association of America lists local support groups and Mental Health America lists local and online support groups for a variety of different topics.
- If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK (8255). Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.