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Dealing with anxiety in pregnancy-
It wasn’t something I had ever given much thought to before – and I had shared (more or less) all the basics of the things I know about living well with anxiety.
But of course, there’s always more to learn. In fact, every new experience offers me a choice – A) choose to learn how to deal or B) spiral into full blown prolonged panic mode. (This option comes with insomnia, depression and general lack of functioning. Woohoo!)
I used to choose option B far more often than I care to admit – but that’s because it’s hard to deal with anxiety when you don’t know how… and that’s why learning how is so important.
I know how to deal with my anxiety on a day to day basis. I can keep it under control most of the time:
- I rely heavily on natural supplements to keep my anxiety at bay.
- Eating properly is important.
- Running is a HUGE anxiety buster for me.
- Making good decisions that keep me in control (as much as possible) of my life really helps.
Turns out pregnancy blows all those things out of the water.
(It doesn’t HAVE to; lots of women still eat well and exercise. But lots of women also throw up when they think about veggies and would rather single handedly clean the entire bathroom with a toothbrush than go for a run. If you are in the second group, we can start a club! I ran exactly two times when I was pregnant… both times were pre “what goes in must come out violently” stage.)
SO without most of my arsenal of anxiety busters available to me… I was pretty anxious about the return of my anxiety. (Yes, that’s a thing. Having anxiety about having anxiety.)
BUT I have survived pregnancy with minimal anxiety – only one panic attack in the entire nine months – and only 3 or 4 episodes of mild panic. This is awesome success as far as I’m concerned!
There are LOTS of things be anxious about in pregnancy:
The endless list of things that could go wrong, the ways the baby will change your life, the way the baby will change your relationships, if the baby will be healthy, the things that will happen to your body. Labor. Recovery. Raising a child in this scary world.
Knowing that once the baby is here nothing will ever be the same.
Wondering if you are mentally stable enough to handle being a parent.
It’s hard to admit that that was one of my biggest fears – but when I let my thoughts take over and go where they want to go on their own it’s easy to think that I shouldn’t be in charge of shaping a person.
There are a bunch of messed up people out there, and I don’t want to be responsible for messing up another one.
Whatever you’re finding to be anxious about, dealing with anxiety in pregnancy is hard. But it’s also totally possible.
If you are pregnant (or thinking about getting pregnant) and struggling with anxiety, I am hopeful that you can use some of this information to help you feel a little more relaxed and get through the next months with more joyful anticipation than anxious struggling.
IF you have the luxury of knowing that you might be getting pregnant, there are a few things you can do BEFORE you see the little blue line to make it easier. (Maybe you’re already pregnant and struggling – that’s ok – there’s still hope!) Just saying…IF you have a chance to do these things, you’ll be one step ahead.
Stock up on “good health”.
In the months before your pregnancy, take all your anti-anxiety supplements and eat as healthy as you possibly can. You don’t lose the benefits of supplements and a good diet the day you quit those things.
Talk to your therapist at least once, pre-pregnancy.
Even if you’re feeling positive about being pregnant. Discuss things that could cause anxiety before they happen and arm yourself with methods to deal with those situations before you find yourself in them.
I do not mean “research every possible thing that could go wrong and think about it in detail”. For me, that would only make my anxiety exponentially worse.
(My conversation with my therapist was almost entirely me saying “what if?” and her responding with “then you will deal with that when you need to deal with it.” My therapist knows me, and knows what works for me. Your therapist will know what works for you.)
Prepare financially for dealing with anxiety in pregnancy.
Being pregnant (and raising a kid) comes with all sorts of unusual bills, but if you can set aside some cash for a few extra visits with your therapist during pregnancy (or make sure your insurance covers a few visits) – then do that.
Maybe you’ll feel awesome and be able to work the entire pregnancy – or maybe you won’t. Don’t let getting help (if you need it) be one of those things that “you’d do if you could afford it”.
(If you need to earn a little extra money to make this happen, jump on that now, while you still feel like getting dressed and leaving the house. There are lots of ways to make extra money – you can take online surveys for cash, sell your stuff, get a part time / weekend job, or start a blog, which is what I did.)
Related: 5 side hustles to make you money now
During pregnancy, take the supplements you can take.
Once you’re pregnant, your hormones are out of control and everything is suddenly very real. BUT there are some things you can do to try and stay on top of the anxiety physically:
You can’t take all the natural supplements (or your prescriptions if you have them), but there are SOME supplements that are hugely beneficial to anxiety that you CAN (and should!) take while you’re pregnant. I had to give up my serenity formula, my 5-HTP, and my ortho-adapt…and my favorite over the counter sleep aid.
But my doctor was very happy for me to continue taking my vit B, magnesium and vit D. Talk to your doctor about ANYTHING you take. Some pre-natal vitamins will have these things in them already, some won’t. (I took this B Vitamin which states it’s safe for pregnancy – and also baby’s neural tube development!)
So long as you can take your vitamins (and hopefully keep them down) don’t stress about your diet.
Tune out all the people telling you to make sure you’re eating right. (News flash: you can eat more “right” than anyone else on the face of the earth, but if it doesn’t stay down it’s not doing you any good.) The incredible pressure of thinking you’re not “eating right” for your baby is NOT going to help your anxiety. Believe me. And therefore –
Find something you can eat and eat it, and don’t stress about it.
(Best. Advice. Ever. Thank you sister and mom.)
Potatoes all the way! Potatoes and crackers. And fruit smoothies. These things sustained me for 5 months. If water makes you gag, try drinking ice water, or flavoring it with a splash of juice. OR if it’s really too gross, just drink the juice!
Your baby will take what it needs from your body to develop, and if you’re totally miserable from the stress of worrying about eating poorly and the lack of anything to sustain you, you will not be able to control your anxiety. (Or function at all, really.)
Get as much sleep as you can.
NOT the same as “get as much sleep as you can now, because soon you won’t be able to”, followed by an obnoxious wink. (That is one of those things I will never say to a pregnant woman!)
You might really be struggling to sleep right now – I know I did. But when you can sleep, sleep. Don’t choose TV or a bath or Facebook over sleep. Really prioritize rest. If you can rest, your whole body will function better and you will be able to cope better with your anxiety.
DO NOT FEED THE FEARS.
Doing all the best things physically for your body is awesome, but it’ll also only take you so far. To beat anxiety – especially when hormones are high and the physical aspects of treatment are limited – you NEED to do the mental work. I’ve talked about the principals behind “do not feed the fears” before, and I think that it’s even MORE important to follow these principals in pregnancy.
For example, I had anxiety about labor and delivery. I know that for me, reading tons of uncensored labor and delivery stories would only increase my anxiety regarding labor and delivery. It was terribly tempting to fill my head with all the information.
But I know that all the information is not healthy for me.
So I did not take a single birthing class or read a single book on the subject. I thought about pregnancy and labor as little as humanly possible. I got the information I needed by talking with my doctor (I had him tell me exactly and ONLY the details he thought I should know regarding labor and delivery and what I should expect as far as the procedures that he generally used) and asking a few trusted friends specific questions.
This was absolutely the right way for ME to do it.
Be choosy about which information you let into your head.
Find a Doctor that understands that you have anxiety.
I searched high and low for a doctor who was understanding and who I felt comfortable with. Doing this one thing took away at least 50% of my anxiety regarding labor and delivery. (Particularly since I wasn’t going into the birth experience with all the information.)
We talked about the fact that there was a good chance that I’d panic in labor and had plans to deal with that. (Laughing gas = awesome.)
We talked about my major concerns and made a plan to not have much of a plan. (Except drugs. Drugs were definitely my plan.)
Maybe you want a very specific plan, and that’s fine, but if things not going to plan gives you anxiety – maybe no plan is better. (This is the case for me. So even though I’m naturally inclined to want to be in control, I understand that making the choice not to micro-manage might be better for the long term in controlling my anxiety, particularly in situations where things are so very much beyond my control.)
Make some preparations for the postpartum period.
Hope and pray (and trust) that you will have your anxiety under control, but also give yourself a little grace and remember that postpartum is hard and your anxiety MIGHT be a little high.
There’s a few things you can do to prepare for that and give yourself the best possible chance at not letting anxiety become overwhelming. (What to expect postpartum is something I DID read a little about, and I’m glad I did.)
Have a few organizational systems in place that will allow you to coast (really, all pregnant ladies should do this – regardless of anxiety or not!). Freezer meals and automated bill payments will take you far. Having a few things on hand to make yourself a little more comfortable will be helpful.
One thing you SHOULD absolutely pre-research is which anxiety treatments you and your doctor will feel comfortable with using postpartum (especially if you’re breastfeeding).
I knew I didn’t want chemical treatments, so I looked into which herbs and homeopathic medicines were safe for breastfeeding. I purchased the homeopathic anxiety medicine I decided to use postpartum in advance and had it waiting at home. I also researched placenta encapsulation and again, I made sure some visits with my therapist were in the budget.
Above all, remind yourself that this too shall pass.
It can be easy to forget that pregnancy is just a phase (especially in that last month). It’s a season of life, and sometimes a difficult one… but it DOES end. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and finding dealing with anxiety in pregnancy difficult, then remember that you just have to get through this. Take one day at a time and try not to think too far ahead. (Sometimes thinking more than a couple hours ahead might be too much.)
Wake up and do the first thing. Then do the next thing. Remember to breath and when you can, remember that going through this season will be totally worth it when your babe finally gets here ♥