Anxiety during pregnancy can put both the child’s and the mother’s health in danger. Changes in appetite, intense mood swings, excessive stress, poor concentration, and fatigue are symptomatic of anxiety. Exercise, therapies, healthy nutrition, and proper care and support can help mothers to emerge from this traumatic phase. If left untreated, it can lead to pregnancy complications, stress, or other frightening results.
It is always thrilling for a woman to see that second line on their pregnancy test result.
For most pregnant women, the nine months leading up to childbirth is a period of joy and enormous bodily transformations.
However, while some of these transformations are welcome, others carry with them a range of emotional complications—part of which are feelings of anxiety and depression.
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Depression and anxiety during pregnancy
Millions of people suffer from anxiety and depression globally, including pregnant women. About 280 million people on planet Earth suffer from depression.
Studies have also revealed that about 16% or more of pregnant women suffer from anxiety or depression at some point during pregnancy.
However, research indicates that not more than 20% of them pursue medical solutions and that treatment is inadequate or insufficient.
Managing or treating these mental issues is necessary for a safe and healthy pregnancy.
Symptoms of depression and anxiety during pregnancy
Diagnosing mood disorders like anxiety and depression during pregnancy can be pretty complex.
Some of the symptoms can coincide with the usual symptoms of pregnancy, such as poor concentration, physical weakness, sleep pattern fluctuations, and changes in appetite.
Nevertheless, they still leave discernible traces. Symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy include:
- Feelings of restlessness and poor concentration
- Excessive and intrusive worrying
- Fluctuating sleep patterns
- Irritability and agitation
- Incessant fear of experiencing a panic attack and experiencing persistent panic attacks
- Tensed and aching muscles
- Rapid heartbeat and difficulty in breathing
Depression, on the other, can manifest via:
- Changes in appetite.
- Fluctuating sleep patterns, i.e., excessive or inadequate sleep and eating patterns.
- Difficulty in decision-making and failing memory.
- Withdrawal from family and friends and disinterestedness in activities and the world around them.
- Incessant sadness and feelings of “emptiness.
- Frequent crying.
- The feeling of fatigue and physical weakness.
- Suicidal thoughts.
- A sense of guilt, hopelessness, and worthlessness.
- Drinking, smoking, or use of illegal drugs.
- Intense mood swings.
- The feeling of low self-esteem.
Causes and triggers
Are you still wondering what factors would trigger this situation?
Yes, that is hormonal change, unusual events in life, stress, and other mental health issues.
Economic issues and lack of moral support could be the reason behind it.
What hormones cause depression during pregnancy?
Estrogen and progesterone can cause anxiety in pregnant women, as they play a definite role in mood swings and irritability.
Though Progesterone helps you relax your muscles, it also makes you exhausted.
How does anxiety affect me and my baby?
Treating anxiety and depression is crucial as they can result in some serious complications for both the developing fetus and the mother.
Risks to a developing baby whose mum-to-be has untreated prenatal mental health issues include:
- Low APGAR score (short for appearance, pulse, grimace, activity, and respiration) (which rates an infant’s overall health after delivery)
- Low birth weight
- Poor adaptation outside the womb, including nervousness and respiratory distress
- Preterm birth (before 37 weeks)
- Irritable newborns
- Incessant crying
- The danger of developmental, emotional, and behavioral issues for the child later in life
- Small head circumference (which relates to the size of the brain).
Risks to the expectant mother
- Having a cesarean section
- Weak mother-infant bonding and attachment process
- Postnatal anxiety and depression
- Premature labor
- Ingestion of harmful substances like drugs and alcohol
Challenges that keep mothers away from diagnosis
1. Overlapping symptoms
Anxiety and depression have overlapping symptoms with pregnancy, therefore, are left untreated.
2. Social stigma and fear of judgment
Our society halts pregnant women from taking support for their mental issues.
Fear of judgment can bring a severe impact on women’s and child’s health that could be irreparable.
Risk factors if anxiety and depression are left untreated
The following personal and environmental factors can further compound the risks associated with anxiety and depression:
- A family or personal history of mood disorders, including panic attacks, depression, and anxiety
- The genetic inclination toward mood disorders
- Pregnancy complications
- Being widowed, divorced, or separated
- Low earnings
- Weak social support network
- Being a young parent (under 20 years of age) or becoming pregnant without planning for it
- Relationship or marital conflicts
- Domestic violence or abuse
- Previous traumatic incidence(s)
- Use of illicit drugs
- Excessive daily-life stress
How to treat anxiety during pregnancy?
1. Self-care strategies
Besides medication and therapy, various self-care strategies can help pregnant women effectively manage anxiety and depression during pregnancy.
2. Therapeutic conversations
It’s important to tell your partner, a family member, a close friend, or a faith leader if you’re having feelings of anxiety or depression in the course of your pregnancy.
Simply talking about those feelings and thoughts can help prevent them from overwhelming you.
Aside from having a one-on-one talk with a therapist, joining a support network is beneficial too.
Here you can share your worries with other mothers or expectant mothers.
Sharing similar experiences or similar challenges can help you understand your predicament and can be a great way to ease stress, anxiety, and depression.
Eat balanced diets. Consume ample fresh foods—mainly vegetables, fruits, poultry, low-fat meat, fish, and whole grains.
During the critical period of pregnancy, try as much as possible to reduce your sugary and processed foods intake.
With the approval and guidance of a physiotherapist (especially if you have pregnancy complications or stand a risk of premature labor), engage in exercise routines.
It helps reduce anxiety and stress and boost mental and physical calmness through walking, running, yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises (like deep abdominal breathing), massage therapy, et cetera.
5. Get adequate rest
While pregnancy can adversely impact your ability to get good sleep at night, the fact remains that sleep is vital for your health.
A poor sleep routine heightens your susceptibility to anxiety and depression.
Create a soothing bedtime routine, and, when possible, try to sleep early.
6. Start journaling
Sometimes, you might not be able to speak to someone.
Still, all thoughts need to be let out. Try journaling your worries unabashedly.
It allows you to ruminate on your worries, helps you brainstorm possible solutions to them, and, hence, helps a great deal to soothe and comfort you.
7. Seek professional help
Open up to a healthcare professional about your general state of health and any mental health challenges you’re experiencing or have experienced in the past.
It’s always better for your doctor to have your complete medical profile.
Never be embarrassed to talk to your healthcare provider about your feelings and worries.
My sister always talked to her doctor about her stress during and after her pregnancy.
It always worked for her because your doctor can empathize with you and help you deal with the situation or stress.
What is a therapy treatment for anxiety and depression during pregnancy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps patients identify, control, and change negative or maladaptive emotions, thought patterns, and behaviors.
It can help to cure depression during pregnancy.
Which medication treatment to go for anxiety and depression during pregnancy?
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed for depression and anxiety both during pregnancy and after delivery.
What other mental health issues can arise during pregnancy?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, bipolar disorder (stints of depression and mania), and panic attacks can rise during pregnancy as well.