10 Strategies to Combat Pregnancy Anxiety and Worry
Pregnancy Anxiety – the big question
Do you want to know the biggest question that has run through my mind during my pregnancy? I am sure you’ve probably asked it yourself, a thousand times over. As I am coming towards the end of my third trimester and the pending arrival of my first child, I’m daily asking the question:
Have you anxiously asked this question too? It can take a few different forms. “What if…?” questions can reveal anxieties and worries about…
- YOUR BABY – What if… something is wrong with my baby?
- DELIVERY – What if… something goes wrong?
- PARENTING – What if… I can’t cope with being a parent? Or being a parent again? What if… I mess up my baby?
- RELATIONSHIPS – What if… my other relationships fall apart because I’m caring for a newborn?
- YOURSELF – What if… I never get to be me again? What if… this baby ruins my life?
Why do I feel so anxious?
It is natural to experience worries about life-changing events – especially welcoming a new little one into your family. However, there can be a number of reasons you might feel anxious throughout your pregnancy.
Hormones and Physical Changes
It’s no secret that there are new and higher levels of different hormones running through your body and mind. Often times, these can contribute to feelings of uncertainty and worry while pregnancy. Hormones increase and decrease at different times throughout your pregnancy and this can have an impact on how you are thinking and feeling.
New and different physical realities can also contribute. As your body changes, grows and stretches to accomodate your baby, it’s common to feel a bit uncomfortable with your new shape and size.
Previous health or pregnancy experiences can contribute to your anxiety as well. If you have experienced a health trauma or difficult birth, this might play on your mind. You may be worried similar things might happen again.
The experiences of family and friends could also cause you to feel worried about how your own delivery will go, if you will be able to cope with parenting, and what your new baby’s personality and routine will be like.
Mystery can be a beautiful thing – but for the pregnant woman, mystery can cause concern. Unknown situations relating to yours or your baby’s health, your relationships and family situation and your work or personal routine might be contributing factors. When we do not know what’s going to happen or what challenges may lie ahead, it’s natural to worry.
Loss of Control
This is my biggest struggle – loss of control. Throughout my pregnancy, loss of control was reinforced as I slowly had to face the fact that there was no way I could manage and direct every aspect of my pregnancy, how birth and delivery would go, how I would cope physical and emotionally, and what changes this new baby would bring to my husband and I. Letting go of the control I used to hold over my daily routine and personal life cause significant anxiety for me.
What does the Bible say?
As a Christian, I am learning to centre my life on what God says in His Word, the Bible. If I want to be free from fears and worries, I need to stop the anxious thinking patterns I have had and develop habits that help me to trust God more with my worries. As it says in Romans 12:2:
… be transformed by the renewing of your mind…
The Bible assures me I can trust God with all of my concerns, because He cares for me – and my baby!
Cast all of your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
What can I do about pregnancy worries?
When overwhelming feelings such as anxiety or worry come, crying it out on my bed has often seemed like the most effective strategy. While a good cry can relieve some of my emotions, there are many other things to try to help relieve the worries pressing on your mind.
Here are 10 strategies I am using to help reduce my fears and anxieties during my pregnancy.
Sometimes the easiest step is the hardest. Prayer is simply communication with God. There is no formula; just bring your honest feelings and open heart to the Lord. Tell Him, in your mind, out loud or written down, what you are thinking and feeling. The Bible assures us that God hears our prayers and will answer us!
This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 1 John 5:14
I have often not prayed because my feelings seemed more powerful. There is nothing more powerful than our God, and in times when I feel anxious, I must CHOOSE to remember that God loves me, and my baby, and cares about how I feel – no matter what those feelings are telling me.
2. Sing and Listen
Creating a YouTube or Spotify playlist full of uplifting and encouraging music helps me to turn my thoughts from my worries to what is true. Singing along as I listen to these songs focuses my mind on the lyrics and reduces my brain space for thinking about “What if…?” questions.
Choosing worship music that focuses on God and how great and powerful He is reminds me that I can trust in Him, no matter what I am feeling.
3. Write It Down
Writing down your worries can help you to see them for what they are. Sometimes, writing down my worries helps me to think about ways I can respond to them, such as talking to my husband or doctor, rather than being overwhelmed by my thoughts. Using a journal can help me see my thinking patterns over time too. The act of simply writing my anxious thoughts often helps me to process them for myself and see a brighter side.
Other times, I write down my worries on a scrap piece of paper and then rip it up or throw it away, as a symbol that these thoughts do not have to define me or have power over me.
Writing down my worries also makes it easier to practice strategy 1 – prayer – and to give my cares to God.
4. Speak the Truth
Sometimes the worries I have can be combatted with truthful and affirming statements about what is really true. Speaking these truths out loud, or displaying them where I will read them often, can powerfully change my mindset. Some examples include,
- What if there are complications with the birth? My body was made to grow and delivery my baby. I have a great support team around me to help me and my baby. I can access extra medical care if I need it.
- What if I cannot cope with my baby? I can get support from my family and friends. I can learn about how to take care of my baby by reading and learning. I won’t be a perfect parent but I will do my best.
- What about all the changes the baby will bring? What if it ruins my life? This new baby will bring changes. I can learn to cope with the changes and new situations. I can find new ways to pursue my interests and goals.
There are heaps of pregnancy, birth and mothering printables out there which you can print and display throughout your house. As you see and read them each day, you can develop new, positive thinking patterns to combat anxiety.
5. Ask for Help
It can take a lot of courage to do so, but talking to a friend or health care professional can go a long way to easing your mind of any pregnancy anxieties.
If your worries are personal, catching up with a trusted friend who knows you and your life can be a great help. They may even be able to share from their own journey.
When health or medical concerns arise, such as what is changing in your growing body, delivering your baby, or what life will be like with a newborn, midwives and doctors can be an excellent support. They can answer any questions you have and support you through this changing time. They can also refer you to other support people, such as a counsellor or psychologist, for further assistance with your anxiety, if needed.
6. Go for a Walk
Fresh air and Vitamin D go a long way to helping clear my mind of anxious thoughts. Being outside seems to remind me that there is a bigger world outside of my house and my head.
Simple, gentle exercise or stretching can give similar help. If you lack motivation for exercise like I do, try finding a local prenatal exercise class to join. You might find you make some new mum friends in the process!
After bub is here, you might want to join a local pram walking group or do laps around the block with a friend. Not only is it great exercise, but a chance to talk and catch up.
7. Take a Deep Breath
Taking deep breaths gives me something to think about other than my worries. Being mindful of breathing in for a count of 4, and out for the same, refocuses my mind and gives it some well needed oxygen. Deep breathing can also help with other symptoms of anxiety, such as a racing pulse or feeling hot and dizzy.
8. Distract Your Thinking
An unrelated, funny or silly game or video can be just the thing to help my mind move on from worries and fears. It’s like my brain is on a hamster wheel and can’t get off! Watching the latest video from a favourite YouTuber, playing a simple board game with a friend, or watching an episode of a lighthearted TV show can be helpful.
9. Get Some Extra Rest
When I am particularly anxious at night, it can be because my mind and body are really tired. Getting good sleep during pregnancy is important, but can be really difficult for some women! Take naps whenever you are able to, and look for ways to give yourself a break. Even just lying on the couch for 10 minutes with my eyes closed can do wonders!
10. Face Your Fears
Fears can be caused by all of the unknowns – what will it be like, how will it happen, will everything be okay? Some of these fears can be eased by reading up on topics such as how your baby is growing each week, what to expect in labour and delivery, and tips for the first few weeks with a newborn.
I particularly love podcasts, as I can listen to them on the go, in the car or at home. They occupy my mind while I am completing everyday tasks like washing and cooking, but also help and empower me to be the best mum I can be.
YouTube clips and vlogs from other mums can also help you to know what to expect and give you ideas that may ease some of your worries.
Health care professionals, like your midwife and doctor, should also be able to give you resources that can support you through your pregnancy and postpartum days.
11. BONUS: Have You Eaten?
Guess when anxious thoughts often bother me most? When I haven’t eaten. My husband has learnt quickly that if the pregnant woman is getting unreasonable – make sure she has had a good meal or snack in the last three hours!
Chocolates, chips, ice-cream and lollies are great treats, but not necessarily the best choices when I am emotional. However, doing a check in and asking myself – “Have I eaten fresh fruit and veges today? Have I eaten some protein today? When did I last have some water?” – can be a great help. If I haven’t eaten something for a while, doing so enables my brain to work, think and process my emotions much better.
Will my pregnancy fears ever go away?
I wish I could promise you that your anxiety and worries will completely go away, but I can’t. I know that I need to continue working on my thinking every day – and some days are better than others. At times, I feel like I’m moving backwards instead of forwards. But, these are the days when I just need to choose one positive thing to try and with a little bit of effort, I can find something that will help.
If your anxiety and worry is not going away and is impacting your day to day routine, please contact your health care team. Your midwives and doctors should be able to connect you with local support to help you get through and manage your worries.
It took me several months to get up the courage to talk to my doctor about my anxieties, and another month or two beyond that before she and I were able to come up with a good plan to start implementing to help me more. As scary as it was to talk to someone, it was definitely the start for me to move towards freedom from my anxiety and to start new thinking patterns.
A Prayer for Pregnancy Anxiety
Lord God, You care about me and my unborn baby.
You see and know how I am feeling and what I am thinking.
You know all of my worries. Please calm my anxious thoughts.
Help me to trust You more and more in every situation. Amen
What have been your biggest “What if…” questions in your pregnancy?
How have you overcome this anxiety and worry?