How to cope with pregnancy anxiety
One thing I was thinking about, recently, when re-reading my post on what no-one tells you about pregnancy is that no-one ever really talks about pregnancy anxiety and fear in pregnancy, do they?
When you’re in the very first first trimester of pregnancy it’s all new and exciting and a million other things at once. You don’t really know what’s happening, or going to happen; even if you read a LOT of pregnancy books it’s still all unchartered territory. Every twinge or strange pregnancy symptom is noteworthy and often a cause for curiosity, if not concern.
We tried for a while to get pregnant and when it finally happened and I had that long-awaited positive result, it didn’t seem real. I was absolutely elated, but the anxiety set in very soon. I felt like it was so fleeting that it was bound to slip away from me. I felt, almost, like I didn’t deserve it.
A big source of pregnancy anxiety for me was around morning sickness. I know now that it is different for everyone and for me it meant feeling very dizzy and nauseous like I was hungover (without any of the drinking beforehand!) But every depiction of morning sickness in popular culture is of people running off to be sick in between eating pickles and ice cream. I didn’t know if that meant I wasn’t pregnant ‘enough.’
A lot of my time – sat at my desk, on my daily commute, at home each evening – was spent wondering if my symptoms had lessened – do I feel as sick as yesterday? I feel less tired today, what does that mean? Why do I feel…normal today…?
Due to pregnancy anxiety I took several tests over a couple of weeks, obsessing over the result and expecting each time that the result would disappear. Or that the line was less dark which clearly would signify…nothing good.
It also didn’t help that I’d spent a long time reading message boards online where a lot of worst-case scenarios are discussed. And as there wouldn’t be any confirmation until the first scan at 12 weeks, which goes really slowly, so you have a lot of time to think. I was fully expecting to get to the scan and see nothing there. Absolutely nothing.
And it’s likely that not many people know at this point – we didn’t even tell our parents until week 10 – so there wasn’t really anyone I could discuss the minor points with at length, especially not about how to cope with pregnancy fears and anxieties.
The biggest turning point was obviously the scan; seeing my baby on the screen convinced me that it was real (of course!). And having the confirmation that all was fine was a massive weight off my mind.
Pregnancy fear and anxiety didn’t vanish entirely though. In the second trimester, I had a couple of bleeds (including one I spent two nights in hosptial for). But it was a lot easier with everything being out in the ‘open.’
Some thoughts on how to cope with pregnancy anxiety and fears
- Realise that pregnancy can be an emotional rollercoaster at the best of times! Hormonal changes mean emotional changes are inevitable. But pregnancy anxiety is still horrible
- Stay off Dr Google and message boards. People can be wonderfully supportive during pregnancy online, but also be harbingers of gloom and these people are all unqualified. For every positive story there are many negatives and it’s easy to dwell on these without knowing the facts
- Stick to well-known, qualified sources if you’re reading anything online (NHS, sites like BabyCentre where information will have been checked and verified)
- Talk to your midwife or doctor if you’re really worried about pregnancy anxiety or your maternal mental health is suffering (most hospitals will give you a midwife ‘helpline’ for you to call)
- One thing I might consider next time – if there is a next time! – is to pay to go for an early scan at around eight weeks
- Experience helps with pregnancy anxiety – second time round I was much more relaxed in the first trimester as I knew that was how my body ‘did’ morning sickness.