What Is Prenatal Anxiety Disorder And Can It Be Treated?
Prenatal anxiety disorder is a mental health disorder that can affect a pregnant woman at any time during her pregnancy. To a certain degree, every pregnancy will come with a certain amount of anxiety and worry due to the nature of such a big life change. Prenatal anxiety disorder is very different in that the worry and symptoms are constant. A woman experiencing prenatal anxiety disorder will find herself experiencing racing thoughts, disturbed sleep and physical symptoms such as dizziness and nausea.
The first person the pregnant woman may speak to is a close friend or family member. They may recognise the fact that the levels of worry, or constant feeling that something bad is going to happen, is not normal for them. In fact, it may be completely different to the way they felt in previous pregnancies. In these cases, the anxiety is overwhelming and feels bigger than the person experiencing it. This is when speaking to your GP is a great idea. They will reassure you that this is most likely temporary, associated with hormones and chemicals that pregnancy has triggered and most importantly that you are not alone. You might be surprised by just how many cases of prenatal anxiety disorder that cross your doctor’s door each week.
Once you have spoken to your GP they may refer you to the mental health team in your chosen maternity hospital. They will offer support and guidance both now, throughout the pregnancy and after the birth of your baby. Having access to that support and help involves speaking about it and bringing it to the attention of your GP which for many women is the most difficult part. There is absolutely no shame in looking for help when you have a mental health concern or illness. Your health and well-being is priceless and there are so many additional supports and procedures that will be available to you from the moment you raise the issue.
Many studies show that up to 30% of women experience some kind of anxiety disorder or depression during pregnancy but that less than 20% seek help regarding the issue. In many cases, there is a myth that all pregnant women should feel happy, lucky and glowing during her pregnancy. This is so far removed from the reality and truth that so many women are facing. As a friend or partner, it is extremely important to keep an eye on the pregnant women in your life to ensure that their everyday floating worries and anxieties do not require the help of a professional. Suffering in silence is unfortunately really common – especially when there are other children to attend to, work to face and everyday life going on as normal.
During pregnancy, a woman’s anxiety is most likely to be treated psychologically with some kind of therapy or holistic treatments. Many medications that typically help anxiety sufferers are not safe to take while pregnant. This is the reason why your care team will keep a constant flow of communication with you to ensure that your symptoms are not worsening. In many cases talking about the feelings can really help.
In some cases, a woman may have been taking an anxiety medication for years before she became pregnant. For the safety of her unborn baby, she may take a break from the medication until the baby arrives. This can cause the anxiety disorder to flare up and it is a very difficult situation as everyday life suddenly becomes a constant state of panic and worry which for the mother’s well-being is really concerning.
Your care team may suggest exercising a little more and some dietary changes which may help your symptoms of prenatal anxiety. In many cases, the disorder dissolves when the baby arrives but there is always the risk of postnatal depression and anxiety. It is more important now than ever to speak about how you feel and enlist the help of those that love you the most.
You are not alone.
Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at www.loveofliving.com.