Anxiety During Pregnancy: Cause, Symptoms And Tips To Cope With It

Anxiety During Pregnancy Cause, Symptoms And Tips To Cope With It

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Pregnant women often go through prenatal stress, a series of physical and mental changes, including emotional changes. These numerous changes could make the woman prone to anxiety. Anxiety symptoms include persistent feelings of worry about daily events. It leads to intense nervousness, shortness of breath, and unease regarding something with an uncertain outcome. It could also cause fearful thoughts and constant worry. One in ten pregnant women experiences anxiety during pregnancy (1).

The condition is a mental health disorder. Thankfully, there are several pharmacological and non-pharmacological ways to treat the condition. This post will help you understand the signs and ways to come out of anxiety in pregnancy.

Difference Between Antenatal Anxiety And Antenatal Depression

The most basic difference between antenatal anxiety and antenatal depression is that while anxiety is characterized by persistent worry, depression is characterized by low self-esteem, sadness or low mood, hopelessness, lack of interest in activities or social engagement, and self-harming behavior (2).

Here are all the notable differences between antenatal anxiety and antenatal depression.

1. Antenatal anxiety

Antenatal anxiety is marked by anxiousness, stress, fear, and worry during pregnancy or just before giving birth. The symptoms of antenatal anxiety include the following (3).

  • A physical symptom may include feeling tension in your muscles or uneasiness or tightness in the chest.
  • It can be seen in the form of an outburst such as a panic attack. This occurs when extreme fear takes over your body control.
  • Mentally it takes a toll on the mom-to-be as they constantly worry about something that may go wrong with the baby.
  • It also plays a major role in the emotional state of the mother. Antenatal anxiety leads to persistently feeling restless and being in an irritable mood for most of the time.

2. Antenatal depression

Antenatal depression can occur at any point during pregnancy. It is linked to severe hormonal imbalance and a history of depression in the patient. The symptoms of antenatal depression include the following (4).

  • Physical symptoms of antenatal depression include lack of energy and excessive sleepiness. Some women could have poor sleep instead.
  • It could cause poor concentration and memory.
  • The woman could feel detached from her surroundings and the people around her. It could make her irritable as well.
  • There is a constant feeling of hopelessness, melancholy, and dismay, especially about the future.

Causes And Risk Factors For Anxiety In Pregnancy

There is no specific common cause of anxiety in pregnancy. Hormonal changes and the general worry of motherhood could be the fundamental cause of anxiety in most pregnant women. However, several factors could play a role or influence other conditions, which lead to anxiety.

The following factors may increase the risk of anxiety during pregnancy (5).

  • Age: Studies indicate that women between the ages of 18 and 25 years could be more prone to anxiety in pregnancy. While the precise link between age and anxiety is not determined, it may be that younger women could develop anxiety due to insufficient experience and knowledge.
  • Education: Research indicates that women with little or no education tend to be more prone to anxiety in pregnancy. It is not fully understood how poor education increases the risk of anxiety. It might be that women with better education may seek support through different methods and understand the solutions better, reducing the effects of anxiety.
  • Lack of support: Women with poor family support during pregnancy could be at a higher risk of becoming anxious about their pregnancy and upcoming childbirth.
  • Family history: A family history of anxiety may increase the chances of a woman experiencing anxiety at any stage in her life, including pregnancy.
  • Addictive substances: Women addicted to certain medicines or narcotics could feel anxious when they need to quit it for the baby’s well-being during pregnancy. In some cases, the woman may continue to have the addictive substances, which may cause anxiety as a side effect.
  • Trauma: A bad memory or traumatic experience in life may lead to anxiety during pregnancy.
  • Relationship and financial problems: Issues with the partner and financial constraints are some palpable factors that often invariably lead to anxiety about the baby’s future.

Symptoms Of Anxiety During Pregnancy

The symptoms of anxiety in pregnancy may vary among women, depending on individual factors and the woman’s tolerance to the feelings of anxiety. Below are some of the common symptoms of anxiety (6).

  • Worrying about the baby’s health to the extent that it may require professional attention.
  • Being obsessive when it comes to thinking about the baby’s birth and parenthood. These thoughts include thinking about whether you will be a good parent or not, or if you will be able to give birth to a healthy baby or not.
  • Some women may have a constant elevation of heartbeat rate. This may manifest as a panic attack over time.
  • A decreased need for sleep or sleep deprivation due to the overwhelming situation that may lead to insomnia.

In most cases, the woman’s day-to-day life is affected, making it essential to seek professional help for treatment (7).

Treatment For Anxiety During Pregnancy

The doctor may consider non-pharmacological approaches for anxiety to avoid any pregnancy complications. Non-pharmacological or non-medicinal treatments for anxiety in pregnancy could include the following (8).

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: It aims to modify the thoughts that lead to anxiety and modulate the amount of natural or reasonable worry the woman may feel. The therapy is customized based on the specific symptoms and thoughts encountered by the pregnant woman. It could involve multiple sessions, depending on the type of therapy employed.
  • Yoga and meditation: Yoga is best known for its effect on balancing hormones and relaxing the body. You could also consider meditation to regulate your thoughts. You must consult a doctor before trying yoga or any physical exercise during pregnancy. Meditation is safe, and you may do it anytime to relax and refresh your mind.
  • Massage therapy and acupuncture: It helps regulate blood flow through the body and ease muscles, leading to calmness and relaxation. Remember to visit an experienced and certified massage or acupuncture therapist to reap the maximum benefits safely.

Medications For Anxiety In Pregnancy

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) are the most commonly used medications for anxiety during pregnancy. These medicines do not usually cause any congenital problems. However, they may cause certain effects in newborns, such as trouble in feeding, jitteriness, and frequent crying. Thankfully, these effects taper off within a few days after birth.

It is essential to have any medication after consultation with a doctor and stick to the prescribed dosage to avoid side effects for yourself and the baby (6).

Tips To Calm Anxiety When Pregnant

Staying happy and calm during the months of pregnancy is essential. It helps reduce anxiety issues and many other health problems. Below are some ways to keep your mind calm and peaceful.

  • Catch sleep in a systematic manner. Lack of sleep may lead to unnecessary thoughts and fatigue.
  • Eat whole, fresh foods that provide maximum nutrients and energy to your body.
  • Stay active and indulge in physical activities, such as yoga and meditation, as advised by your doctor.
  • Arm yourself with knowledge about the difficulties and treatment required to overcome anxiousness. Read about anxiety and learn about it from a mental health professional.
  • Build a support system for yourself and the baby.
  • Schedule time in your day to relax and unwind. Physical strain may lead to higher levels of stress and anxiety.
  • Talk about it to a mental health professional and attempt ways to overcome anxiety as suggested by them.

Anxiety during pregnancy is a common problem and often goes undiagnosed. You may stay alert to the symptoms and be extra careful if you already have a history of anxiety. Speak to your partner and family members who may help you resolve the issues leading to anxiety. If anxiety persists for weeks, do not hesitate to take professional help. Lifestyle changes and professional help could help you beat anxiety and have a healthy pregnancy and delivery.


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Manjari Srivastava

Manjari Srivastava is a graduate of psychology. She also holds certificates in Basics In Clinical Psychology and Identifying Early Signs Of Psychosis In Adolescents And Young Adults.  Previously, she volunteered with an NGO specializing in positive psychology, where she took up individual counseling sessions for students. She also taught English to underprivileged children and helped them with their studies. At MomJunction,... more