Hey there friends! Long time, no… talk? write? post?
Anywho, it’s been too long and for that I apologize. This pregnancy has been keeping me on my toes! Or off them and on the couch, such as the case may be. As I mentioned previously, I was sidelined with hyperemesis gravidarum throughout the first trimester and into the second. Fortunately, that’s much better now! However, if there’s another pregnancy symptom out there, I’ve been experiencing it.
One of the least pleasant symptoms I’ve had has been prenatal anxiety. I’m prone to anxiety anyways in my normal, non-pregnant life, but I’ve had it well-managed and pretty much completely under control over the past couple of years. Unfortunately, it came roaring back with a vengeance a few weeks into my second trimester. I realized when it was starting to affect my sleep habits and generally suck the fun out of this supposed-to-be-joyous time in my life that I needed to do something about it.
However, I was shocked to find the internet full of women extolling their struggles with prenatal anxiety but almost no actual research on what to do to fix it! Consequently, I want to add some potentially helpful information to the conversation.
Note: I’m not a midwife, OB, or mental health professional. I simply want to share what has worked for me. If you are having any thoughts about harming yourself, your baby or anyone else- do NOT wait! Reach out to your doctor immediately for help!
My Tips for Managing Prenatal Anxiety
1. Educate yourself responsibly.
Not every pregnancy symptom is cause for concern. It can be difficult to remind yourself of this when your body is changing on a day-to-day basis and it’s all new to you! Call your midwife or OB if you have a question about what’s normal and what’s not. Ask for their recommendations on reliable books and websites to read if you want further information. Do NOT go trolling toxic internet forums for advice! I guarantee that you’ll find exactly what you don’t want to find there.
2. Limit caffeine and sugar.
Most likely, your doctor or midwife has already discussed this with you from the standpoint of growing a healthy baby, preventing gestational diabetes and miscarriage, etc. But did you know that both caffeine and sugar are stimulants that can trigger symptoms of anxiety? I have found that I have to stay well under the recommended maximum for caffeine intake or I risk a panic attack. I also carefully watch my sugar intake, especially in the evening, as I have found that this profoundly affects my sleep.
I can’t say enough good things about exercise, both for a healthy pregnancy and anxiety management! (But what did you expect from a physical therapist?! Haha!) While I haven’t been able to work out as I normally would throughout this pregnancy, I have made it a point to go for a 3-4 mile walk each day. (Along with some light stretching and weightlifting, but that’s a topic for another post.) I’ve found this to be crucial in keeping my prenatal anxiety in check. I usually drag my hubby along as well, which gives us a great opportunity to reconnect and spend some quality time together.
4. Surround yourself with positive people.
As soon as you are visibly pregnant, everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) will take this as an invitation to share their own birth story. Only about 1/10 of these will be positive. Most will be cautionary tales about what not to do, what not to let other people do to you or your baby, how terribly everything went wrong, etc. Realize that they are sharing this because it is cathartic for them. Do not feel that you have to take every one of these stories to heart! Instead, choose to surround yourself with positive, optimistic, caring individuals- whether they are parents or not. In fact, call one of them right now and set up a date!
5. Make sleep a priority.
I realize good sleep can be quite elusive during pregnancy, but I try to make a concerted effort to get a good night’s rest each and every night. I have found that I cope much better with my prenatal anxiety and have a much more positive outlook on the days that I am well-rested. I have already talked extensively about the benefits of sleep and how to sleep better here, so pop on over and check it out!
6. Create a REALISTIC to-do list and timeline.
There is so. freakin’. much. to. do. when it comes to having a baby! Appointments to attend, decisions to make, stuff to buy… it seems like the list is never-ending! I found it tremendously helpful to sit down with my husband and make a list of the things that truly matter and actually need done throughout this pregnancy. For example, we would like to have maternity photos taken. This is priority for us, but it might not be for you. And that’s totally okay! Don’t add things to your already burgeoning to-do list just because a well-meaning mommy friend or prominent baby website said you should do them.
Once you decide on these priorities, make a realistic plan to accomplish them! Seeing them written on my calendar and knowing that they are going to get done on thus-and-such a date has alleviated a lot of my prenatal anxiety.
7. Ask for help when you need it.
You are not a superhero. Life should not continue on exactly like it was before you became pregnant. You’re growing a little person inside your body, for heaven’s sake! Find your support network and ask for a little help when you need it. Make sure to thank whoever provides the help profusely, then don’t feel guilty about it! (Full disclosure- I’m still trying to take my own advice on this point! 😉 )
8. Build activities into your schedule that you enjoy that have nothing to do with pregnancy.
While being pregnant has been an amazingly exciting time, I’ve found that it can become all-consuming if I let it. This just seems to feed my prenatal anxiety. To combat this, I have started making it a point to go on occasional dates with my hubby and friends that have nothing to do with pregnancy and baby. I’ve even declared some of our walks (see #3 above) to be pregnancy-free times, where we have to discuss completely unrelated topics. I always feel refreshed after these little mental breaks!
9. My faith.
Lastly, I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention the role that my faith plays in helping me to combat my prenatal anxiety. Knowing that the God of the universe is with me throughout this miracle taking place in our lives gives me so much reassurance.
There you have it friends! Just a few tips I’ve found that help me manage my prenatal anxiety. While some anxiety is normal during this time of life, don’t let it rob you of the joy that pregnancy can bring! Let your doctor know and implement some of these tips. I hope you get to feeling better soon!
P.S.- What has been your FAVORITE pregnancy symptom? (See what I did there? 😉 ) I’ve liked being able to feel her move around in my belly, even if it is a bit uncomfortable sometimes. It makes me remember that there’s an actual tiny human in there!