Is anxiety during and after pregnancy normal?

“You are the closest I will ever come to magic.”

― Suzanne Finnamore, The Zygote Chronicles

The above statement rightly connotes the significance of pregnancy and motherhood among women. Being a life-changing event, it is quite normal to feel anxious at times during this critical phase. Whether being a parent for the first or second time, pregnancy is stressful as it is filled with overwhelming experiences, feelings and bittersweet events. The nine months of carrying a baby consist of bewildering speculations related to the safety of the baby, labor pain and a host of other ruminations.

Pregnancy is an exasperating period as unexpected occurrences and superfluous activities tend to trigger racing thoughts in the woman that heightens the level of anxiety. In fact, the situation can be more stressful for new parents with a number of stresses and strains witnessed due to their new set of responsibilities.

Often snared in the dilemma of what is good or bad for their baby, they tend to suffer from low self-confidence and fear of not being standing on the count of “good parents.” Moreover, women, who had struggled with an anxiety disorder before pregnancy, often have to bear the brunt in the postnatal period.

In most of the cases, women tend to suffer from the severe levels of anxiety both before and after pregnancy due to hormonal changes. It is also widely seen as a natural response of mothers toward the safety and security of their offspring. There are other studies that have highlighted that pregnancy changes the size and structure of certain parts of the brain that are responsible for social processing that incite the feeling of nurturing and protection among women. However, excessive anxiety is dangerous for both mother and the child when it starts interfering in their daily life by increasing the distress level.

Risk factors responsible for triggering anxiety during pregnancy

Some experts are of the opinion that perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs), which comes in a compact of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), inflict the same symptoms as in the case of postpartum depression. The symptoms can be very debilitating and can develop at any time during pregnancy and during the first year after giving birth.

A study in the Journal of Affective Disorders highlighted that on an average over 17 percent of mothers who had a baby within the last three months were diagnosed with anxiety disorders, whereas another 5 percent were diagnosed with depression. The Journal of Reproductive Medicine reported that nearly 11 percent of mothers had struggled with the symptoms of OCD, two weeks after giving birth. It was also found that nearly 50 percent of those mothers started exhibiting the symptoms at six months.

Anxiety is often considered normal during pregnancy. While some women may find a decrease in anxiety after delivery, some tend to experience increase in the severity of their symptoms. Besides hormonal changes, other external factors play a great role in altering the level of chemicals in the brain. While it may be difficult to alleviate anxiety during pregnancy, there are certain factors as mentioned below can strengthen the risks:

  • Family history of anxiety or panic attacks
  • Excessive stress
  • Past history of trauma, anxiety, panic attacks, or depression
  • Use of illegal drugs

Because anxiety cannot be diagnosed and are often mistaken with baby blues or mood swings, it often becomes tricky or difficult to identify anxiety during pregnancy. However, when chronic anxiety persists for a prolonged period, it can raise the risk of harming the fetus and developing other issues like preeclampsia, premature birth and low birth weight.

Alternatives for medication

Besides medication, several therapies and evidence-based treatment programs can effectively help a pregnant woman and new mother in managing the racing thoughts in her brain. Other approaches that can help a pregnant woman in enduring anxiety include psychotherapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), nutritious diet, acupuncture, experiential therapies like yoga and meditation, etc. Although several medications can help in reducing the symptoms of anxiety, it may not always be helpful during pregnancy.

If you or someone you know is dealing with anxiety, the Anxiety Disorder Treatment Arizona can assist you in finding the best treatment centers in your vicinity. You may contact us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-425-9317 or chat online with one of our representatives to connect with some of the best anxiety disorder treatment centers in Arizona.