There is nothing easy about being pregnant, especially if it's your first time. There are so many unfamiliar and bizarre things going on with your body, so it's hard to know what's "normal" and what's cause for concern (and sometimes everything seems concern-worthy). Of course, your constant worry is only exacerbated when you suffer from prenatal anxiety. In fact there are struggles every mom who lived with prenatal anxiety will recognize because, while pregnancy is different for every woman, there are universal truths that every woman with prenatal anxiety can count on someone else understanding.
While a certain level of anxiety is expected when you're pregnant, prenatal anxiety occurs when that anxiety impacts your ability to function on a day-to-day basis. When I was 22 weeks into my first pregnancy, I went into preterm labor and lost my baby. As a result of the emotional trauma I sustained, I had severe prenatal anxiety with both of my subsequent (and thankfully full-term, healthy) pregnancies. I was a disaster. I was convinced that I was in labor pretty much every day for months. Every twinge, every ache, every drop of leaked pee or mucus, was the source of significant stress. My OB-GYN, bless her amazing soul, gave me not only her personal email address, but also her cell number. I think she may have regretted it after I regularly blew up her phone, but it was a comfort beyond compare.
While not everyone who suffers with prenatal anxiety has experienced pregnancy or birth trauma like I have, it is a very real condition. It is scary and stressful and can impact not only mother, but the growing baby and any potential partner the mother might turn to for support. So, if any of the following struggles sound familiar to you, please talk to your healthcare provider. You're not alone.
You're Constantly Overanalyze Everything
Gas will start to feel like contractions. A little pee leakage will undoubtedly becoming leaking amniotic fluid. A headache or swollen feet must be preeclampsia. These thoughts get stuck in your head and you can't let them go. They spiral until you're convinced something dire is happening, so you call your OB-GYN or midwife (again).
You Call Your Doctor Or Midwife Every Single Day...
When you have prenatal anxiety, the phone becomes your friend. Calling your doctor or Certified Nurse Midwife is like calling in a lifeline when Regis Philbin asks you that million dollar question. Even though you may think you're being a pain in the ass, there is nothing better than hearing, "Yeah, that's perfectly normal, you have nothing to worry about."
...And Always Waiting For Them To Call You Back
However, before you're able to hear those magic words, you have to wait for them to call you back. Yeah, that wait is torture. You leave a message (because who has time to wait for normal office hours, right?) in the morning, and check your phone constantly until they call you back. You're even tempted to call back just to check that they got your message. The waiting is the freakin' worst.
You're Always Expecting The Worst
Not only do you expect the worst, you fully anticipate the worst. Bedrest? Yeah, that'll probably happen, right? A potentially life-altering pregnancy complication? Probably, because why the hell not, right? Your mind can't help but gravitate to the worst possible scenario imaginable, so that's where you live. In the dark place. Ugh.
You're Constantly Trying To Decide If You Need To Go To The Hospital
About once a week I contemplated skipping that whole call-my-doctor-process, and just driving to straight to the hospital instead. Cut out the middle man, right?
You Never Sleep...
Yeah, it's hard to sleep when you're 36 weeks pregnant and your baby is pushing on your lungs and your bladder simultaneously. However, when you have prenatal anxiety, even if you've found that joyous and comfortable position with 37 pillows supporting all your parts, you still can't sleep. You're brain won't let you. Your thoughts are racing and your obsessing on all the things that could go wrong.
...Even Though You're Exhausted From The Worrying
When I was pregnant, it wasn't just the pregnancy itself that exhausted me. Honestly, it was the constantly worrying and the intrusive thoughts and the planning for every possible scenario. My brain was doing some very heavy, very labor-intensive lifting, and it was physically draining.
You're Constantly Assuming You're In Labor
Depending on your anxiety triggers, you may (like me) think every little twinge, every round ligament pain or gas bubble or cramp, is a contraction. I was convinced I was in labor, even though I was nowhere near my estimated due date.
You're Terrified You Won't Be Able To Tell When You're Actually In Labor
After spending the entirety of my third trimester wondering if I was in labor, I started to fear that I wouldn't be able to realize when I actually was going to have my baby. I started obsessing over whether or not I was going to have my baby on the side of the highway or in some parking lot, and that obsession was terrifying.
You Know You're Being Irrational, But It Doesn't Matter
Even though you know your brain is playing tricks on you, there's really not much you can do about it. You start to feel like a total ass for stressing so much and stressing everyone else out, but it is quite literally out of your control.
You're Convinced Your Anxiety Will Be Passed Down To Your Baby
I figured my baby was going to be high-strung straight out of the womb because of my relentless anxiety. I wasn't officially a mom yet, but I just knew I was ruining my kid. (Spoiler alert: I didn't ruin my kid, and you won't ruin yours, either.)