During my second pregnancy, I started experiencing symptoms of anxiety. Because I'd never dealt with these type of anxious feelings before, I brushed it off and thought it was a normal side affect of the hormonal changes.But, aAs it turns out, there are pregnancy anxiety symptoms you shouldn't assume are normal.
I was convinced something was wrong, but every doctor I talked to said it was completely normal to experience "some" anxiety during pregnancy. Looking back now, the doctors probably had no idea this was the first time I'd ever felt any anxiety in my life — and it was terrifying.
Since I didn't experieince anxiety till my second pregnancy, I often wonder how it might affect me through another pregnancy. Would it be worse? Could I manage it better this time since I know what's going on? I don't necessarily have those answers. What I can take some comfort in, however, is knowing what abnormal anxiety symptoms to look for and in turn, when to reach out for guidance.
So if you find yourself dealing with anxiety during pregnancy – whether it's the first time or you have a long history with it – don't assume these symptoms are normal and don't suffer in silence.
1. Relapse For Previous Anxiety Sufferers
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), women who already have severe anxiety are at a high risk for relapse if they decide to taper off medication during pregnancy. Although the ADAA noted that women who have anxiety symptoms can often do away with medication successfully during pregnancy, it's important that you don't ignore a relapse of severe anxiety symptoms. If you begin to notice anxiety symptoms getting out of control, reach out to a doctor.
2. Excessive Worry
When I say "excessive," I don't mean that you worry a little more about what you're eating or if you'll get the baby room ready in time. in an interview with Parents, psychiatrist Dr. Healy Smith said some amount of worry is OK and even healthy. When I say excessive worry, I mean the type of worry that keeps you up all night because you're convinced something's wrong or the type that has you pacing for hours trying to calm yourself down. If worry is legitimately affecting the quality of your life, stopping you from ordinary tasks, or preventing you from sleeping, it's not normal.
3. Panic Attacks
Panic attacks, although frightening and stressful to your body, are not necessarily dangerous on their own. However, women who experience consistent panic attacks during pregnancy are at greater risk for certain adverse birth outcomes, according to Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Women's Mental Health. These outcomes primarily include preterm delivery and lower birth weight. If you find yourself have recurring panic attacks or in constant fear of panic attacks, talk to your doctor or reach out to a therapist for help.
4. Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviors
According to the aforementioned Parents article, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is also classified as a type of anxiety. And, according to Psychiatric Times, more than 5 percent of women experience OCD during pregnancy. If you notice extreme pressure to relieve compulsions through repetitive behavior or thoughts, you may be experiencing anxiety in the form of OCD.
5. Prolonged Severe Stress
Stress is a part of everyone's life to some extent, and that's not always a bad thing. According to Calm Clinic, however, experiencing severe stress for long periods of time can put you at risk, and potentially your baby. According to the previously mentioned Psychiatric Times article, "untreated, significant, and ongoing antenatal anxiety exposes the fetus to excess glucocorticoids, which may influence the fetus’s susceptibility to enduring neuroendocrine changes." Your doctor is the best judge of what risks stress is causing on your pregnancy. And sometimes that even means the risks of stress outweigh the risks of medication.
For pregnant women experiencing anxiety, it's a truly difficult and confusing journey. Moms want the best for their baby and the healthiest pregnancy possible, which is why it's even more important to pay attention to abnormal and severe anxiety symptoms, and reach out to a doctor if you feel anything is wrong.