Many women get anxious during pregnancy. It is a very common reaction to something new, scary, and incredibly important in life. There is a common saying that “once you know you are pregnant you worry for the rest of your life.”
In pregnancy, as in most other important things in life, a little anxiety is normal, expected, and a signal that you care deeply about something. However, anxiety can go beyond the normal level and end up harming you and your baby. Antenatal anxiety is a real condition that affects many women during pregnancy and can manifest in many different ways.
Antenatal anxiety can be associated with mental and/or physical symptoms such as:
- Continuous or repetitive thoughts of anxiety that cannot seem to be stifled. (For example, worrying there is something wrong with your baby even after an ultrasound at the doctor’s office shows everything is ok.)
- A feeling of doom or sense that something terrible will happen.
- Seeking reassurance repetitively.
- Intense anxiety or panic attacks. These can be a combination of physical and mental symptoms of fear and panic that are out of your control. They can be triggered or appear at random. This can lead to avoiding situations, places, or people for fear that the attack will occur again.
- Feelings of restlessness, unable to “shut your thoughts off,” being “on edge,” or overly irritable.
- Constant tension in muscles, fatigue or lack of sleep, or tightness in the chest.
- Withdrawing from everyday life.
- Can include nausea or lack of appetite (although pregnancy alone can cause these).
Studies of women with antenatal anxiety have been shown to have associations with an increased risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, earlier gestational age, and smaller head circumference. Now, I know what you are thinking, “Great! Now I am anxious about getting anxiety!” The good news is that small amounts of anxiety are normal and expected. More severe cases of anxiety can be effectively treated. In many cases, therapy and counseling can be enough for patients with antenatal anxiety. In other cases, medication may be needed, are very effective, and many are safe in pregnancy.
A great first step is talking to your physician if you are worried that you may have antennal anxiety. Your physicians here at El Camino Women’s Medical Group are great resources and are discuss mental health concerns and decide where on the spectrum your anxiety falls. Sadly, there is stigma surrounding mental illness and some people may not feel comfortable opening up to their Ob/Gyn. You can always call the office for a list of therapists we recommend. You can also ask for a list of therapists that are contracted with your insurance by calling the appropriate number on your insurance card. There are many great psychotherapists and psychiatrists in the Bay Area.
Getting help is the first step. Anxiety cannot be fixed in an instant or alone, however treatment is very effective and you and your baby will be much better off if you get help now.
El Camino Women’s Medical Group offers the latest Minimally Invasive Solutions for gynecologic problems. Drs. Amy Teng, Erika Balassiano, and Pooja Gupta, all members of AAGL (American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopy) are highly trained and experienced in the field of Minimally Invasive Gynecgologic Surgery. Dr. Erika Balassiano is also a graduate of the Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery Fellowship at Stanford University, under the supervision of world-renowned Dr. Camran Nezhat.
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