More than 1 in 10 pregnant women experience anxiety while pregnant. About 33% of women will experience clinical anxiety or depression at some point during their pregnancy. Meaning, you’re not alone in this. Pregnancy is, without a doubt, a very emotional experience, and sometimes it can get overwhelming.
Anyone can experience anxiety, but those with a family history of anxiety, depression, or under extreme stress are more prone. Not managing your anxiety symptoms can lead to premature birth, low birth weight, and issues such as preeclampsia. However, when medications are off the table, finding natural ways to manage your anxiety levels is paramount for your health and your baby’s.
Before We Start, Notice Your Triggers
Before you even start practicing some of these anxiety-calming practices, you must pinpoint what triggers your anxiety. Is there a specific task you’re doing that makes you feel anxious? Do you have too much on your plate? Are you not sleeping? Noticing your triggers is the first step in preventing anxiety flare-ups.
1. Get Some Rest
Being pregnant doesn’t mean you have to be in bed all day – unless suggested by your doctor. However, it’s essential to make sure you’re getting the right amount of sleep each night. If you can’t find comfort at night, try to schedule nap time during the day to make sure you’re counting at least 7 hours of sleep a day.
2. Overhaul Your Diet
While you’re free to indulge in as many cravings as you get, an unhealthy diet often leads to mood swings. It turns out what we eat is directly linked to how we feel. Make sure you’re following a diet rich in high-quality foods, proteins, and good fats. Make sure to eat every few hours and don’t skip meals.
Stay away from any inflammatory foods, such as sugars and simple carbs, including white flour products, processed foods, and white rice or pasta. Additionally, consult with your doctor to see if you can incorporate a probiotic to your diet. A balanced gut is said to help reduce anxiety symptoms.
3. Get Some Exercise
Sign up for a fitness class, yoga class, or aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. One study found that women who participated in yoga classes during their pregnancy substantially reduced their depression symptoms while improving their mindfulness and mother-child bonding.
4. Practice Meditation
The mind is a powerful driver. To calm it, we must learn how to manage it. Try to incorporate some meditation practices into your daily routine to release endorphins. Do your best to calm your mind and eliminate negative thoughts or concerns about your pregnancy. If sitting still for too long isn’t something you feel like doing, consider an active meditation session instead.
5. Consider Therapy
If you’re feeling too anxious all the time, it’s best to talk to someone. Seek therapy to find the right coping mechanisms to manage your anxiety. Speaking to someone about all the changes and struggles of pregnancy can help you stay calmer and see everything from a different perspective.
6. Start an Anxiety Journal
If you don’t feel like talking, try journaling instead. Start a journal and write down how you’re feeling, what triggers your anxiety levels, and everything else you’d like to share but don’t want to feel judged about. Writing down your feelings and thoughts can help you organize your worries, as well as pinpoint your triggers. Add how you feel, what you did, every food you tried that day, and so on. When you go back on your previous days, you’ll be able to spot any patterns that might lead to an anxiety attack.
All you need is 20 to 30 minutes of abdominal breathing to reduce your anxiety symptoms significantly. Find a breathing practice that works with you to make sure you stick to it every day. Whenever you feel your anxiety flaring up, take a few minutes to try a breathing session to calm your symptoms.
8. Try Light Therapy
A conventional therapy to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is light therapy. The process involves exposing yourself to artificial sunlight at specific times of the day to help relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. This is particularly helpful for the winter months when sun exposure is often limited.
9. Consider Acupuncture
Acupuncture is commonly used to help with fertility. But, also, acupuncture is said to help boost your mood. Also, since acupuncture is a drug-free alternative, it’s 100% safe for pregnant women. One large study found that acupuncture helped improve anxiety symptoms in people that didn’t respond to psychotherapy and medication for anxiety.
Remember to Ask Your Doctor
Lastly, talk to your doctor. Ideally, you have an open and sincere relationship with your doctor. If you feel you cannot control your anxiety, ask if there’s anything else you can do. They might recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help with anxiety and panic attacks. Some studies are looking at the effects of specific prenatal vitamins that might help prevent depression during pregnancy.
Experiencing anxiety while pregnant is entirely normal. Don’t feel ashamed of your symptoms and be open about them with your family members, friends, and doctors. Having a support system by your side is paramount. You got this!