For many, pregnancy can signify the start of huge anxiety, dread and panic. It can be a time filled with uncertainty, lack of control and feeling unsafe. A few reassurances from a scan or a midwife appointment doesn’t tend to hold, instead ruminations on all possible worst-case scenarios take over.
There are not only anxious thoughts to contend with, but the criticism and judgement women can direct towards themselves for experiencing these distressing thoughts and feelings, as well as a fear of being judged negatively by others too. Nine months of this can really take its toll.
The experience of anxiety in pregnancy is not about being ungrateful for the pregnancy or that the baby isn’t longed for or loved. It is the anxious brain that tries to protect and keep us and others safe going into overdrive, looking for all the dangers in its path. As our survival instinct is so important it tends to dominate, diluting any other thoughts and feelings that are present but hidden under all the worry.
It is our brain’s natural and primal design to notice threats and act in order to be safe, and it can be really effective when there are real direct dangers in the present. However, it isn’t so useful when the dangers are perceived, and no action needs to be taken. As the thoughts can feel dangerous the urge is to jump into action to fix something that just doesn’t need fixing. The response to fix and control can become a habitual pattern and a difficult one to break. But the good news is that our minds are highly capable of accepting new and more helpful ways to respond, through understanding, motivation, and with the right tools and practice.
It is highly likely that those struggling with anxiety have a tendency to be critical of oneself, craving perfectionism, control and certainty. It is also likely that they don’t value or prioritise time for relaxation or recognise all of their many strengths and resources. Increasing self-compassion is one of the many useful steps in building resilience, coping and confidence.
Anxiety Therapy can help you:
- Understand why anxiety can increase in pregnancy and how it works in the brain and body.
- Learn how to reduce impact of anxiety on thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
- Change your relationship with feelings so they are not overwhelming and in control.
- Use mindfulness based techniques to help accept uncertainty, build acceptance and be more present.
- Learn coping strategies that work to reduce need for unhelpful responses such as avoidance.
- Learn effective breathing and relaxation techniques that help your mind and body become more calm and focused.