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Managing anxiety through pregnancy

Many expecting mothers feel a fluctuation of emotions during their pregnancy, and it can vary at each anticipated stage in an expecting mother's journey. Some women experience worry, stress and anxiety, and it's important to recognize when the anxiety is affecting physical or emotional health during this time of development.  

Our Healthy Set Go team interviewed Corey Watson, DNP, CNP and Tina Welke, LICSW, from Allina Health Mental Health – Abbott Northwestern, to learn more about how to recognize and manage anxiety during pregnancy. 

Q. How do you know if you have anxiety during pregnancy, and when is a good time to see a mental health provider?

A. Anxiety and worry are common during pregnancy, due to anticipation of baby and major change. However, when the worry is uncontrollable or taking up a lot of time or when we experience more bad days than good, the worry may be more problematic. When repetitive thoughts become difficult to manage or worry keeps you from completing tasks or experiencing happiness or big worries or fears are out of proportion to the situation, e.g. I am going to be a bad mother because I worry or because I missed my prenatal vitamin—we suggest speaking with your trusted OB/GYN provider about options for treatment, such as talking to a therapist.  

Q. Are expecting moms who experienced anxiety pre-pregnancy more likely to experience anxiety during pregnancy?

A. From the data, we know a history of anxiety and depression puts women at a higher risk for experiencing anxiety during pregnancy, but this isn't predictive that someone will automatically experience a resurgence of symptoms during pregnancy [or postpartum period].  Approximately 13-21% of pregnant women and 11-17% of postpartum women experience anxiety disorders. 

Q. How can anxiety affect an expecting mother?   

A. Sleep disruption, decreased physical activity, poor nutrition, fear of childbirth, excessive utilization of prenatal services and substance use. 

Q. What are some calming techniques that can be practiced?  

A. Deep breathing, yoga, massage and aromatherapy, cognitive behavior therapy, acupuncture and talking with your obstetric provider about increasing worry are a few techniques to use to manage anxiety. You might also consider joining a support group.

Q. What are the benefits of a group setting? 

A. Benefits include validation from other women experiencing similar experiences and/or symptoms, therapeutic and safe setting to talk about difficult experiences and putting worry and difficult experiences into a more realistic perspective.

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