Having pregnancy worry is normal, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy to handle.
Whether you’re anxious about your baby’s health, labor or life in general, it can feel like a lot at times. Even if you haven’t experienced anxiety before, pregnancy can become overwhelming.
The first thing you should know is that you aren’t alone. About 52% of pregnant women said they’re experiencing anxiety or depression.
In this post, we’re covering 10 practical ways you can control your anxiety during pregnancy.
Anxiety During Pregnancy: 10 Pregnancy Worry Remedies
There’s no surefire way to cure pregnancy worry, but you can manage it using these tips below.
Focus On What You Can Control
Can you pinpoint where your anxiety is coming from? Sometimes you can. For example, it might be something specific, like fear of childbirth. Or you might have general anxiety with multiple or unknown triggers.
When you can pinpoint a trigger, take some time to delve into it. Try to focus on what you can control and continually remind yourself that the rest isn’t in your hands.
Let’s say you have a fear of childbirth and the idea of going into labor terrifies you. There’s a lot you can’t control, but there’s many things you can. For example, you can take childbirth classes to become more comfortable with the labor stages. You can learn about your options for pain relief. And, you can even practice these 7 Exercises to Make Labor Easier and Less Painful.
In many cases, learning more can make you feel more prepared and dampen anxiety.
During pregnancy, your sleep may be suffering from stress, your uncomfortable baby belly or just because life is busy. In any case, lack of shut-eye can impact your mental health. Studies show that acute sleep deprivation causes negative mood states, including anxiety and depression. Worse is that it can become a vicious cycle: you can’t sleep because of anxiety and losing sleep may cause anxiety.
For tips on getting more rest, read Sleeping During Pregnancy: Your Ultimate Guide.
Get Some Physical Touch
Unless physical touch gives you anxiety, you can probably attest to its calming effects. Although there’s many different types, research shows that they have a similar benefit. Physical touch, such as massage, has a calming effect on the central nervous system. As a result, you experience a decrease in cortisol. There’s also an increase in serotonin, which can act as an anti-depressant.
Other studies show that being hugged by your partner before a stressful event helps you perform better. A recent review of research concluded that touch has a calming and stress-relieving effect. Touch from humans, animals and even robotic devices can change reactions in the brain.
The easiest way to get physical touch is from the members of your family—such as cuddling with your partner. Hugs with family members and pets count too. If those aren’t an option, think about other ways. For example, massage or self-massage works too, according to some experts.
Here’s a list of ways to get touch:
- Cuddling with a partner
- Holding hands
- Cuddling with a pet
- Hugging a family member
- Getting a massage or any type of touch healing
- Massaging yourself
- Using an electric back massager
- Body pillows may mimic a hug if you hold on (and they help pregnancy sleeping aches!)
- Weighted blankets may mimic the sensation of someone holding you (a 2020 review of studiesconcluded that they may be a good therapeutic tool in reducing anxiety)
Use a Fetal Doppler for Home Use
A lot of pregnancy worry is created by concerns over the baby’s health. Even if your baby is completely fine, you may be paranoid something will go wrong. If you’ve experienced losses, like miscarriage, your anxiety during pregnancy may be even higher. The wait between prenatal appointments can feel like forever if you’re constantly asking yourself, “is my baby okay?”
Although only a doctor can diagnose issues, fetal dopplers for home use have become a top choice for pregnancy worry.
A fetal heart monitor is a pocket-sized device that detects your baby’s heartbeat. You’ll be able to hear it and see her fetal heart rate (FHR) on the screen.
Many expecting mothers find that this helps calm their nerves between doctor’s appointments. Hearing your baby can provide reassurance and help release some anxiety. You can also use our app to record your heartbeat and play it back for your doctor or midwife to hear. This is a great option for when parents have questions or concerns.
Learn Self Compassion
Research shows that being nice to yourself can help protect you against anxiety and depression.
Parenting is filled with many tough learning lessons, so it’s a good time to learn self-compassion. If you’re someone who is hard on yourself, try speaking to yourself as you would a friend. Give yourself a break. Try to make that inner chatter a little less cruel.
Self-compassion is an ongoing practice. It can become a habit by using these exercises.
Do Something Active
Keep up your exercise routine during pregnancy but adjusting your intensity. If you don’t exercise, it can feel daunting to start now. But consider that just 5 minutes of aerobic exercise can have anti-anxiety effects, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America.
You don’t need to workout; just moving your body a little may be calming. Here’s some ideas for getting a quick 5-minute aerobic activity:
- Dance for 2-3 songs
- Walk around the block
- Switch between chair squats and punches
- Go for a swim
For more tips, read 11 Easy and Super Fun Pregnancy Exercise Ideas That You’ll Actually Do.
Get Social Support
The people in your life, or lack of, affect your mental health. A 2020 study concluded that doctors should encourage pregnant patients to strengthen their social supports to decrease anxiety.
Social support can be as simple as talking to your partner, parents or friends about how you feel.
If you don’t have supportive people in your life, there’s ways to meet them. Even if you already have a solid circle, pregnancy is a good time to reach out and talk to other women in the same situation.
Here’s some ideas to get started:
- Search “pregnancy” on comto see if there’s any hangouts in your area.
- Search for pregnancy Facebook groups using your due date
- Search for pregnancy Facebook groups using your city
- Ask in local Facebook groups if anyone is pregnant and wants to make mom friends
- Attend childbirth classes to meet other women
- Join a pregnancy discussion board website or app
- Get free one-on-one support
- Consider getting a health support partner, like a midwife or doula
To learn more about why support is critical and how to get it, read our Guide on Social Support During Pregnancy.
If you’re a self-help type of person, you might consider using a guidebook to see if you can learn about your anxiety. Using these resources, you can try out new techniques to help improve your mental health. Workbooks are typically sold by the type of therapy they’re using, such as ACT, CBT, DBT, etc.
One popular example is Mind Over Mood. In it, you learn about your emotions while trying out coping skills.
Even if you don’t have an anxiety disorder, it can still be helpful to talk to a therapist or counselor about stress. Ask your doctor to recommend someone or search for a suitable therapist online.
If you don’t have health benefits for therapy, you can find a professional who works on a sliding scale. Online therapy services are also typically priced lower. Free counseling services may be offered by local religious services or community centers.
Pregnant Anxiety Medication
In many cases, it’s normal to experience a surge of anxiety during pregnancy. It’s common and can typically be relieved by drug-free methods. However, if you have or think you have an anxiety disorder, speak with your doctor. Pregnancy worry could be the start of a generalized anxiety disorder that needs medical attention. While therapy is typically recommended, a doctor might also suggest medication.
If you’re pregnant, anxiety medication is still an option. While many drugs are considered unsafe, some formulations are okay for your baby. Certain SSRIs and SNRIs are generally safe. A doctor may also prescribe bupropion (Wellbutrin) or tricyclic antidepressants.
Summary: Pregnancy Worry & Anxiety During Pregnancy
It’s normal to experience pregnancy worry. Although it’s not easy to feel, there’s several ways you can manage it. Pay attention to lifestyle factors and seek support from those around you. Sometimes, additional help, like therapy, is necessary. If you think you have an anxiety disorder, speak with your doctor.