While pregnancy is a very beautiful and joyous period of time in a woman’s life, it can also be stressful and cause anxiety. Pregnancy is physically and emotionally challenging. From fluctuating hormones to weight gain, from body aches to limited mobility, being pregnant and giving birth is the hardest physical work a woman will ever have to do in her life. All of these changes can be stressors of sorts and provoke anxiety in an expecting woman.
What are some common causes of stress and anxiety during pregnancy?
1. Perceptions – Perceptions are mental impressions, understandings and interpretations of a given person, place or situation. The mind and body respond to the perception. For this reason, it’s hard to say any given situation is a ‘fact’ or black and white. It really depends how the situation is perceived. When the perception leans towards overly negative or overwhelming, the mind and body’s response is stress and anxiety. For example, suppose the sink is leaking, the fridge is empty, the car is due for a tune-up and the woman is tired.
If the woman perceives these problems to be catastrophes, she is likely to feel stressed and may feel too overwhelmed to resolve the problems. Her inner dialogue sounds something like “everything in this house is falling apart, even the car is on the brink of breakdown. I’m so tired, I don’t even know where to begin. I don’t know what to cook and there’s no food anyway. I’m so stressed out.”
2. Comparing – It’s tempting to compare oneself with someone else. However, comparing can create a lot of tension, animosity and stress in the mind and body. Comparing is a way for a woman to not accept herself and to focus externally on someone else. For pregnant women, she may compare herself to celebrities who seem not to gain hardly any weight during pregnancy and appear to ‘always have it together.’ She may compare herself to a friend or relative that had ‘the perfect birth.’ Or, perhaps compare herself to a family that appears to be in a better financial situation. Comparing herself to another is a recipe for feeling stress and anxiety.
3. Negative self-talk – The inner voice or inner dialogue is one of the biggest contributors to a sense of person well-being. When woman's inner voice is critical, cynical, negative, berating and antagonistic, it wears down on the mind, body and Spirit. The inner voice can be extremely sneaky too. She might not even recognize that she’s judging herself, talking down to herself and criticizing herself. A backlog of negative inner dialogue can implode as a major bout of anxiety and depression.
A major contributor to negative self-talk is the word should.
“I should have only gained about 20 lbs during this pregnancy.”
“I should have waited to get pregnant next year.”
“I should be further along in my career than I am.”
“I should wake up earlier and get more done in the day than I do.”
Shoulding all over herself can make her feel really low over time. Just one of these comments to herself wouldn’t make her feel bad, but what happens is that this negative inner-voice goes on a long time, often unchecked? It can seem like anxiety and depression hit her out of nowhere. When in actuality, it’s been a build up of negative talk over time.
Here are some ways to combat the causes of anxiety and stress.
1. Shift Perceptions – Try to be objective and step away from perceived problems to get a better perspective. Do a brain dump onto paper of what the perceived problems are. Prioritize the tasks and start to address the most time sensitive. Also, enlist help and support if possible. Often an expecting woman writes down the tasks to prepare for her birth and bringing home the baby, she feels a lot more confident and at ease during pregnancy. Planning even on a very basic level will help put tasks into perspective.
2. Exercise, Eat Right and Drink Water – Exercising during pregnancy releases endorphins (happy hormones), increases circulations and provides for an opportunity to clear the mind. Likewise, eating dark green leafy vegetables decreases inflammation in the body. Inflammation in the body is directly related to stress. Drinking water nourishes the body and keeps the digestive track running smoothly. It’s easier to be stress free when not stopped up with waste. Pregnancy can slow the digestive track down. Increasing fiber and drinking plenty of water helps.
3. Compassion for Self – Pregnant women can practice showing compassion for self by speaking to herself the way she would speak to the baby. She can give herself a hug and encourage herself. Instead of dwelling on what she should have or could have done, she can focus on what she chooses to do now in this moment. Focusing on the now alone, helps release stress and anxiety.
4. Positive Self-Talk – Along the same lines as having compassion for self, is speaking compassionately towards self. Positive self-talk sounds something like this;
“I observe that I’ve gained 40 lbs thus far in this pregnancy. I choose to make healthy choices to control my weight gain from this point forward.”
“I am pregnant sooner than anticipated. I have all the tools I need to plan for success now.”
“I envision my career going to the next level within the next 5 years. I am capable of success.”
“I choose to wake up early and complete strategic tasks to help me reach my goals.”
Speaking like this consistently raises the self-confident and improves the mood. Getting into the groove of positive self-talk is like acquiring any new skill. It takes time and patience. Continue to practice. It’s a journey, not a sprint. Practicing positive affirmations can do a lot to boost morale.
5. Ask for Help – Reach out to loving family and friends to enlist help and support to get through your pregnancy. Mother groups online or in-person are excellent choices for support because they are women who have gone through pregnancy and birth.
Also, if you feel you need extra support or if you’re having trouble managing a stable mood, seek professional help. Reaching out to a licensed therapist is one of the most precious gifts you can give yourself and you are deserving of a peaceful pregnancy.
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Sis. Freya is the creator of RootMama. She loves encouraging women to achieve greatness.
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