Anxiety disorders may exist prior to pregnancy or childbirth, or have their onset during pregnancy or postpartum.
- Anxiety disorders exist without depression but are often not assessed for.
- Failing to address anxiety leaves women vulnerable to depression.
- Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and some amount of anxiety can be good.
It helps you respond appropriately to real danger, and it can help motivate you at work and at home.
A reasonable level of anxiety is also expected in pregnancy and following childbirth as there are many new things to learn and adjust to during this period.
However, when anxiety becomes excessive and interferes with your normal everyday life then it may be that you have an anxiety disorder and some additional help could be needed.
Anxiety often goes hand in hand with depression and is more common than depression. Up to 20 to 30% of women experience anxiety in pregnancy and after delivery.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
People with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) go through the day filled with exaggerated worry and tension, even though there is often little or nothing to cause it.
They anticipate disaster and may be overly concerned about health issues, money, family problems, or difficulties at work.
Women who experience this during pregnancy or in the postnatal period often find that they often also worry excessively about the baby. For example, they might constantly worry about whether the baby is gaining enough weight, getting enough sleep, or about the baby’s health.
Women in pregnancy might worry about the health of the baby, childbirth, or whether they will be a good mother. Of course, many of these worries are a normal part of becoming a mother. When the amount and the intensity of worrying is excessive, it becomes a problem if;
- the mother feels very distressed by it
- the mother is unable to function properly
- it causes difficulties for others. For example, a mother keeps picking up her baby which interferes with the baby’s sleeping.
People with GAD can’t seem to get rid of their worries, even though they usually realise that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants.
They can’t relax, startle easily, and have difficulty concentrating.
Often they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
These often accompany the anxiety and the most common are:
- easily fatigued
- difficulty concentrating
- muscle tension
- disturbed sleep
- muscle aches
Fortunately there are good treatment options for GAD.
I felt nervous and anxious about the baby’s health and well being. I wanted to overprotect my precious baby. I kept thinking, “What if…. Or what if this happened, how would I cope?” I wasted so much energy thinking of all the things that could happen and the reality of these things happening was so slim! Again I assumed these anxious feelings were experienced by most first time mothers?
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