By Emiliana Hall, Doula and founder of The Mindful Birth Group®
Pregnancy is an exciting and joyful time for many parents, but it can also be a source of anxiety and stress. While it is normal to feel some level of anxiety during pregnancy, excessive worry and stress can have negative effects on both the parent and the baby. Here we explore pregnancy anxiety, the potential effects on the baby, and provide tips for managing stress and anxiety during pregnancy, drawing on studies and resources from the UK.
What is Pregnancy Anxiety?
Pregnancy anxiety specifically affects parents during pregnancy. It can manifest as worry, fear, and stress about the health of the baby, the birthing process, and parenting. Some common causes of pregnancy anxiety include previous pregnancy losses, complications during pregnancy, and personal or family history of mental health issues.
Effects of Pregnancy Anxiety on the Baby
Studies have shown that pregnancy anxiety can have negative effects on the baby’s development and long-term health. Research conducted by the University of Warwick found that high levels of maternal anxiety during pregnancy can lead to behavioural and emotional problems in children, such as anxiety and hyperactivity. Another study by the University of Bristol found that mothers who experienced anxiety during pregnancy were more likely to have babies with a lower birth weight and head circumference, which can lead to developmental delays and health problems.
Tips for Managing Pregnancy Anxiety
If you are experiencing pregnancy anxiety, it is essential to seek support from a qualified healthcare professional. They can evaluate your symptoms, provide guidance on coping strategies, and offer appropriate treatment if necessary. Here are some tips for managing pregnancy anxiety:
- Practise relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help reduce stress and promote calmness. A hypnobirthing course can help to support you in all of these areas.
- Stay active: Regular exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood. Talk to your healthcare provider about safe exercise options during pregnancy.
- Connect with others: Talking to other parents or joining a support group can provide a sense of community and reduce feelings of isolation.
- Limit exposure to triggers: Avoiding triggers such as news articles, social media, and certain people or situations that cause anxiety can help reduce stress levels.
- Seek professional support: If your anxiety is impacting your daily life and functioning, talk to your healthcare provider about treatment options such as therapy or medication.
Pregnancy anxiety is a common experience for many parents, but it is important to manage it effectively to promote the health and wellbeing of both the parent and the baby. By seeking support from a qualified healthcare professional, practising relaxation techniques, staying active, connecting with others, and limiting exposure to triggers, parents can manage their anxiety and promote a healthy, happy pregnancy.
- University of Warwick. (2017, October 12). Maternal anxiety during pregnancy affects child’s mental health. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 31, 2022, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171012140602.htm
- University of Bristol. (2021, February 3). Maternal anxiety during pregnancy affects baby’s brain development. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 31, 2022, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210203123122.htm
- National Health Service. (2022, January 14). Anxiety and stress in pregnancy. Retrieved March 31, 2022, from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/anxiety-stress-depression-pregnant/
Emiliana Hall is a Doula and founder of The Mindful Birth Group®. Head to their website to find out more about the services they offer, and join their supportive communities on Facebook and Instagram.