Pregnant woman wearing medical mask at home; blog: Pregnancy, Anxiety and the Pandemic

Pregnancy, Anxiety and the Pandemic

Everyone experiences anxiety on occasion. Nerves and worry can creep in before a big deadline, presentation at work, or any other situation. Pregnancy is no different and can create a high level of anxiety for new parents. This is to be expected—you’re about to bring a new life into the world!

But since the pandemic, rates of pregnancy and postpartum anxiety have more than doubled. A June 2020 survey showed that while 29% of pregnant women reported having anxiety prior to the pandemic, a staggering 72% reported it during the pandemic.

Let’s dig into what’s causing those nerves, what symptoms to look for, and some tips on managing anxiety while pregnant. 

Causes of Anxiety

Pregnancy symptoms vary from woman to woman and even pregnancy to pregnancy. For some, it’s morning sickness and back pain, while for others its swollen feet and acid reflux. The constant physical changes and uncertainty can be overwhelming under normal circumstances, much less during a pandemic which can limit access to one’s support system. 

Pregnancy also results in an abundance of hormonal changes that can alter your mood and ultimately make it more difficult to handle stress. Excessive or unresolved stress can increase your chances of developing chronic anxiety which can have adverse effects on maternal and fetal health. So, it’s important to know the symptoms of anxiety and what you can do if you experience them. 

Symptoms of Anxiety

It’s natural to worry during pregnancy. But if the constant worrying begins to interfere with your everyday life, that is called anxiety.

Symptoms of anxiety might include:

  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Having difficulty controlling worry
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety

There are also some factors that can increase your risk of developing anxiety such as genetics, personality type, or having previously experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. 

Managing Anxiety

Mild cases of anxiety typically don’t require treatment, but you should keep your doctor informed. In severe cases, your doctor may recommend medication after weighing the risks and benefits. You should also consider:

  1. Talking about it—When your anxiety spikes, tell someone. Your partner, a friend, or therapist all can offer support. By verbalizing your concerns with others, you may be able to keep those thoughts from overtaking your life.
  2. Find release—Walking, jogging, doing yoga, working in the garden are all physical activities that help lower stress. Don’t like any of those options? Just do what you love. Being active for as little as five minutes a day can have positive benefits.
  3. Use your mind—Meditate, get a massage, or practice deep breathing exercises. These activities help your body release endorphins without breaking a sweat.
  4. Rest—Making sleep a priority can significantly help with stress and anxiety.
  5. Talk to your doctor—Frequent panic attacks or the inability to manage your anxiety should result in a phone call to a medical professional. There can be treatments available to ease the most severe symptoms.

Managing anxiety while pregnant in the midst of a pandemic isn’t easy, but is doable. What works for others may not work for you. At Raleigh OB/GYN, we are here to help every step of the way. Give us a call at (919) 876-8225 to make an appointment.