Anxiety and Stress During Pregnancy

Pregnancy should be a happy state of being, but too often anxiety is the emotion that rules. Perhaps this pregnancy follows a miscarriage or infant death, or you’re dealing with an expanding belly while your husband has lost his job, or your parents are divorcing. Then again, maybe you’re just naturally a worrier. Whatever the reason, here are some tips on how to regain your focus and stay positive.

Causes of Anxiety During Pregnancy

If you’re experiencing a high-anxiety pregnancy, fear not, because you’re not alone. “Many women are anxious during pregnancy,” says Dr. Diana Rodriguez, an OB/GYN and Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist at Caritas St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Boston, Mass., who deals with much maternal anxiety. “Some are anxious at baseline. A significant number of women suffer from anxiety even before pregnancy, and the pregnancy can increase their symptoms.”
Other women are under significant stressors at home or work, Dr. Rodriguez says, while women who conceive with assisted reproductive technologies often experience higher anxiety than those who designed spontaneously. “There is also a correlation between the number of IVF cycles that were needed to achieve conception and level of anxiety,” Dr. Rodriguez says. “Women who have multiple gestations as a result of IVF may also experience higher anxiety because their pregnancies are at higher risk.”

A woman suffering from anxiety needs to be helped, regardless of the cause.
Some of the anxiety is situational and appropriate, but sometimes it can get so significant that it impacts life on every level. And if a woman has experienced a prior loss or multiple losses, Dr. Rodriguez says, her anxiety level is heightened, particularly in early pregnancy or around the time that the last failure occurred.

Consequences of Pregnancy Anxiety

It’s important to stay positive and relax during pregnancy. Otherwise, there are consequences. After all, “stress at any time in life is associated with negative health outcomes – during pregnancy, there is another beating heart to consider!” says Dr. Anna Brandon, staff psychologist at The Women’s Mental Health Center of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “One of the best reasons I can think of to stay positive and relax is because it’s hard to enjoy anything when you’re stressed out.”
Lack of enjoyment in the pregnancy isn’t the only potential consequence. Lack of sleep, tiredness and a higher risk of postpartum depression, hypertension, muscle strain/stress are also risks, Dr. Rodriguez says. “I am also convinced that stress and the changes in our bodies that happen as a consequence of stress can affect a pregnancy and increase the risk of preterm labor/delivery, low birth weight, and high blood pressure during pregnancy,” she says.