Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Life | Anxiety in Pregnancy

I've toyed with the idea of writing this post for a while, but after a bad weekend and with it being Anxiety Awareness week, I decided that now is the time to go ahead.

This week is Mental Health Awareness week in the UK [May12-18] and the theme they're focussing on this year is Anxiety; an issue that has steadily increased over the past 20 years.

Anxiety is almost our bodies way of preparing us to respond to an emergency or life stress. There can be a small, simple trigger or a build up of stresses that can raise anxiety levels.

Physical signs of anxiety:

  • Rapid or irregular breathing.
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat.
  • Tensing of muscles.
  • Headaches.
  • Sweating.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea & sickness.
  • Churning stomach & overwhelming need to use the toilet.

Psychological effects of anxiety:
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Being fearful, on edge and generally worried.
  • Unable to relax.
  • Unable to concentrate.
  • Feeling irritable.
  • Feeling depressed and extremely negative.
  • Loss of self confidence.
  • Feeling overly dependant and needing reassurance.

I first suffered with Anxiety a few years back whilst struggling to deal with a relationship break up. I found it hard, and often still do, to distinguish between anxiety and depression as I was diagnosed with both and prescribed medication for both. They both came hand in hand for me, or one usually led to the other. 
I was in a very dark place, I wasn't eating or sleeping, I was constantly down, irritable and stressed. I cried myself to sleep pretty much every single night, I'd be snappy with Bradley and worst of all I had feelings of anger towards him as he was the reason I had to get up in the morning, the reason I couldn't just 'give up'; which is what I so desperately wanted to do.

I'm not a fan of taking medication, unless I really need it. I even begrudge taking paracetamol unless the pain becomes unbearable, so I didn't like the idea of popping pills to help me feel better; I feared I would become reliant on anti depressives. I didn't even give them chance to work it's way into my system, despite a telling off from my doctor.
I preferred therapy, in the form of CBT [Cognitive Behavioural Therapy]. I started with one to one counselling sessions [my counsellor looked like Gerrard Butler, which helped ;)] learning skills to understand the link between negative thoughts and mood and altering my behaviour to help manage anxiety and feel more in control. I then followed this with a CBT self help programme. I learnt so much and continued to use the skills over the next few years. Although admittedly I do still struggle to handle things when anxiety creeps up, but no where near as bad as back then.

Luckily I hadn't had to deal with anxiety issues for a few years, until recently.

At 9 weeks pregnant I was faced with an extremely stressful situation regarding work and my pregnancy and unborn child being put at huge risk. I was told by a foetal consultant that if I continued to be around a child at work that potentially had a pregnancy threatening condition, that if caught, the chances of my baby being born with brain damage was 90%. That was hard. And very stressful to deal with in early pregnancy, particularly after everything we went through to get here. 
I was transferred to another setting, which at first, I was quite excited about. Unfortunately I didn't get on very well there, I actually hated being there. I was miserable, took it out on the boys when I got home and struggled to get through every single day there. I was loosing sleep over it, I felt stressed, so so low and the feelings and signs of anxiety started creeping up again.
On the advice of James, my midwife and my GP, I was advised to go on the sick for a while and debated bringing my maternity forward extremely early. It was a big decision to make, and one I struggled with. The financial implications were big, but knew that mine and my unborn childs health were so much more important.

I think all of those stresses took its toll on me and this weekend I suffered a big anxiety attack. My head pounded, I was in tears the whole day and struggled to move off the sofa. I felt so low, and lashed out at James with everything I could think of. Once again I felt the familiar feeling of anxiety taking over me and I was that down that I couldn't seem to beat it. Alongside those feelings was the worry that I was affecting the baby, which made me even more anxious. I was shaking and could feel my heart pounding. I wanted to curl into a ball and hide from the world. It was so overwhelming.
Fortunately, I woke up on Sunday feeling a lot better, I felt calm and much more relaxed. 

Anxiety and depression in pregnancy is extremely common, pregnancy is a huge, life changing, overwhelming experience and with hormones and emotions all over the place, anxiety and depression is easily triggered.
Antenatal depression affects around 10% of pregnant women in this country, and could greatly increase the risk of post natal depression once baby is born, so it is important not to ignore it.

How to help yourself:
  • Talk! This is most important. Communicate with your partner, friends or family. Or if you find this hard, find an online pregnancy forum to chat to other people going through the same thing.
  • Eat healthy and do some light exercise such as going for a walk.
  • Try to keep busy, ride out the anxiety if you can rather than giving in to the feelings.
  • Meditate, or simply sit and relax and concentrate on your breathing.
  • Research self help CBT programmes.

If you feel your anxiety is getting worse, or you're struggling to deal with it yourself, please see your GP or midwife for further help.

For more information on anxiety visit the Mind website, or read more about anxiety in pregnancy on Netmums.

To get involved or read more about this weeks Mental Health Awareness week, visit the Mental Health Foundation page.

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  1. Brilliant post - I am also an anxiety sufferer, and while not ever having experienced pregnancy I can totally relate to the gernal symptoms of anxiety.

    I have some health troubles at the moment and it's almost impossible not to become anxious over the thought of them, and I am sure the anxiety is definitely not helping me feel any better so it's becoming a vicious circle.

    I think anxiety can so often be ignored as just a bit of worry, but its a condition which can have such repercussions on your life. Thanks for sharing your story x

    1. Thanks so much for reading - I hope you get to the bottom of your health troubles! Big hugs!!

  2. This really hits home with me and thank you for sharing. There has always been a stigma attached to depression and anxiety, unfortunately there still is however I have to come to realise that it is so much more common than people realise which is kind of ironic when you feel like you are the only one feeling this way. But when you think about it and our way of life now to those of our parents and their parents, we have so much more to consider in today's world. So much more to think about and juggle.

    In the past I am guilty of assuming that anxiety and depression are the same thing but it is so important for people to understand that they are not and just because you suffer from anxiety does not necessarily mean you are depressed. As you mentioned anxiety is just a manifestation of stress taking over your body. It is not to say you are unhappy with your life.

    I think you have done the right thing with regards to the work situation. You have obviously considered long and hard about it and although you feel the financial side of things will also cause you stress it will be a different type and there are practical ways you can address the situation rather than at work where you will feel overwhelmed and out of control of the situation. xx

  3. Thanks for this post. There is still so much stigma around depression and anxiety it can prevent people admitting they have a problem, and getting the help they need, meaning it's so important to be open about it. Recent sad events have made the anxiety I've been suffering from for years much worse. I'm starting CBT, which is a positive first step. I'm looking forward to being better able to manage my negative thoughts.


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