With the onset of pregnancy in the life of a woman, a complex process of forming a new personality of a parent and adapting to this role begins. The emotional changes that occur to a woman are the result of this major transformation. How to combat fears and anxiety in this important and difficult period?
How and Why the Mood Changes
Emotional experience of pregnancy and childbirth depends on many factors. It’s influenced by relationships with loved ones, the presence or absence of social support, the culture and customs of the community to which the mother-to-be belongs, and the level of anxiety in society and the world.
For example, a 2021 study found that women who were pregnant or gave birth during the COVID-19 pandemic had higher levels of stress and were more likely to have panic attacks. The study also showed that the number of women who showed signs of postpartum depression increased by almost 15% during this period.
Fear and anxiety are the most frequent companions of pregnancy. However, they fulfill an important function: these emotions help a woman to ensure the safety of her child, care and protection after childbirth. So, they are natural, physiological and usually go away with time.
But if the negative emotions, supported by hormonal changes, intensify and start to spoil your life, it’s a reason to add some pleasant activities to your life, like going out to your favorite restaurants or playing Hellspin games, or even consult a specialist for an evaluation of your psychological state and to develop a help strategy.
The fears that begin to emerge during this period, the demands of society that need to be met, changes in the familiar way of life, and physiological transformations are a great burden that puts pressure on a woman’s psychological state, especially if she is experiencing it for the first time.
Psychological Changes by Trimester
During the first three months of pregnancy there may be emotional fluctuations between completely polar moods, from excitement, enthusiasm, happiness and joy to anxiety, apprehension, fear and apathy. Their causes may be:
- Timeliness of pregnancy (planned or unplanned).
- Health condition: threat of pregnancy termination, toxicosis, insomnia or other ailments.
- The financial situation of the family.
- The support of loved ones.
- Change of lifestyle.
- Sense of loss of independence.
Mood swings can accompany a woman in the second trimester as well. At the same time, negative emotions may become less intense or disappear. This is connected with improvement of well-being, getting used to the new role, more awareness of the processes that occur in the woman’s body.
During this period, pregnancy becomes noticeable to others. Along with this, the expectant mother may begin to experience problems with the perception of her “new” body and the fear of the inevitability of these changes.
Fear tells us that there is a possibility of negative developments, that it really can happen. Fear indicates risks. It’s important to accept this probability, rather than fight it, and understand how a woman will deal with this if the fear materializes. What she will do in this case, how she will help herself.
By the sixth month of pregnancy, negative emotions can return and become more intense. As a rule, they are connected with increasing physical discomfort, insomnia, tiredness or moral exhaustion. Fear of the birthing process and anxiety about the role of the mother emerges.
A mother-to-be may spend hours on forums reading other women’s birth stories or literally tormenting herself with questions like “How will I cope with the baby?”, “What should I do with him?”
8 Steps of Psychological Help During Pregnancy
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Remember: you should not be alone with your fears if you feel that you need support. Your family and friends are there for you – you can ask them to do household chores if you feel tired, or simply offer to be there for you. Communicate your needs, don’t gloss over them.
Pregnancy classes can help women cope with the excitement of childbirth. In a group, you can discuss your fears with those in the same position, hear that you are not the only one going through this process, and share ways to get out of anxiety.
Get a Handle on the Situation
A lot of pregnancy fears are based on exaggerated negative stories, focusing only on the risks and dangers. All this is reinforced by insecurity and lack of knowledge of how to deal with it, and lack of well-thought-out plans. Awareness – knowing how pregnancy works, how the baby develops and which ways of coping with unpleasant feelings – will help to ease the fear.
For reliable information you can ask your doctor, and if necessary find another specialist for a second opinion. It’s also reassuring to talk to women who have already gone down this road.
There are people who need to know what is going on with them. For some, this information will have a calming effect, while others may be frightened by the physiological details of childbirth. You need to be guided by your condition – if the new information makes you nervous and worried, then this method is not suitable for you. Conversely, if you feel calmer as you dive into the details of pregnancy and childbirth, you should take advantage of this opportunity.
Consider Your Physical Condition
Almost any change in mood can be controlled by giving yourself enough time to relax and rest. The norm of sleep for a pregnant woman is considered to be 8 hours a day.
If weight gain has a negative effect on your mood, you can try to introduce simple exercises into your daily routine. However, it’s necessary to consult with your doctor before you start exercising.
Exercise not only helps keep you fit – it can also reduce the likelihood of developing diabetes in pregnancy.
Research confirms: practicing yoga or other relaxing practices is excellent for relieving stress and relaxation during pregnancy. According to Brain and Behavior magazine, meditation helped reduce anxiety levels in 70 women who took part in the experiment.
Love Yourself and Your New Body
The physical changes a woman undergoes while carrying a baby are critical to the development and growth of the fetus. But they are also often the cause of low self-esteem and self-doubt.
Conversations in which the woman herself or others speak disparagingly about body changes during pregnancy can be detrimental. A 2020 study shows that women face sociocultural pressures about weight gain and body dissatisfaction even while expecting a baby. Such conversations during pregnancy have also been shown to be detrimental to women’s mental health, especially at a young age.
Connect With Your Partner
A woman’s physiological and psychological changes during pregnancy can affect her relationship with her partner. The first trimester is the best time for a couple to talk about their feelings and fears about pregnancy and parenthood. If either partner has concerns or uncertainties, this is a good time to develop a joint plan of action, perhaps through couples therapy.
If there were disagreements or conflicts in the family before the pregnancy, it is better to solve them at the very beginning. A positive attitude and the absence of unresolved issues can help a woman relax and focus on her condition. The pregnant woman’s husband or partner should try to be patient and sensitive to her needs during this period.
Toward the middle of the pregnancy it’s a good idea to discuss with your partner the possibility of a partnered birth. The feelings of both parents are important in this matter – the woman should decide if she wants her husband to be present at the birth, and her partner should decide if he is ready to go with the woman. During the birth the woman goes through new and unfamiliar sensations, which can be frightening or painful. The task of the partner at this point is to contain these emotions, to be supportive, accepting and loving.
Often a woman insists on her husband’s presence at the birth against his wishes. Behind this pressure may lie a call for help and support. In this case, it’s important to put her feelings into words, for example: “I’m scared to go through this alone, so I need your support. Let’s think about how you can help me.” Perhaps the man will agree to be with you at the beginning of the labor or, on the contrary, to come closer to the end of the labor to see the birth of the child with his own eyes.
The presence of a partner is unnecessary for a successful and easy birth. In this issue, we need to discuss all the details, tell what kind of help women expect from men. It’s important to remember that if the partner refuses to be present at the birth, there are reasons for this – fears, aversion to the physiology of what is happening, anxiety, which he is afraid to cope with. If it’s possible to discuss what this fear is, it’s better to do so. If you force your partner to decide against his will, it’s unlikely that the effect of support that the woman is counting on will be achieved. Remember that it isn’t only your husband who can take on the role of a birth partner: it can be your closest relatives, your friends, or your doula.
Prepare Older Children for the Arrival of a New Family Member
Children learn about the world through the reactions of others – they learn to react to any new event based on the emotions of their parents. So, it’s important to show your child your joy and positive attitude toward the pregnancy and the new family member, to include him or her in the preparation for the event, and in no case isolate him or her from the topic, regardless of age.
Even the youngest children who are learning to speak should be told about the changes and presented in an accessible way – through a game or in the form of a fairy tale.
Children of a certain age may react negatively to the news and become jealous of the new family member. Here it’s important not to devalue their feelings, to recognize and respect these emotions, but carefully bring the child back to reality, telling the scenario of events.
The parent should sound out phrases which help to cope with the child’s main fears: “We’ll still love you,” “You won’t lose your importance for us,” “We won’t love you less, on the contrary, with a brother/sister coming, our family will love you even more,” “Let us think together about how we will live together. Over time, the older child will get used to the idea of a new family member and allow him into his reality, and there will be less reason for mom to worry.
Prepare Your Home for the Baby
Studies have shown that by the end of pregnancy in preparation for the birth of a child the reward system of the brain is activated – the so-called “nesting instinct” appears. Buying all the necessary things, preparing the bag for the trip to the hospital, sorting out things from the “old” life, cleaning the nursery helps mentally prepare for the changes that a baby will bring, and feel more confident. It can also take your mind off the stress and anxiety of the impending birth.
Find Your Way to Cope With Panic
Everyone is an individual – some of the advice may not help you deal with your own anxiety. Find some simple and straightforward activities that work for you in a calming way. For emergency help, when a woman feels that she begins to be overwhelmed by panic, you can use body practices: breathing with emphasis on exhalation, moving around, stomping your feet.
It’s important to understand that with anxiety it’s necessary to do something, it’s unnecessary to remain in this tense and exhausting state – it’s necessary to find a way to reduce it, to cope with it. Most often, support from other people, talking about one’s fears and anxieties, body relaxation, and breathing practices help. The rule is the same: don’t get caught up in the anxiety, but do something with it.
In the prevention of stress in pregnant women, a special role is played by the emotional support of those who surround her. However, in some cases, professional psychological help in the form of therapy or short-term supportive treatment is necessary.