It’s no secret around here that I’ve dealt with anxiety for much of my life, especially in the postpartum period following Selah’s birth. While I was pregnant, I did not experience any sort of reprieve from my anxiety—in fact, my anxiety was at an all-time during pregnancy as I struggled against fear: fear that I’d miscarry, fear that she wouldn’t grow and develop properly, fear about the pain of labor, fear about how I’d handle the life changes once she was here.
I’m so glad that more and more women are talking about their experiences with not just postpartum depression but also with postpartum anxiety. But what about prenatal anxiety? Sure, I’d struggled with anxiety long before I became pregnant, so it came as no surprise that I struggled with it during this season.
What about the women who have never really struggled with worry, at least not intensively, who are blindsided by all there is to learn and decide and worry about when your body is literally growing another life?
One of the scariest parts about pregnancy, especially if it’s your first one, is how unknown the whole process is. So often while I was pregnant, I wished for a small window into my uterus, so I could look in and be reassured that Selah’s heart was beating, that her body was developing, that her little limbs were moving even when I couldn’t feel them. But no such window exists, and I had to learn to trust God, my body, and my doctors in ways that stretched me emotionally just as much as my belly was being stretched physically.
My hope is that these strategies can help you care for yourself, your mental health, and your changing body amid the challenges of pregnancy and prenatal anxiety.
1. Stay far away from Dr. Google and WebMD.
We all know how dangerous it is physically and emotionally to try to be your own healthcare professional and to triage yourself using online tools. I have to admit that I fall into this trap regularly because I tell myself that “knowledge is power” and maybe I can avoid a trip to the doctor or set my mind at ease. Well, I don’t think my mind has been set at ease a single time by this frantic searching. Freeze your fingers, put down your phone, and step away from Dr. Google.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Whether your medical professional of choice is an OB, nurse practioner, midwife, doula, or some combination of these, bring them your all your questions and concerns. No question is dumb and no concern is silly! You also never have to feel like a bother for calling the office with questions between appointments.
3. Stay informed by reliable sources, such as What to Expect When You’re Expecting.
While I recommend against getting too much information from Dr. Google, I highly recommend investing in this classic, reliable book on navigating pregnancy. The fifth edition has been revised and updated to include a fresh perspective tons of relevant, up-to-the-minute topics, such as
- Prenatal and postpartum mood disorders, including anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and PTSD
- Cord blood banking
- Zika virus
- Pregnancy loss
- Expanded birth options and birth plans (such as delivering at birthing centers, at home, in water, etc.)
I especially love What to Expect When You’re Expecting because the author’s voice is so tender and reassuring, even humorous at times, which helped me learn to enjoy myself during pregnancy. Understanding the bigger picture of pregnancy and having a go-to resource for everything from conception to postpartum life is a huge help with managing the sneaky sources of pregnancy anxiety.Staying informed by reliable sources can help you fend off prenatal #anxiety. Click To Tweet
4. Do what you can to care for your body physically.
When you’re pregnant, there are all kind of rules you need to follow in terms of what you can eat, the types of exercises you can do, etc. It can be a little anxiety inducing to try to remember it all, but What to Expect When You’re Expecting is a resource that can answer your questions about what’s safe and not safe during pregnancy. In the fifth edition, you’ll find information about eating trends, food allergies, appropriate workouts, medication safety, and more.
Pregnancy is an important time to practice self-care and implement healthy habits, such as eating more cleanly, working out safely, and getting plenty of rest. Your body is in overdrive growing a human, and it takes so much energy and strength! I worked out a few times a week when I was pregnant with Selah, and keeping my body as fit and strong as I could was so helpful during my long labor and my recovery.
5. Read and take classes about childbirth and newborn care.
I remember hitting a point around the 30-week mark when I realized I’d done so much reading and preparation for pregnancy that I hadn’t even thought about preparing to care for a real-live human baby! What to Expect When You’re Expecting has content dedicated to helping you learn to care for your newborn, navigate changing roles with your partner, prepare your body and mind for labor, and understand the basics of breastfeeding. Your hospital or birthing center probably offers classes on a range of topics related to labor and life with a baby, which can be really helpful if you’re looking for a community learning experience.
6. Ask for help from a partner, spouse, friend, or professional counselor.
I will never stop preaching about the importance of sharing your fears with people you trust. Dan, my mom, and my two best friends are the people with whom I can share anything without feeling silly and without any fear of judgement. Know who your inner circle is so they can bear your burdens with you. It’s a lot of pressure to be the one responsible for sustaining a life inside and outside the womb, and you’re not meant to do this alone. I also deeply believe in the power of counseling, and there’s no shame in seeking professional help, especially during a season of intense life change and crazy hormones.
7. Ground yourself in God and his design for your life and for the human body.
While we are responsible for shepherding and caring for the lives of our babies and for our own health, God is the one who ultimately gives and sustains life. He designed our bodies to do incredible things, like generate life from a single cell that grows into a full-on human baby and produce breastmilk that changes to meet the baby’s specific dietary needs.
It blows my mind to think that God loves Selah even more than I do, when I love her with every fiber of who I am. He loves Selah more intensely, more fully, more lavishly than I do — and he loves me and he loves you in the same way. Use pregnancy as a training ground for trust, knowing that while you have limited control, God knows exactly what he’s doing and his hands are shaping your baby’s life.
I will always be in awe of the blessing that we get to be God’s chosen vessels for bringing life into this world!
Did you experience any prenatal anxiety? What helped you deal with it and prepare for life with a baby?Are you facing #pregnancy anxiety? Try 1 of these 7 empowering strategies for coping. #mentalhealth #PPD Click To Tweet
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.