How to deal with pregnancy-related anxiety
A pregnant woman who feels anxious about getting pregnant and pregnancy symptoms may be suffering from the dreaded “pregnancy-related anxious disorder”, a new study has revealed.
The study, which looked at more than 2,000 women with a history of anxiety disorders, found that almost half of the women reported feeling anxious during pregnancy.
This anxiety, which can last from two weeks to several months, can lead to feelings of depression, insomnia and anxiety.
The condition, which is more commonly known as pregnant anxiety, is caused by stress-related hormones and can affect women differently depending on the circumstances.
Experts say that a woman’s stress level is a key factor in whether she will be able to conceive and, if so, how long it will take for her to conceive.
For women with pregnant anxiety disorders who feel anxious, there is a difference between “pregressing” and “continuing” symptoms, said Dr Nisha Ram, the lead author of the study.
Pregressing symptoms include:Fever or palpitations that increase in frequency or intensity as the pregnancy progresses Anxiety and/or other mental health problems including insomnia, anxiety attacks, panic attacks and anxiety-related reactions.
If a woman feels anxious while pregnant, she should seek medical help as soon as possible, Dr Ram said.
Women who are anxious can experience these symptoms in different ways.
Some may feel they are experiencing pregnancy-induced anxiety disorder, which occurs when the stress hormone cortisol is released during pregnancy, said Maren Thacker, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco.
Other women may experience stress-induced anxious disorder, when their anxiety levels increase, but they are not experiencing symptoms, Dr Thacker said.
These are the symptoms women with stress-like symptoms often experience while trying to conceive, but can experience if they do not have a stress-linked anxiety disorder.
“Women with pregnant anxious disorders may be more likely to experience anxiety while trying and succeeding in getting pregnant,” Dr Thackers said.
For the study, published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, researchers analysed the data of 2,094 women who had anxiety disorders.
They then assessed the women’s mental health status during pregnancy and at 2, 12, 18 and 24 months after they gave birth.
Results showed that anxiety during pregnancy increased by about 10% and increased anxiety symptoms during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy.
For this group of women, anxiety symptoms continued during pregnancy but decreased by about a third in the following trimester.
Dr Ram said women with anxiety disorders may experience symptoms similar to those of those who are experiencing postpartum depression.
“The anxiety and stress during pregnancy may increase the likelihood of women experiencing postnatal depression,” she said.
“For women experiencing a postnatal depressive episode, anxiety may increase their anxiety symptoms in the first trimester and may decrease during the second and third trimests.”
Dr Thacker added that women with pregnancy anxiety disorders are at a higher risk of having a child with anxiety-linked mental health conditions.
“Pregressive symptoms during pregnancy could potentially lead to postnatal mental health issues,” she added.
Dr Thacker said it was important that pregnant women are aware of how anxiety affects their mental health and that women who are trying to have a child are encouraged to talk about their fears and anxiety with a healthcare provider, as well as with friends and family.
“While pregnancy anxiety is not a specific medical condition, anxiety disorders like pregnancy anxiety disorder are associated with increased risk of depression and anxiety disorders,” she advised.
Dr Mahavir Narayanan, a psychologist at the National Institute of Mental Health, said the new study provides new insight into the role of the stress hormones in pregnant women.
“This study offers new information about the association between pregnancy anxiety and depression and provides insight into how stress hormones may affect a woman and their child,” Dr Narayanin said.
The findings were based on data collected by researchers from the University at Buffalo, the University Health Network and the University College London.