My journey with anxiety during pregnancy
This is a very personal post for me. According to our government website, perinatal mental health problems will affect between 10-20% of women during pregnancy and the first year after having a baby. 12% of these problems are linked to anxiety disorders.
During my pregnancy with our daughter I suffered with terrible anxiety. I lived in a constant fear. Fear that I was taking too much time off work with pregnancy related illnesses, fear that my anxiety was pushing my Husband away, fear that a health professional would realise how much I was struggling and think I wouldn't be able to cope with a Baby and, the biggest fear of all, that I would lose our Baby.
I spent days and days with my head full of these persistent thoughts. My stomach in bits with worry.
Unless you've struggled with anxiety before, it's hard to comprehend how much it can actually take over your life. This is especially significant in pregnancy. Surely this is the time when you're supposed to be glowing, radiant, cradling your bump and talking about your pregnancy non-stop?
I would only talk about our daughter being in our lives if I could add "If all goes well" to the start of a sentence.
My Nan bought us some sun shades for the car and I freaked! I couldn't buy anything, nor could anyone else, because it was such bad luck to buy things before the Baby arrived. This got so bad that I only allowed us to purchase the absolute essentials.
The worst time was when I found out my best friend had lovingly planned a surprise Baby Shower. I couldn't have a Baby Shower. Imagine if people bought presents (such bad luck to have things before she was here), I'd have to talk about the Baby being here (not just hypothetically) and what if something happened to the Baby after the Baby Shower and then everyone had the memories of the Shower but no Baby? I had to call my friend in a panic and say sorry but I just couldn't mentally manage it. Then came more anxiety that I'd wasted my friends time (and hopefully not money) on a non-existent Baby Shower.
It was so painful and a really lonely time.
I eventually caved. My Husband was my best support but I needed professional help. I talked to the doctor, I talked to my midwife. I had to do something. And you know what? There was no judgement at all. They were completely supportive and explained that this was a normal thing. It was normal! I suddenly wasn't on my own any more. Just the knowledge that other people felt like this made it seem somehow manageable.
I was lucky, I got a weekly therapy session on the phone. Through this we were able to figure out that a lot of my fear stemmed from losing my Mum. Even though it was nine years since she passed away, I was still carrying a lot of the grief. I was also under the complete delusion that I was solely responsible for my Baby. My thought was, the Baby was in my body, therefore if something went wrong that was surely down to me? I've always been very "grown up" and responsible so opening up to rely on others was completely new. It really helped to have someone to talk to that was completely detached from me.
Then we started Hypnobirthing. This was the game changer for me and even my therapist said she noticed a change in me. This is how it helped me:
Hypnobirthing reduces the fear that surrounds birth - I hadn't given much thought to the birth. I was so anxious about the pregnancy and what happened when the Baby was here that I'd sort of forgotten about that part. Hypnobirthing is a full antenatal class. It covers everything, from your rights during pregnancy and birth, to how your body works in the lead up to, and during labour. The work we did in Hypnobirthing meant I was actually looking forward to the birth!
Hypnobirthing talks about how your mind and body work together - I'd been so disappointed with my mind for not allowing me to enjoy pregnancy that I'd given up on looking after it. I hadn't thought how that impacted on my body or my Baby. Being taught how my body was designed to give birth gave me a new found faith in it and therefore my mind. The body can only work where the mind leads and that gave me the strength to start looking after my mental health again.
Hypnobirthing is for you AND your birth partner - I wasn't alone. All that responsibility I'd been feeling was suddenly halved. My Husband was there to learn how to be my voice and protector in birth. I would be protected in birth! My Husband would be looking after all outside influences so I could stay in my birth bubble. That's how I saw it. I could concentrate on just giving birth. He'd done the whole course with me so if I started to panic, he'd be able to get me back on our Hypnobirthing track. It was amazing. It wasn't just me doing this. We were an actual team and it was OUR BIRTH.
Hypnobirthing helps you understand your body - Hormones are strange. Fear impacts hormones and therefore your body's ability to birth your Baby. I hadn't really thought about hormones in birth, I just imagined it was all down to pushing. Having the knowledge of how my body worked made birth seem logical. It also meant a lot of practice during pregnancy at optimising the good and helpful hormones that I'd be using in birth. This had an invaluable impact on my mind and anxiety during pregnancy.
Hypnobirthing incorporates breathing exercises - Breathing is part of Hypnobirthing and impacts how your body works. My therapist suggested learning breathing techniques so I'd have a focus when my anxious thoughts began to take over. I practiced my breathing whenever I started to feel anxious. It would help shift my focus immediately from the anxiety to doing something positive.
Hypnobirthing boosts confidence - I'd lost all my confidence. I truly felt like I'd failed at being properly pregnant. How was I going to be a good Mum if I couldn't even be the glowing pregnant Mum-To-Be? Hypnobirthing uses scripts. These are read to you when you are in a relaxed state. The words used directly impact your subconscious and look at targeting specific worries. The Fear Release and Confidence and Calm scripts were amazing. We even have scripts for specific medical worries such as C-sections or breach babies. The daily use of positive affirmations gave me the strength to realise I did have confidence in my body, I was actually calm and I trusted that my Baby was working with me. That confidence started to creep back in and I began to feel like I was becoming me again.
Hypnobirthing requires practice, practice, practice - Hypnobirthing will only work if you practice. This meant reading the scripts, breathing exercises, visualisations and repeating those positive affirmations. It meant I had to actually stop and take some time for myself. I hadn't done that in my pregnancy. I was commuting to London, working a full day, renovating the house and all my spare time was taken up with anxious thoughts. This practice became forced time for relaxation and I loved it. I had to practice so I didn't feel guilty about taking time for myself. It was so beneficial to just take that time for me and my Husband.
I'm not going to lie. I didn't feel 100% mentally fit straight after having our daughter but having a positive birth experience definitely helped me.
I owe a lot to how Hypnobirthing impacted my pregnancy, birth and my life in the year after birth. It isn't a miracle cure that will fix all, but for me it was my crutch and I'm so grateful we used it. In fact, I'm so grateful, I decided to set up TrueWay and teach Hypnobirthing so that others could benefit from it.
There are so many sources of help for anxiety during pregnancy. For more information and for further help please contact your GP or Midwife. Information can also be found at: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/postnatal-depression-and-perinatal-mental-health/perinatal-anxiety/#.W7s2VvZFyUk
I really hope this has helped you realise that anxiety in pregnancy is completely normal and help is available.
You are not alone.