5 ways to reduce your anxiety in pregnancy

June 08, 2023

5 ways to reduce your anxiety in pregnancy

Even if you’ve never experienced anxiety before, pregnancy is a prime time for it to surface for the first time. And if you’ve previously suffered with stress and anxiety then becoming pregnant is often a catalyst for those feelings intensifying.

Many of my clients come to me because they’re struggling with anxious thoughts and feelings during their pregnancy. It may be impacting on their ability to enjoy their pregnancy and bond with their baby, and there can be physical symptoms like not being able to sleep well (like we need any other problems with sleeping in pregnancy!!)

So why is pregnancy such an anxiety-inducing time? Well, a whole host of reasons. There is so much change! Physically, mentally, emotionally, financially and to your lifestyle and relationships. You may have had the following fears or worries:

  • Worries about your baby’s health or your own health
  • Fears of giving birth
  • Concerns about your ability to cope with all that comes with having a new baby
  • Anxiety about the level of care that you are (or are not) receiving from your care providers
  • Worries about coping with the lack of sleep in pregnancy and the new baby months
  • Fear of the impact on your relationships with your partner or friends
  • Worries about whether you’ll be able to breastfeed
  • Anxiety about the impact of changing hormones on your mental health

The other reason why pregnancy anxiety is so common, is that your amygdala (the part of your brain providing your life-saving emergency response) is FOUR times larger during pregnancy! Which is amazing in some ways (we get more warning to run (waddle) away from that sabre-toothed tiger)....but also, pretty unnecessary when we don't have that many threats in day to day life! So your body is responding to perceived threats with an increased heart-rate, breathing rate, blood pressure etc, even when you're actually safe.

So first off, I want to NORMALISE all of the above! Every single one of those is a totally valid concern and you are definitely not alone in having those thoughts!

BUT, just because these worries are normal and common, that doesn’t mean we can’t change them or improve how we feel. And this is where hypnobirthing comes in. Your brain has the ability to change and evolve all the time (its called ‘neuroplasticity’) and changing your thought patterns takes time but is totally doable.

So here are 5 tips for reducing your anxiety in pregnancy:

  1. Seek out the positivity. There are SO many truly beautiful birth stories but we tend not to hear them so much. People like to share their traumatic birth stories (I’m guessing you’ve heard a few already, right?) and that’s partly because its therapeutic for them to talk about them. But there’s so much to unpack in those stories that all you’re going to be left with is fear. So seeking out the positives. Start tipping the balance until you realise just how wonderful birth can be, and how you can make that more likely for yourself. You can read a selection of positive birth stories from some of my past clients here. You'll notice that there is huge variation in how they actually gave birth - but there are themes in how they felt. Calm, confident, in control, safe, respected. 
  1. Focus on how your anxiety is affecting you physically. Notice what happens to your breath, notice where you’re holding tension is in your body. Then breathe slower and deeper, really focusing on a longer out-breath – that’s when you reduce your stress hormones and slow your heart rate. Release that tension in your body. Focus on your senses – what can you see, hear, smell, feel? And breathe again. (Note that some people will need some movement to release that adrenaline, before they go into relaxation mode - see what works best for you.) Not only will that help to get you out of that freeze-fight-flight response and so feel calmer, it will benefit your baby. This will benefit you as a parent for years, not just in your pregnancy!
  1. Start noticing language. Everywhere around you, people are talking about pregnancy and birth with a focus on “risk”. Our maternity system uses some appalling terms – from “incompetent cervix” to “failure to progress”. Welcome to our patriarchal, white, male, medical model for birth! What if you swap “risk” for “chance”? See how “low chance” feels less scary? What if we remove all ideas of failure and incompetence and instead start to appreciate your body for the absolute miracle that its performing? Even when you’re “high risk” (eye roll) those risks are usually still really low. Once we start seeing the language and the negativity for what it is, we can click unsubscribe on it. 
  1. Learn, learn, learn! The fear of the unknown is HUGE! Your body is SO well built for growing a baby, birthing a baby and feeding a baby. It really is. And when you understand just how well designed birth and breastfeeding are, you feel a lot less stressed about it and much more in awe of your body. Is our society and our stretched maternity system well-designed for supporting all of that? Not so much. And support is really important. But that makes it even more important to inform and empower yourself so that you feel more in control of your choices, rights and options.
  1. Start visualising the birth that you would really LOVE. Your absolute dream birth. What does that look like? How does it feel? Who is there? What is the atmosphere and environment like? Most people reign back their ideas of their dream birth for fear of disappointment or being ‘unrealistic’. Well put that idea in the bin! This exercise is so important because it helps you to work out what makes you feel safe. And a feeling of safety is one of the most important ingredients for birth! Not machines or monitors. A feeling. Why? Because it affects your hormones, your breathing, your heart rate, and how your muscles move. It affects your blood pressure and your level of blood loss. It affects the hormones, blood flow and oxygen that your baby is receiving. So really start exploring what makes you feel safe – and excited and happy and loved and supported and heard. And you can expand this - think about holding your baby in your arms, think about all the things you are going to love doing with your baby, and really feel into the detail. 

Hypnobirthing includes all these things and a whole lot more. If you would like to feel calmer, more confident and more excited as you approach your birth, please get in touch. I offer a self-paced, online hypnobirthing & antenatal course, I am a doula providing bespoke antenatal support in pregnancy, and I offer 1:1 power hours online. If you’d like my support, I’d love to hear from you.

Rachel xxx

Also in Strong Like Mama Blog

Due date calculator - due date marked in calendar
"How many weeks pregnant am I?" - Read this before looking at that due date calculator!

October 12, 2023

So you’ve just found out you’re pregnant (congratulations!) and you’re searching for a due date calculator! We all do it...we all want to know that magical "due date"! But…before you etch that magical date into every calendar and tell all your friends and family… here are 3 things to think about!

Continue Reading

Is a c-section best for a low-lying placenta?
Is a c-section best for a low-lying placenta?

September 15, 2023

If your placenta is low-down, either next to your cervix or covering your cervix, you may be told that you have a low-lying placenta. This can come as a bit of a nasty surprise to expectant parents as they’re often then told that they may need to have a c-section. But how likely is it that you'll need that c-section?

Continue Reading

What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
What are the benefits of breastfeeding?

August 03, 2023

People often talk about the health benefits of breastfeeding....but what do they really mean? 

Some of the things that we know about breastmilk and breastfeeding are truly mind-blowing. Here are 9 incredible facts about breastfeeding - and I bet you don't know all of them!

Continue Reading