Pregnancy is a time of happiness and excitement for most, however for some women it can often be a time of fear and anxiety and it is important that these feelings are not ignored. It is just as important to take care of your mental health as it is to take care of your physical health. Don’t be afraid to tell your midwife how you are feeling.
Perinatal Mental Health
In the UK up to 1 in 5 women develop a mental health problem during or up to a year after their pregnancy (this is known as the perinatal period).
Anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder and fear of childbirth, can affect 21% of women and is a risk factor for developing perinatal depression.
Depression in pregnancy is as common as depression after the birth. 1 in 5 new mothers will suffer from postnatal depression. 3-5% of all new mothers are affected by severe postnatal depression. Fathers and partners can also suffer postnatal depression this is more common if the mother has postnatal depression.
Fear of childbirth is also known as tokophobia. It is a severe (or phobic) fear of giving birth, with high levels of anxiety about birth, even if your desire is to have a child. Some women also feel very anxious and uncomfortable or even repulsed about pregnancy. Many women experience some uncertainty or anxiety about giving birth. More severe fear of childbirth may affect up to 14% of women.
Between 1 and 2 in 1000 women will experience this. Symptoms usually start within a few weeks of giving birth and can include hallucinations, delusions, a manic mood, low mood, feeling confused and a loss of inhibitions. Women with bipolar disorder are at particular risk of postpartum psychosis.
How might tokophobia / pregnancy anxiety make me feel?
- Distress and heightened anxiety when a pregnancy is confirmed
- Feelings of being out of control and trapped, agitation, irritability, stress, restlessness and nervousness
- Feelings of isolation, loneliness, being misunderstood and unsupported
- Negative thoughts about being abnormal and different to people around you
- Self-doubt about your ability to go through labour and birth
- Repeated negative thoughts around labour and birth
- Intrusive thoughts and memories (images) of a previous traumatic birth
- Fear of pain during labour and birth
- Fear of harm or death as a result of birth (in relation to both mother and baby)
- Increasing distress and anxiety throughout the pregnancy and especially in the last trimester
- Symptoms of anxiety, which can include: altered sleep pattern, nightmares, rapid heartbeat, tension, abdominal pains, and panic symptoms, difficulty relaxing
- Avoidance of talking about/thinking about birth/ antenatal education
- Symptoms for fathers and partners would be the same
The earlier you can get help the better
If you think you may be experiencing any of these feelings then let us help you.
Speak to your partner and family/friends if you feel comfortable doing so.
Speak to your midwife and enquire what options and services are available for women with pregnancy anxiety, tokophobia or depression. This may include a referral to a specialist pregnancy mental health team.
- Take care of yourself with a balanced diet, exercise, relaxation. Consider yoga and mindfulness.
- Find what works for you whether it’s exercise, mindfulness, medication, attending support groups or therapy, like counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
- Take a few minutes each day to do something nice just for you, looking after yourself is important.
- Sleep is very important, sleep when your baby sleeps.
- Talk to your partner, family friends and other parents – this could be through an online or face to face support group.
- Don’t try to be a ‘superwoman’