If you are one of the millions of women who suffer from clinical anxiety, you may be wondering how best to navigate it during your pregnancy. Here are answers to some of the most common questions pregnant women with anxiety are curious about. As with any pregnancy advice you read, be sure to connect with your key care providers to help support you through your unique pregnancy journey.
1. Are many pregnant women bothered by anxiety? Anxiety is the most common psychiatric disorder, and women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with it. If you historically suffer from anxiety, you are likely to need strategies to deal with it and keep you and your baby happy and healthy during your pregnancy. Onset of new pathologic anxiety during pregnancy is not common, but communicate with your care provider if this is your experience so you can get additional support as needed. (Normal pregnancy-related anxiety is common, and doesn’t need any treatment.)
2. Does anxiety carry risks to my pregnancy? Anxiety and other stresses in pregnancy are associated with miscarriage, preterm delivery, and delivery complications. If you are suffering from anxiety and become pregnant, it’s important to work with your care provider to create an action plan so you can optimize your pregnancy outcomes.
3. What are some natural (drug-free) ways to deal with anxiety during pregnancy? Enlist the help of your partner in creating and maintaining a calm pregnancy environment. You can also try yoga, meditation, and walking. Be sure to talk to your obstetrician as well. If s/he doesn’t feel comfortable helping you with your anxiety, ask for a referral to a counselor
4. Is it safe to take anxiety medications while pregnant? Taking anxiety medications during pregnancy does carry some risks to your baby (depending on the medication), including cleft lip and “floppy baby syndrome” (i.e., hypothermia, lethargy, poor respiratory effort, and feeding problems). Your infant may also suffer from withdrawal from certain medications. Be sure to consult with your prescribing physician and understand all the risks before making your decision.
5. What if I’m on anxiety medication when I get pregnant? Work with your prescribing physician to slowly decrease dosage over a period of about three weeks until you can wean yourself off. While some anxiety medications can be taken during pregnancy, they all cause some risk to your baby, and it is best to go off the medications if possible.
In the end, the decision needs to be weighed from the perspective of where the greatest benefit will be compared to the greatest harm. If not taking your medication could result in self-harm, for example, your physician may recommend you continue taking it in spite of the potential risks to your pregnancy.