Pregnancy is a time of great joy and anticipation. Many mothers-to-be, especially first time moms, wonder about the upcoming addition to their family. She may worry about whether she will be a good mother, whether the baby will be healthy, whether the pregnancy will be normal. For most, these questions do not cause undue concern, but for mothers-to-be who have anxiety disorder, these questions, along with hormonal fluctuations, can create and increase anxiety symptoms.
Interestingly, women with panic attacks often experience a decrease in panic symptoms during pregnancy. The hormones oxytocin and prolactin are manufactured during pregnancy and can contribute to the lessening of panic disorder symptoms. According to anxietycure.org, 40% of women with anxiety experience a lessening of anxiety symptoms during pregnancy.
Women with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) may see an increase in symptoms during pregnancy. It is thought that the increase of androgen hormones during pregnancy may be the cause of increasing symptoms of OCD.
Hormonal changes are gradual during pregnancy and therefore, anxiety symptoms can either increase or decrease over several months. However, once the pregnancy is completed, hormone levels significantly decrease immediately. This is the cause of both postpartum depression and increased anxiety symptoms.
The good news is that anxiety medications are relatively safe to both the mother and the baby. Women experiencing anxiety symptoms should discuss the possibility of medication with their doctor.
Taking time during pregnancy to do activities you find relaxing and enjoyable can also help. Exercise has also been found to help reduce symptoms of anxiety, however, you should talk with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
Other treatments for anxiety, such as therapy and self help strategies including deep breathing or meditation can be helpful in relieving symptoms during pregnancy.
"Hormones: How Do They Affect Anxiety in Women, Date Unknown, Margaret Altemus, M.D., Anxiety Disorders Association of America
“Anxiety Disorders and Pregnancy”, 2008, Nov 24, Author Unknown, AnxietyCure.org
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.