Updated: Mar 8
"You must be so happy!"
Well wishers often tell us how we MUST be feeling. We must be feeling lucky, grateful, privileged and happy to be pregnant. Obviously as well as glowing!
But in just the same way that the pregnancy glow can be masking the nausea, sweats and fatigue, the smile on our faces as we nod in agreement about how happy we are, can also mask an underlying ripple of anxiety.
The truth is, pregnancy is overwhelming. It starts as soon as the test confirms we are pregnant. You might feel a moment of excitement, shortly followed by a small voice of doubt in your mind "best wait until the 12 weeks scan to make sure everything is ok!"
Once the 12 week scan confirms all is well at this stage, it is onto waiting for the results of tests to confirm genetically things are on track. Then we wait for the 20 week scan to confirm all organs are developing as they should. From 20 weeks we are completely in the dark unless we are 'high risk' and then we get more scans which offer reassurance, combined with more tests, but still the label 'high risk' carries its own worry. 'High risk' of what exactly?
Then what if the baby is breech at one of these scans? What if you catch COVID? What if you accidentally eat something you shouldn't? What if you have been so busy, you didn't notice the baby kick much that day? You might even worry about how much you have been stressing and if that can affect the baby.
This is pregnancy anxiety. According to Tommy's more than 1 in 10 of us can experience this. It can lurk constantly at the back of your mind. Whilst I am not a doctor or midwife, here are 10 things that I found helped me when I was labelled 'high risk' and felt this way:
1. Talk about how you are feeling.
Bottling up feelings never works. We know this. Talking to your partner, friends and family can really help. As a hypnobirthing instructor I can also be a ear to listen to you. Exploring anxiety, where it comes from and challenging beliefs is a part of hypnobirthing and can help reassure you for birth. Chatting with others who feel this way at a group class can also help you feel less alone and build connections with others.
2. Journal and get it on paper.
If you don't feel you can talk, writing about how you are feeling can be a way to get those feelings out on paper. You don't need to read it to anyone. You don't need to read it back to yourself again if you don't want to. But by writing about your feelings, can help to get to the bottom of what it is that you are anxious about. It can feel like a 'brain dump' getting everything out and on to paper. Start by asking yourself these questions:
How do you feel about birth?
Where do you think those feelings come from?
What would you say to a friend who was feeling this way?
3. Practise Mindfullness
Instead of worrying about the future, mindfulness is about focusing on the present moment. We can achieve this lots of ways:
Reading a book - your mind only focuses on reading the words in front of you.
Completing a jigsaw - again occupies your mind on the task.
Listening to Hypnobirthing MP3s. The aim of listening to these is to build your confidence for birth at the same time as bonding with your baby. They can also help you to sleep which by switching off a racing mind and teaching relaxation techniques.
4. Use Positive Affirmations
Filling your mind with positive messages can seem silly but overtime this can be powerful. They help balance all the negative messages in your mind. There are plenty beautiful affirmation cards you can buy specifically for birth on Etsy like these ones, or you could make your own as part of a mindful colouring exercise. The purpose is to remind yourself every day that birth is safe, wonderful and that you can do it.
5. Prepare for a calm, confident birth where you feel in control.
A lot of anxiety can stem from a feeling of not having any control. When we are labelled 'high risk' we can feel like even more control has been taken away from us. Our birth options start to be dictated rather than discussed. Preparing for your birth is the biggest thing you can do to take back control of the experience. Ultimately you can be in charge. You can end a challenging pregnancy journey with a positive birth experience. Have a look at the different courses I offer to find the one that suits you by clicking the button below:
6. Do things you enjoy
Self-care is so important, especially when pregnant. This is the perfect time to book into a spa and indulge in a pregnancy massage or just to float peacefully in a lovely spa pool. Crieff Hydro makes for a nice weekend break not too far from the hospital, or if you really want to push the boat out then check out what Gleneagles has on offer. Nice walks, meals with friends, heading to the cinema can all mean that you don't spend the whole day focused on negativity but instead start enjoying your time pregnant as well.
7. Take time to bond with your baby
This can be especially hard when you are feeling anxious. There is an expectation that you should feel a connection with your baby but personally I felt quite detached. At times I couldn't believe I was pregnant and was sort of in denial that I would be giving birth soon. I also occasionally felt resentment that I couldn't do things I wanted to.
Two things helped, having a 4D baby scan where we found out the gender at 30 weeks. I didn't do this with me second pregnancy as I didn't feel I needed to, but with my first I felt if I just knew if it was a baby boy or girl I would feel more connected - and I did. Knowing I was having a boy meant I started really thinking about names, planning nursery decor and even thinking ahead to my boys future as perhaps a rugby player or doctor. I started feeling more of a bond. Secondly, pregnancy class meditations helped me take the time just to stop and be with my bump. It meant I didn't feel as guilty about how I had been feeling.
8. Let go of the guilt.
This is a lesson it is useful to learn as early on as possible on your journey into motherhood. When pregnant you can feel guilty for not feeling the way you are 'supposed' to. Guilty for doing something to get the 'high risk' label. You might feel jealous of others for not having a care in the world, and then guilty for feeling jealous. In order to let go of the guilt, you have to accept that all the ways you are feeling are valid. Acceptance is key. It is ok to feel how you feel. Pregnancy is a hormonal emotional roller coaster - stop judging yourself. Talking or journalling can really help with this.
9. Practise Breathing
There is a reason you see people handing over a paper bag to someone displaying signs of panic. Focusing on your breathing brings you away from the worries and quiets your mind. This isn't normal day-to-day breathing but a specific type of breathing that can trigger a response from your parasympathetic nervous system which promotes a state of calmness. During our classes we learn two different breaths to help with birth, one specifically to encourage deep relaxation.
10. Try a Holistic Therapy
Pregnancy Yoga, Reiki, Acupuncture and Reflexology are all safe during pregnancy and great ways to relax your body and mind. Finding the one that suits you best may take time, but once you do, it can be a great way to release stress and tension that you feel. Another therapy that you can try for yourself at home is tapping. This is becoming increasing popular on social media as a way to manage anxiety and stress. This page has pregnancy specific meditations you can use whilst tapping and explains how it works.
I really hope that if you are feeling a similar way to how I did that you find this blog post helpful. If you would like to know about the ways I can help you feel better about birth please get in touch.