Anxiety Disorders Pregnancy
When Anxiety Disorder and Pregnancy Occur Together . . .
There’s nothing quite as exciting as pregnancy. For those with anxiety disorders, though, it’s a complex time. While there are many different treatments available for these disorders, some can create a risk to both the mother and the baby, making this one of the most difficult times in life to treat anxiety problems.
Don’t Just Ignore the Problem
Unfortunately, anxiety disorders don’t simply disappear during pregnancy. If left untreated, they can be quite dangerous. They expose the fetus to a variety of hormones that can make them far more susceptible to damage to the neuroendocrine system and the immune system. They can also change the life support system for the fetus, which may put him or her at risk for early delivery and low birth weight.
Anxiety disorders aren’t a one-size-fits-all situation. There are a few different varieties that can occur at any point in life, pregnancy included. A higher heart rate, difficulty breathing, and sweating all occur naturally during the course of pregnancy. When they become fairly prominent in the middle of pregnancy, though, those with panic disorder begin to experience problems. Generalized anxiety disorder can also be a form of this condition. Those who have difficulty with uncertainty in the future typically have this type of condition, and with worries about the baby’s arrival and everything that could go wrong, pregnancy can certainly exacerbate the condition. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (or OCD) is another type of anxiety disorder, and symptoms are often much higher during pregnancy because the mother is compulsively thinking about the baby’s safety, creating washing and cleaning rituals that can become a problem. Extreme fear is another common form of anxiety, and often a fear of delivery can easily shift into a phobia of childbirth as a whole. One final anxiety disorder is PTSD, and that can result in a number of situations. Those with a history of childhood sexual abuse or domestic violence often display these symptoms, as do those who have had a premature delivery, pregnancy loss, or even a lack of support. Flashbacks are common as is a need to control the situation.
Fortunately, anxiety disorders are very treatable, in any form. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be helpful, as it improves sleeping habits, exercise, and works to reduce stress. The goal here is to repair any hurtful thinking and misinterpretations, leading to a healthier lifestyle. Psychoeducation can also help, as it works to identify benign problems that often create fear. It must be coupled with other strategies, though, like deep breathing.
In some cases, medication is required, but the risks and benefits of this type of treatment have to be carefully weighed by patient and doctor alike.