I figured that if I title a blog post “How to deal with anxiety when pregnant” I’d have to come up with a coherent answer, right?
I can definitely give you an answer as to how not to deal with anxiety during pregnancy. Pretty much don’t do everything I did the last couple of months, and you’re good. I’ve been both stressing over every little ache and cramp and over not having aches and cramps. I even felt sad that, unlike the majority of pregnant ladies, I was able to keep my food down during the first trimester, you know, the usual!
After a year of trying to get pregnant, doing a round of IVF, a spontaneous pregnancy that ended in an early loss, and a surprise pregnancy just 2 months later, one would expect I’d be a resident of cloud 9 for the next 9 months. Nope!
Not me. I worry.
All. The. Time.
Anxious? Who, Me?
I never saw myself as an anxious person. Sure, I get nervous right before a big presentation at work, but I’m generally not anxious about “life”. I guess that all changed once it stopped being about my own life. Now, I have something much more important to worry about: new life.
Whether that’s trying to create said new life or carrying life inside of you for 9 months. The worrying is there for most of us.
The same people who give us the oh so insightful advice to “just relax, that’s how you become pregnant”, tend to offer the same advice during early pregnancy. “Come on, just relax, it’ll all be fine. Worrying doesn’t help.”
No shit it doesn’t help! You think I want to worry all the time?!
Just before my first ultrasound at 11 weeks, I was constantly worried about missed miscarriages. My worst fear was getting to the doctor’s office all excited for the first scan, only to find out there’s no heartbeat.
Those lovely “just relax” folks tried to cheer me up by saying that they’ve never even heard of someone who went through a missed miscarriage, so it must be highly unlikely to happen. I know people mean well when they say these things. I guess it just all felt terribly dismissive to me. Dismissive of my anxiety, dismissive of the pain people go through every day when a pregnancy ends in a loss.
“It’ll be alright” just doesn’t cut it for me.
When, after our first scan, we reported all was well, they just said: “see, I told you all that worrying was useless!”. As if I seriously thought my worrying was somehow helpful.
So what can you do?
Anyway, enough about the things not to do! Let’s focus on the positives. How the hell do you get through your first trimester without losing too much sleep?
Think about the little fighter inside of you
Whether it’s with the help of infertility treatment or a spontaneous pregnancy, that little embryo or fetus has been through a lot to get there. Of all the millions of sperm, there was just one that was strong and lucky enough to fertilize an egg. All of us who’ve done IVF know that even after fertilization, just a fraction of embryos make it to an advanced stage (blastocyst, 5 days after fertilization). And not only do few fertilized eggs ever make it to the blastocyst stage, most blastocysts don’t implant afterward.
All I’m saying is: once you get a positive pregnancy test, that little embryo has already been through a lot. He or she’s a fighter! There’s a very good shot that little embryo will become your baby in 36 more weeks.
Stop Googling things that worry you
This one seems pretty obvious, but for me, it was (…is) one of the most difficult things. I wanted, no, needed, to know exactly what could go wrong, when to expect it, and how to deal with it.
I tried to only look at scientific literature, but every once in a while, I would come across message boards with women asking others if they’d ever experienced… (name your poison, mine was missed miscarriages, my biggest fear).
It should come as no surprise that it’s the women who experience something traumatic all respond, while women who had a healthy pregnancy without complications all keep quiet. Duh. Who’d be so cruel to boast about their healthy baby to a group of women who have gone through something traumatic?
Still, seeing post after post of women reporting the most terrifying things starts to mess with your head. It skews reality and almost makes it seem that no one will ever make it through 9 months of pregnancy. While, just by existing, all of us are living proof of the miracle of pregnancy and childbirth.
Yes, I’m fully aware of how cliche that sounded!
Use statistics to your advantage
I’m a numbers gal. I work with statistics and big data every single day. I’m perfectly aware of the flaws of relying on statistics. After all, even a 99% chance of a live birth means that 1% will have a miscarriage. If you are part of that 1%, you couldn’t care less about the other 99%. For you, it’s a 100% miscarriage rate.
With that being said, it’s still the best thing we have when it comes to predicting the likelihood “something” will happen.
Throughout my first trimester (and I admit, I still check the odds every once in a while during my second trimester), I constantly visited an awesome website that had the power to reassure me somewhat. It’s called the Miscarriage Probability Chart (https://datayze.com/miscarriage-chart.php).
What they did was bundle data from a bunch of scientific studies, and model the probability of having a miscarriage by weeks of pregnancy. The probability of miscarrying is about 25% on the day you found out you were pregnant (which for most of us is around 4 weeks). Just a week later, we’re down to 19%, while at 10 weeks, there’s just a 2.5% chance of a miscarriage.
What might be even better is their Miscarriage Reassurer (https://datayze.com/miscarriage-reassurer.php). This is great if you need a little pick-me-up. All you have to do is input the number of weeks you’re pregnant, and it’ll come up with clever ways to statistically show you how unlikely you are to miscarry.
At 16 weeks, it tells me that I’m 99.5% likely to not miscarry. Hitting the “reassure me” button again, tells me that since becoming pregnant, my probability of miscarriage has decreased by 98.6%. Or that this pregnancy is 199 times more likely to result in a baby than end in a miscarriage.
If you’re feeling down, these little morale boosters are truly awesome!
Does The Worrying Ever Stop?
I keep telling myself that I feel more relaxed after a certain milestone. At first, I thought I’d stop worrying after becoming pregnant. After all, worrying about not becoming pregnant also appeared high on my to-do list.
Then I thought I’d stop worrying after getting two great hCG beta values back from the doctor. This told us very early on that all was going according to plan.
After that, I just knew that once we got to see that little bean moving around on an ultrasound, all my worries would melt away.
Wel… Not really.
Now I realize the worrying will never really go away. We just have to learn to live with it. Accepting that some things are simply out of our control and there’s nothing that can be done about it (within reason).
I’m sure we’ll carry that feeling with us throughout pregnancy and into parenthood. We’ll worry about birth, and after that, we’ll worry whether the baby is developing properly. I’m sure we’ll have some anxiety for that first trip on the school bus, or an overnight camping trip with friends. My mom tells me she still worries when I don’t check in once in a while.
It’s part of life, and we’ll have to find a way to embrace it.
So, did I get to the bottom of my “how to deal with anxiety when pregnant” conundrum? Well, maybe a little bit. Writing this post did help me a bit and I hope it’ll help some of you too.
If any of you can offer me or my fellow worrier’s out there any tips or words of wisdom (as long as it’s not “just relax”), please leave a comment below 🙂