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Antenatal anxiety - How to reduce it in 3 easy steps

Hypnobirthing Anxiety

It’s incredibly normal to feel worried when you are pregnant. For some women this is a new experience as pregnancy brings such an unfamiliar set of circumstances, for many it’s an added stress on top of their existing stresses. For these women pregnancy anxiety can lead to feeling overwhelmed and can become a real problem that negatively impacts every day. If this sounds familiar it’s good to know there is plenty of support available.

What are some of the signs of antenatal anxiety?

  1. Ongoing thoughts and feelings that you are worried, or stressed.

  2. Having a heightened sense of danger or risk.

  3. Feeling unable to rationalise those feelings – when you logically know you shouldn’t be concerned.

  4. Specific negative thoughts that keep playing in your mind. It might be one thought or many.

  5. Feeling that you aren’t able to achieve a state of physical and/or mental calm.

  6. Having difficulty sleeping.

  7. Being unable to concentrate.

  8. Experiencing physical symptoms like rapid heart rate, shortness of breath and muscle tension.

What’s the difference between antenatal anxiety and general anxiety?

These are also the signs of generalised anxiety but simply being pregnant naturally involves focusing on all things related to it. So it can become the focus of your anxious thoughts and feelings. Some women are concerned about their changing body, will they ever be attractive again? Will their relationship be affected? Some worry about the health of their unborn baby- especially if they’ve had fertility issues or a previous pregnancy loss. Some women have financial worries- how will they be able to afford all the essentials, baby clothes and furniture, health care, scans, coping on a reduced income when the baby arrives? Other women are extremely fearful about some aspect of labour and birth. And some worry that they won’t be a good parent. All very realistic concerns and none with a known outcome ahead of time. It’s natural to keep looping on a problem when we don’t have a solution.

When these thoughts dominate your thinking your symptoms may be dismissed as a common part of pregnancy. But as mentioned earlier it might be a whole new scenario that is the additional stress that takes you from, coping with a low level of chronic stress, to feeling overwhelmed and out of control. The signs might develop gradually over time or may be sudden and intense.

As a society most people can maintain their emotional balance when they have a sense that they are in control. Feeling out of control in pregnancy, or having an awareness that there are so many factors that are not within your control can upset that balance leading to women seeking help from outside sources.

Anxiety has rapidly become the most common mental health issue in recent years. Anxiety accounts for more GP visits than any other condition. And thankfully there are a variety of treatment options. For some medication is the preferred method of symptom relief, but this isn’t addressing the problem, and won’t be a suitable option for many.

What are the 3 steps to reduce antenatal anxiety?

In general, anxiety stems from having a negative expectation of an outcome. We tend to over-estimate the risk, and under-estimate our resources- our ability to cope with whatever situation arises.

1. Be informed. Sign up for antenatal classes or childbirth education

One way to change a negative expectation is to become informed. To know what is going on and what is likely to happen.

When you have some knowledge of what is happening during pregnancy, labour and birth, you will come to understand how it’s a normal physiological process, it’s not a medical event, it’s not illness or trauma. Our bodies are designed to birth our babies and we can trust that for the most part it can happen just as nature intended. Afterall our species depends on it. Knowledge is power, it has the ability to transform our experiences.

Research shows that antenatal education can influence length of labour, amount of intervention required, and ultimately whether women define their experience as positive or negative.

2. Learn strategies and techniques that influence your negative thoughts

It’s easy to under-estimate our ability to cope when we don’t have the tools we need. Hypnobirthing classes should provide a whole range of tools and techniques to utilise, that increase feelings of calm, facilitate focus, and disassociate from discomfort. When we feel we have the resources to approach an uncertain situation less anxiety is provoked. Having a full toolkit from which to choose enables you to feel confident in your abilities.

Hypnobirthing successfully covers these first 2 steps, ensuring you are informed, inspired and confident.

3. Do things that make you happy

We often focus on the negative and the more we focus on it the more consuming it seems. Sometimes we allow it to become the main focus, to the exclusion of everything else. Many people can’t remember the last time they felt mentally calm or happy, but when was the last time they did something that made them feel calm or happy? Its unrealistic to expect to feel happy without doing something that makes you feel happy.

It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture- although getting a massage or going to a comedy show will have a more obvious impact. It might be simply blasting your favourite music, dancing in your kitchen, singing along to the radio, a catch up with a good friend, listening to an audio book or walking in nature, putting your phone down and being fully present with a loved one, or being creative making a meal, making something for baby, writing your thoughts down. The key feature is being in the moment. Allowing it to consume your attention. Noticing what happens to your thoughts and feelings when you eliminate distractions.

What happened the last time you had a genuine belly laugh? Did you forget all the negative stuff? How did you feel after you danced to your teenage hits? What was the result of helping a friend or complimenting a stranger? Sometimes we just don’t notice how differently we think and feel when we do things that make us feel good, so we forget to do more of it. Doing things that make you happy are an important aspect of self -care.

What if these 3 steps to reducing stress aren’t enough? What treatment options are there?

If these simple shifts in your focus aren’t effective at changing your thoughts and feelings it’s time to seek outside support.

Find a professional that will give you tools and strategies that interrupt your current negative thinking and promote more positive thinking. Anxiety results when the way we are thinking is not helping anymore. It’s important to recognize that your emotions are a result of your thoughts when you are feeling stressed. Your thoughts are what drives those feelings.

As with generalised anxiety psychotherapy is recommended. Psychotherapy is a broad term covering any therapeutic approach that addresses how you are thinking. The term covers mindfulness, meditation, CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). Strategic psychotherapy is one option that addresses our thought processes. Rather than looking at why you have anxious thoughts and feelings, strategic psychotherapy seeks to change how you are thinking and give you helpful alternatives. NLP has been shown to be effective at teaching people how to interrupt existing thought patterns. Hypnotherapy is also a gentle, natural and effective approach to reduce anxiety. Many women’s introduction to hypnotherapy is through hypnobirthing. Rather than being considered a wacky alternative pseudo treatment, it is now accepted as a mainstream approach that has a positive impact. As more well-known people, from royalty to celebrities promote the positive effects of hypnobirthing, the more everyday people are enjoying the powerful influence that quality hypnobirthing preparation provides. Not all hypnobirthing education is equal. Some courses emphasise the importance of natural birth over medication. Some only provide the teaching of calming techniques and leave out the wider education that requires another antenatal course to cover these topics. Some overpromise the expectation for a pain free birth. And many actually negatively condition the participants to achieve the opposite of the desired effect - reduced fear, by defining the processes of birth as having negative labels. When it’s much more effective to help these women to understand how wonderful and useful these processes are.

A Focused Birth antenatal course offers a wealth of information to enable you to know that you can trust in your ability to birth, to give you many techniques that will positively influence your experience in any situation.

Additional individual sessions with a qualified psychotherapist are available that target your specific anxieties, concerns and fears. Every aspect of your emotional health is supported in a caring and nurturing way.

Just because anxiety is common doesn’t mean you have to put up with it. Simply knowing that anxiety is something that can be reduced or resolved creates the potential for success. The sooner you take steps to create a brighter future the sooner it can happen. Wishing you a wonderfully positive birth experience.

Midwife led Australia wide online antenatal and hypnobirthing class

I have over 20 years experience as a midwife in the UK and Australia, working in both private and public hospitals. I have helped thousands of women in every scenario, from homebirths and water-births, births with complex issues, intervention, and caesarean births.

I currently work in a busy Melbourne Hospital, and am passionate about supporting women and families be as relaxed and confident as they can be whatever the circumstances. I divide my time as a midwife between the Birth Centre and the Child Birth Education Team. This means I am upto date with current research, policies and procedures when it comes to all things birth related.

In addition, I am a government accredited Clinical Hypnotherapist, with an Honours degree in Psychology. In my private practice I specialise in treating anxiety, trauma, fertility issues, pain management and phobias, as well as hypnobirthing techniques.

Bringing together these sets of skills, knowledge, and experience I can guide and prepare you to have the positive birth experience that you desire.

What A Focused Birth childbirth education offers you

  • Comprehensive antenatal classes developed and facilitated live by a registered Midwife and Childbirth educator
  • Access to additional resources and recommended reading
  • Toolbox of relaxation techniques, coping strategies, active birth principles
  • Breathing techniques
  • In depth breastfeeding information
  • Chance to ask questions relevant to your individual circumstances
  • Birth Preference Customisable Template
  • Comprehensive customisable ‘What to pack’ lists
  • Huge list of positive affirmations to choose from
  • Opportunity to address personal issues, such as previous traumatic experiences
  • Opportunity to upgrade to include individual hypnotherapy sessions
Justine Daly, Midwife and Childbirth educator

Online antenatal and hypnobirthing class
from $395 per couple

Next course starts Saturday Oct 16

Dates and booking options