Pregnancy & beyond

Worry

If you are pregnant or just had a baby this can be a time filled with lots of different worries. Worries that you are eating the right things, that you are doing everything right, that the baby is healthy! Worries about whether you will be a good mother because that is an important role to you, and then there are the worries about whether you will ever have your body back, or your life back for that matter! It is quite normal to feel worried about these things.

Is this you? Are you worried about lots of different things – to do with you, your baby, being a new mother?

LEARN Consider the different stories and pictures below, listen to a podcast or watch a short video.

THINK Then, to understand more about what causes worry you can explore the different social, psychological and physical causes that can increase worry. In this section you will find questions to ask yourself about each cause to see if it affects you.

DO Once you have explored the causes of your worry then it is time to do something. Go to the ‘Toolkit’ to find a range of different tools to help yourself try and reduce anxiety. 

View the causes of Worry for Pregnancy & beyond

Do you relate to these?

Pregnancy worries

About food
About exercising
About drinking
About getting sick
About hot baths
About tight clothes
About the seat belt
About stress
About sleeping
About my partner
About work
About being tired

About being a GOOD mother

I have it all -  everything I wanted – why do I feel so worried about everything I have though?

I had no idea it was going to be like this. Why doesn’t anyone tell you?

Where are all those women who look like they just popped down to the hospital, had the baby and then popped back home and put their old jeans back on the next day.  Where are they? I really want to know how they do it – there must be some magic somewhere? 

I remember the day after my first baby was born -  waking up and thinking – “What have I done?” And then feeling so awful that I could think like that. Some days are good and some days are bad, but it is the exhaustion that gets to you.

Causes of worry for Pregnancy & beyond

What happens

Some personalities are simply more prone to worrying. If you are a bit of a perfectionist who loves order like a picture-perfect home, a schedule, a routine and plans, then pregnancy and a new baby may well toss these things out of the window causing increased worrying.

Questions to ask yourself

Is it in my make up to be a worrier?

How much do I like things to be perfect?

How much do I like to have control over my life?

What happens

Unhelpful thinking can create a cycle of tension and unease. For example before going to your antenatal class you think - “What if I say something stupid”, you sense the tension in your body. Then you go to your antenatal class, everyone was lovely and you have arranged to have coffee with one of the other pregnant mothers next week. Alternatively, if you were to avoid going to your class your worry is more likely to grow bigger the next time you need to attend a similar type of class or public event.

Questions to ask yourself

What thoughts trigger feelings of worry?

Are these thoughts distorted or faulty?

What is the evidence to support my thoughts?

What is the worst thing that could happen? How likely is this?

What happens

When you are pregnant or have a new baby it is easy to worry that people are judging you. Are you eating the “right” things, getting enough sleep and exercise or are you working too hard? Are you a good mum? Are you breastfeeding? You can feel like you are often in the spotlight of people’s opinions, on constant alert for judgment.

Questions to ask yourself

How much do I worry what others think of me?

How much do I worry I might be doing the wrong things?

How much do I worry I am not a good mum?

What happens

Pregnancy, childbirth and breast-feeding can all impact your body and the way you think about your body. If these changes are negative for you and your view of how you look, then you may feel worried about the changes or the time it takes to get your pre-baby shape back.

Questions to ask yourself

How much do I worry about how my body looks?

How much am I worried about my weight?

Am I worried that I will never lose the weight that I have gained with pregnancy?

What happens

If you experienced abuse, harm or neglect growing up or violence in your close relationships this can cause you to be vulnerable to worry. Any kind of abuse such as emotional, mental or physical can cause you to worry about dangerous or risky situations in different ways than others who have not had these experiences. You may react more strongly to criticism, worry that others do not like or value you and that your thoughts or feelings are not important. 

Questions to ask yourself

Has abuse or harm or violence caused me to be more vulnerable to worry?

What happens

Having roles that give you meaning are important to your mental and emotional health. You might be used to your roles as a best friend, a daughter, a student or an employee but not to your role as a pregnant woman and a new mother. The role may or may not be what you expected and this can cause you to worry. 

Questions to ask yourself

What roles do I have?

How much do I worry about the roles I have?

How much am I worried about my new role of mother?

Social causes →
What happens

Problems with your family can include lots of things. It might be that your relationship with your partner has changed with your pregnancy or adding a new baby to your family. Your relationship with your parents or your partner’s parents can change as they take on the role of grandparents and you become a mother to their grandchild. They may seek to impose their ideas about parenting on you.

These changing relationships and roles can put you on edge making you worry about your family’s expectations and your needs. 

Questions to ask yourself

Are there family problems which cause me to be stressed and worried?

Have there been changes to our family which I am worried about? If so, what are these worries?

How much has my relationship changed with my:

  • partner?
  • parents?
  • partner’s parents?
What happens

When you are pregnant or have just had a baby, your relationship with your friends can change depending on what stage they are at in their life – are they also pregnant or nowhere near having children? Some friends will understand what you are going through and be a support, and some are not in a place to be able to understand. 

Questions to ask yourself

How much do I feel accepted by my friends?

Who accepts or does not accept me?

Which of my friends understand where I am at?

Are my friends at the same or a different stage in their lives to me?

What happens

Having people to talk to when you need support is one of the most important ways to feel good about yourself. When you are pregnant or have just had a baby, the changes, challenges, new role, new demands and physical demands of pregnancy, birth and new motherhood can make you worry that you are cut off from your old support systems. 

Questions to ask yourself

Do I have friends, family or people I trust who can be there for me?

Who do I have in my life that I can talk to if I need to?

How much do I feel alone?

What happens

You might be worried about the changes happening in your life and whether you will have a healthy baby or what kind of mother you will be. The rest of your life continues when you are pregnant or have a new baby and stressful events that happen to those around you can add to your worry. You can feel on alert for bad things to happen because suddenly you have another person to care for and protect.

Questions to ask yourself

How do I feel about change?

Have I experienced any stressful or difficult events recently? If so what types of stressful events have happened?

What happens

A new addition to the family means extra costs. You may worry about the expenses you have both large and small and the questions they bring like: do you need to buy a home, buy/move to a bigger home, buy baby furniture or clothes or equipment or toys? Have you enough saved up? Will you live on one income or will you go back to work? 

Questions to ask yourself

How will we manage the extra costs of a baby?

Are there major financial decisions we need to make? If so, what are they?

What are our current expenses?

What are our future expenses?

Are our expenses likely to be large or small?

Do we need one income or two incomes?

Community causes →
What happens

The community in which you live is important to your mental health. Finding yourself at home expecting a baby or with a new baby means you may see your community differently – where are the parks, the pram friendly cafes, the health centre or the medical centre? Feeling safe, that there are places to go, ways to get there and things to do can help you to feel connected to your community and that you belong somewhere. 

Questions to ask yourself

How do I feel about the community where I live?

How safe do I feel in my community?

How connected do I feel and do I feel that I belong in my community?

What happens

When you are pregnant or have just had a baby, you may worry about :

  • how safe and secure your job is.
  • whether people will feel you are not pulling your weight as you juggle coping with pregnancy or a new baby.
  • whether you will be overlooked if you take parental leave.
  • how demanding it is of your time and energy to do your job.
Questions to ask yourself

Am I worried by my work?

Do I feel secure in my job?

Do I feel exhausted by my job?

How supported do I feel by my boss and work place?

Will my job be there for me when I decide to return to work?

Do I want to:

  • keep working at my job?
  • change jobs/careers?
  • focus on being a mother?
Physical causes →
What happens

Pregnancy, treatments like IVF, birth and breastfeeding all mean hormonal changes. This means your hormones can change as your body adjusts to IVF cycles, pregnancy, or when you have recently had a baby. These hormonal swings can easily make you feel more prone to irritability and to worrying.

Questions to ask yourself

How much do the hormonal changes from being pregnant cause me to feel uneasy about things?

How much do the hormonal changes from recently having a baby cause me to feel uneasy about things?

Has IVF or assisted reproductive techniques (ART) made my hormones a bit unpredictable?

What happens

Having an illness, feeling ill with your pregnancy or becoming ill after birth can all rattle the confidence you have in your body. It can feel like your body is letting you down and this can worry you both for your own sake and your baby’s.

Questions to ask yourself

Have I had any illnesses that have caused me to worry more about:

  • my health?
  • my body?
  • my baby?

How much have my worries been affected by illness?

What happens

A previous miscarriage or a previous pregnancy with a health scare like blood pressure or glucose problems, a difficult delivery or debilitating morning sickness can all be reasons for worrying.

Questions to ask yourself

Have I had previous problems in a pregnancy that now make me more worried?

How much am I worried because of this experience?

What happens

If you feel you need alcohol (or drugs) to help you take the edge off your day, then it is important to think about this. Reliance (meaning you need alcohol or drugs to get you through stressful situations or to manage your day) put you at greater risk of developing anxiety.

Questions to ask yourself

Was I a worrier before I started drinking alcohol or taking drugs?

How much am I drinking?

Do I feel I am drinking too much?

Could drugs be making me more sensitive to worry?

How much am I worried that I drank and/or took drugs before I knew I was pregnant?

What happens

Virtually nothing beats the last weeks of a pregnancy and a new baby to reduce your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Being tired makes every small problem seem larger, worse, more difficult to face, so worrying is all too easy.

Questions to ask yourself

How much sleep do I get per night?

Is it:

  • being pregnant
  • having just had a baby, or
  • worry 

that is causing me to have poor sleep?

How much am I worried about not getting enough sleep?

What happens

A diet with high levels of sugary or fatty foods and little exercise can = more negative moods, which can = more worry. If you have morning sickness and find it difficult to stick to a healthy diet – or in fact keep any decent food down – you can worry about the effects on your baby. If you have just had a baby, it is hard to find the time to eat healthy food regularly and this can worry you too. Lack of exercise also affects your mood.

Questions to ask yourself

Do I generally eat a range of healthy foods or do I rely on too much junk food?

How much am I worried because morning sickness stops me from eating a healthy diet?

Do I have the time or energy to eat a healthy diet?

Do I exercise at least 3-4 times per week for more than 30 minutes?

Created on 18/08/2013 | Updated on 01/12/2015
References for this page
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About Jean Hailes

Jean Hailes is Australia’s leading and most trusted women’s health organisation. We believe in physical and emotional health and wellbeing in all its dimensions for all women in Australia throughout their lives.

We offer a range of free resources and easy to understand information on women’s health and wellbeing. Appointments at our specialist women’s health clinics can be made in person (East Melbourne and Clayton, VIC) or across Australia via our Telehealth consultation service. www.jeanhailes.org.au

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