Pregnancy & beyond

Anxiety

Anxious feelings about being pregnant and having a baby are common. Suddenly it is more than just you to think about. Your fears and nervousness can be related to what you do, what you eat, how much stress you are under, the list is endless actually. You may be anxious about how your partner is going to be – supportive, there for you and your baby, interested in you as a woman still? There are often high expectations of you, all at a time when things are new and you are not really sure what you are doing yet. 

Is this you?

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

THINK Then, to understand more about what causes anxiety you can explore the different social, psychological and physical causes that can increase anxiety. 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 anxiety 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 Anxiety for Pregnancy & beyond

Do you relate to these?

I didn’t think I would be the one to not cope. I am strong. I have a career. I am in control. But not any more and I don’t like it.

I don’t feel like me anymore.

I don’t know who I fee like actually, but it is not who I was.  I don’t know how to get that back and it scares me.

I am trying to remain calm because I know that is what is best for my baby, but it is hard.

someecards.com - Sometimes when my underwear matches my outfit it makes me feel like I really have my life together.

Causes of anxiety for Pregnancy & beyond

What happens

Some personalities are more prone to anxiety - you might be a perfectionist and worry when things aren’t done to a high standard. You might also like to feel a sense of control over your life. Pregnancy and/or a new baby pose a huge challenge as they can turn an ordered world into a chaos of emotions, unexpected events, tiredness and a new way of life. And if you are someone who likes to ensure those around you are looked after and content, then when things don’t always go right you may feel you have let them down.

Questions to ask yourself

Is it in my make up to be anxious?

How much do I like things to be perfect?

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

Am I too eager to please others?

What happens

Frightening or anxious thoughts can cause anxious feelings. It can be a thought that you don’t even notice, but it sets off a cycle of fear. You might have an unhelpful thought such as thinking something bad is about to happen, or you blame yourself when something goes wrong and say “I’m hopeless”. These thoughts are faulty and inaccurate but are difficult to challenge - you start to experience physical symptoms of anxiety such as a racing heart and fast breathing and all you want to do is run away.

Questions to ask yourself

When I feel anxious what are the kinds of thoughts that I can remember having?

Are these thoughts unhelpful or faulty?

For example, do I

  • have only negative thoughts?
  • jump to the wrong conclusions?
  • use words like “should” or “can't”?
  • think something really bad is about to happen?

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 become anxious about whether 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 anxious am I about what others think of me?

How anxious am I that I might be doing the wrong things?

How anxious am I that I will not be a good mum?

What happens

Pregnancy, childbirth and breast feeding can all impact your body and the way you think about your body. If you feel unsettled and unsure of yourself because of these changes, then you may become anxious.

Questions to ask yourself

How anxious am I about how my body looks?

How anxious am I about the weight I am gaining or 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 be anxious about dangerous or risky situations in different ways than others who have not had these experiences. You may react more strongly to criticism, be anxious that others do not like or value you and that your thoughts or feelings are not important.

Questions to ask yourself

Have I been exposed to violence

  • as a child?
  • from people close to me?

Have I felt

  • neglected?
  • threatened?
  • that I might be harmed at any time during my life?

Has maltreatment or violence caused me to be more anxious?

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. However, your role as a pregnant woman and a new mother are new roles. The role may or may not be what you expected and this can make you anxious. If you feel good about your roles it is easier to have more confidence in yourself so you do not get anxious about other things.

Questions to ask yourself

What roles do I have?

How anxious am I about the roles I have?

How anxious am I about my new role of mother?

Social causes →
What happens

Problems with your family can include lots of things. Your relationships with your partner, your parents and your partner’s parents are likely to change when you have a baby because you take on a new role and give each of them new roles as parents and grandparents. If you find yourself dissatisfied with these relationships this can increase anxiety. All of these changing relationships and roles can make you anxious as you try to juggle family expectations versus your needs.

Questions to ask yourself

Are there family problems that cause me to be stressed and anxious?

Have there been changes to our family that I am anxious about? If so, what changes?

How much has my relationship changed with my

  • partner?
  • parents?
  • partner’s parents?

How anxious am I about the expectations of my

  • partner?
  • family?
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 just won’t.

Questions to ask yourself

Do I feel accepted by my friends?

Who accepts or does not accept me?

How much do my friends understand me and my life right now?

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

How anxious am I that my friends will forget about me and move on with their lives?

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 having a baby or have just had a baby this is even more important. Being separated from your supports perhaps because they live away from you can cause great distress.

Questions to ask yourself

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

Who is there to support me or talk to when I need?

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. Whether or not your pregnancy was planned, the idea of how a baby might change your relationships, your role, your body and your way of life can be unexpected and sometimes scary.

Other serious life events can add to the stress you feel, for instance if someone close to you has a serious illness or dies. You can start to feel vulnerable and anxious that bad things could happen and this can be a very strong feeling when you have another person to care for and protect - the threats seem a lot more real.

Questions to ask yourself

How do I feel about change?

Have I experienced any stressful or difficult events recently? If so, what type of stressful events?

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 I/we manage the extra costs of a baby?

Are there major financial decisions I/we need to make?

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? The health services in your community can be especially important at this time as local and easy access to maternal and child health care can help allay fear and anxiety.

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 health services are there for me if I need them for me or my baby?

What happens

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

  • How safe and secure your job is.
  • Whether people will feel you are not pulling your weight as you juggle coping with pregnancy and 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

How anxious am I about my work?

How secure do I feel in my job?

Do I feel exhausted by my job?

How supportive is 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

When you are pregnant or have recently had a baby, your hormones can be changing and moving all over the place as your body adjusts to having a baby. These hormonal swings can make you sensitive to feelings of anxiety and are difficult to control.

Questions to ask yourself

Could hormonal changes cause me to have anxious thoughts and feelings?

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

What happens

If you have had an illness then you know you can't take your health for granted. This can cause you anxiety about you, your body and your health. When you are pregnant or have just had a baby, you can be anxious for both you and your child.

Questions to ask yourself

Have I had any illnesses which have caused me to be anxious about my

  • baby?
  • health?
What happens

If you have been pregnant before and something happened such as a health scare or you have had a miscarriage, you are more likely to be fearful when you are pregnant again.

Questions to ask yourself

How anxious am I because of previous problems in a pregnancy?

What happens

Complications with a birth, such as an emergency caesarean or your baby being born prematurely, can increase the time it takes you to physically and emotionally recover and this can add to your anxiety. And if your newborn baby has a medical problem that needs treatment, your level of emotional vulnerability is very high, which can create significant anxiety.

Questions to ask yourself

Have past complications during childbirth for me and/or my baby caused me to feel anxious?

Has the length of time it has taken me to recover from childbirth added to my feelings of anxiety?

What happens

Apart from other health risks, taking alcohol or drugs when you are pregnant or have a newborn put you at greater risk of developing anxiety. Drinking or taking drugs to try to numb feelings can increase anxious thoughts and feelings.

Questions to ask yourself

How much am I drinking?

How anxious am I about my drinking?

How anxious am I about drugs?

Am I anxious that I drank and/or took drugs before I knew I was pregnant?

What happens

Being pregnant and the birth of a baby can significantly interfere with your sleep. Being tired affects your ability to think clearly making it easier to be anxious, fearful and apprehensive.

Questions to ask yourself

How much sleep do I get per night?

Is it

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

that is causing me to have poor sleep?

What happens

Morning sickness and the fatigue of being pregnant make it difficult to eat a balanced diet and get some physical activity happening. If you have just had a baby it is hard to find the time to eat healthy food regularly and this together with a lack of exercise adds to levels of anxiety.

Questions to ask yourself

Am I struggling to eat a range of healthy foods?

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

Have I managed to get some exercise into my daily life?

What happens

Difficulties with breast feeding or breast pain and infection can make you anxious about yourself and your baby.

Questions to ask yourself

Am I having difficulties with breast feeding?

How anxious am I about breast feeding?

Created on 18/08/2013 | Updated on 24/10/2017
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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