Having a baby can be a joyful experience and even the birth itself can be full of amazing moments, but for many soon-to-be mums, the perinatal period can be layered with prenatal anxiety and fear. How will I get through the birth? How will I care for a newborn? Will I be a good mum? These questions can seem deeply personal and tied to a person’s unique circumstances, but they are also universal – mums have been there before you, and mums will come after you.
Common Fears & Anxieties
It is natural to have concerns when something we are facing is new and unknown – outside of our comfort zone. There are few things newer and more full of unknowns than the birth of a baby. Well-meaning family and friends may tell you it is ‘normal’ to worry about the birth. Will I cope with the pain? Will the baby be born safe and healthy? – but that doesn’t mean these worries should be ignored or papered over. As many as 30% of pregnant women will experience some level of anxiety and, unfortunately, feelings of worry and self-doubt in a time often greeted with joy by others, can lead to feelings of shame and isolation.
Pregnancy is also a time of physical and physiological change, and hormone changes and pregnancy ‘symptoms’ – breathlessness, dizziness, increased heart rate, increased perspiration – can feel like, or even bring on, panic attacks.
So What Can I Do?
There is no ‘right’ way to prepare for a birth, just as there is no ‘right’ way to be a parent, however there are a number of things you can do for your mental health in the prenatal period:
- Be Realistic. You can’t know everything and you can’t plan for every contingency. Taking one day at a time and accepting that the birth will be one day (hopefully not more than two!) out of tens of thousands of days of living is one way of putting things into perspective.
- Do Some Preparation. Understanding that you can’t foresee every outcome doesn’t mean you should put your head in the proverbial sand. Working on a (realistic!) birth plan and educating yourself on various birthing and pain-management options is a good way to manage a fear of the unknown. You might not want to use any medical pain relief – and that’s fine either way – but investigating non-medical options – relaxation and breathing techniques, meditation, massage – can also be strong tools for managing general anxieties.
- Talk to Someone. It can be your partner or a close friend, but it can also be a trained professional. Our psychologists at Happy Minds Psychology are experienced in non-directive and strictly non-judgemental counselling. We allow you space, while also giving you the support, to spend time with your anxieties, to examine them and to build up the tools and resilience to deal with them.
If you are experiencing prenatal anxieties, our compassionate, evidence-based psychology treatments may be able to help. Our friendly team at Happy Minds offers face-to-face counselling in our Ocean Grove office or via Telehealth Australia-wide. Feel free to reach out today via phone (0431 666 050), email ([email protected]) or via our website contact form.