Pregnancy is both a beautiful and challenging time. It’s understandable that moms-to-be may have a long list of worries. For instance, maybe you’re worried about your baby’s health and well-being. Maybe you’re not sure if you’re doing enough — eating enough, eating the right foods, exercising too much, exercising too little.
Maybe you’ve experienced miscarriages before, and you’re worried about losing this baby, too. Maybe you have a high-risk pregnancy, and you’re worried about your baby’s development and delivering early. Maybe you’re worried that you’ll miss something vital and be late in getting to your doctor or the hospital.
These are all common worries that pregnant women have, according to Parijat Deshpande, a perinatal wellness counselor who specializes in working with women during a high-risk pregnancy — something she has personal experience with. Thankfully, there are many helpful things you can do to reduce worry and relax. Below, Deshpande shared seven suggestions.
Identify the trigger.
“When you know what’s triggering your anxiety, it can be easier to know how to cope with it,” said Deshpande, who guides moms to manage their stress, anxiety and overwhelm, so they can feel calmer, more in control and more hopeful as they fight for their baby. Sometimes we need to dig deeper, because the thing that triggers our worry isn’t what we think it is. For instance, maybe your past experiences are coloring your experiences today, she said.
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“If you have a clearer understanding of what’s happening in your pregnancy, you’re less likely to have your mind wander to the ‘what ifs,’” Deshpande said. That’s why she suggested making a list of what you know and what you don’t know about your pregnancy. Then write down questions to ask your doctor. And if you’d like, get a second opinion, she added.
Practice deep breathing.
Deep breathing is powerful because of the immediate release of tension in the body — and it’s super simple. Deshpande lives by the following technique and teaches it to all her clients: Breathe in through your nose, while counting to 4 or 5. Then breathe out, while counting to 8 or 10 (simply double the number of your inhale). This helps you “empty out your lungs to make room for another really deep breath.”
Try a calming visualization.
When you’re anxious, you’re fixated on everything that might go wrong. Instead, Deshpande recommends her clients imagine things going well. Picture the scenario you’re worried about. For instance, if you’re worried about the delivery, picture the room. Picture “every possible detail that you can think of. Notice the colors and smells and sounds. Immerse yourself in it. Then visualize the birth going as smoothly as possible.”
Your visualization might feel unrealistic. But that’s not the point, she said. Rather, the point is to step off the “what if” hamster wheel, and to start balancing your feelings to give yourself a break. After the visualization, Deshpande and her clients explore how they can tap into the same peace and calm they felt in real life.
Move your body.
That’s if you’re allowed to exercise during your pregnancy. For instance, you might take walks or practice prenatal yoga. Moving your body helps you get out of your head, lifts your mood and lowers your anxiety, Deshpande said.
Challenge negative thoughts.
Common negative thoughts Deshpande’s clients have are: “I’m a bad mom” and “I’m failing my baby.” These thoughts typically turn into “I am a failure.” If you’re having similar thoughts, Deshpande suggested creating a list of all the ways you’re being a great mom. Because there are many.
“We often discount things that come easily to us. We forget how powerful and important they are.” For instance, maybe you’re on bed rest and taking medication. Write that down. Those are vital to your baby’s health.
Deshpande’s clients also struggle with some variation of “I can’t do this!” or “I can’t do this anymore!” She hears this from both moms who are first diagnosed with complications and feel incredibly overwhelmed; and from moms who’ve had complications for a while and feel burnt out.
To challenge this thought, Deshpande asks her clients to think back to two or three situations that first seemed impossible but which they persevered through anyway. Maybe it was a difficult presentation or a college exam or a breakup. Then “make a list of all the qualities you have that helped you do the thing that felt impossible.”
Record what’s going well.
Every night make a list of 10 things you’re grateful for, which can be tiny things. According to Deshpande, doing so can improve your sleep, reduce stress and give you some perspective. If you’re on bed rest, you might list everything from Netflix to loved ones stopping by. You might list having a supportive partner and medical team.
You also might list that nothing bad happened — even if you wished for a better day, she said. The absence of additional complications is still something to celebrate, if that resonates with you.
Worry creates worst-case scenarios. It invents challenges or magnifies them into full-blown catastrophes. It can make us feel like we’re in the backseat of a careening car. But you can keep worry at bay by trying strategies like the above. And “you don’t have to figure it out on your own,” Deshpande said. Reach out. Talk about your worries. Consider working with a professional. And take compassionate care of yourself. You deserve it.
Worried Pregnant Woman via Shutterstock.