Anxiety and motherhood

Becoming a mother is life-changing in ways you may not even of thought of before. You change from someone who could work late, go out or even go on holiday whenever you wanted to... now you have someone else to consider, everything is more expensive, and leaving the house becomes a military operation. Even when pregnant, you may have had a number of fears about carrying a child and what that might do to your body, relationships, career, and social life. When you add having anxiety into the mix, this new phase in your journey can become an event filled with fear.

For some women, the first trimester was when the anxiety began, for others it was there before (more so if you had trouble conceiving prior). Many people find it difficult to accept their pregnancy until they have seen the 12 or 20-week scan. When you have lost children prior, every twinge, stomach upset, sneeze and cough can lead you to overthink. Having anxiety about being pregnant is normal; when that anxiety becomes overwhelming, then it might help to talk to someone.

To acknowledge that you are struggling with your emotions is one thing (and difficult enough) - to admit this to another, especially a 'professional', often has people fearing the worst.

"People will think I can’t cope"; "Social services will take my child away".

Feeling that friends or family won’t understand and therefore might not be supportive comes up often, not to mention the usual stigma that comes with admitting you are finding your mental health challenging.

There is the question of whether to go on medication and what this means for you and your unborn child, and/or therapy and whether you feel you want to open 'Pandora’s box' right now when your body and hormones are going through a number of changes. Your midwife will ask you about your mental health, and it is important that you're honest. So many go through these feelings of anxiety and worry that they would certainly have seen your condition before. The midwife can only help you if they know what they’re dealing with. The midwifery service will also liaise with your GP and will assess whether medication is an option.

The birth, the pain involved, as well as the idea that the birth may not go according to plan, is another worry. Again, it is important to discuss this with your midwife so that you’re prepared for any eventuality.

Once the baby arrives, there may or may not be a rush of love. The notion of getting baby blues when you have anxiety is concerning, and if postnatal depression was to occur, you might wonder how will you cope. Again, seek advice. Try to be as open as you can so that medication can be tweaked and a plan put in place for support.

The first thing to remember is that you are not alone. So many new mothers/parents go through these feelings, and many feel they can’t admit it, but being able to accept help can be a weight off your shoulders. Try not to buy into the hype of blissful pregnancy or a rush of love once baby arrives, as many women simply go into autopilot but know what to do so that baby feels loved and cared for even though they are in crisis inside. If you are unsure then ask.

The thing that many people forget is that, more than anything, mum needs to be well in order for baby to be well. Don’t feel tempted to become superwoman, as it will take too much out of you and simply isn’t worth it. If you take anything from this short article it should be that you seek support and be honest. Let the maternity service know that you need help, and if you don’t feel that help is forthcoming then keep asking for it. If you need to speak to someone about getting private support, then there are other therapists who can help.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Marilyn McKenzie BSc, PGDip, MBACP, Couple’s Counsellor

I am Marilyn McKenzie and I am a qualified psychotherapist who has worked with couples, addiction, DV, young offending, grief and bereavement as well as anxiety and depression.

I am integrative in my approach but often work systemically. I have a private practise and work with relate.… Read more

Written by Marilyn McKenzie BSc, PGDip, MBACP, Couple’s Counsellor

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