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Breaking the Silence: Navigating Antenatal Anxiety and Finding Strength in 'One Less Thing


In this photo, I am putting on a “Brave Face” as I (just) found out that I was expecting my third baby. (My husband’s response “Why are you crying, this is fantastic (News)”


While a certain amount of worry, stress and anxiety is normal when you are pregnant……..

While a certain amount of worry, stress and anxiety is normal when you are pregnant, if it gets to the point that it’s causing you to worry excessively on most days and significantly affect your life, it’s possible that you’re experiencing an anxiety disorder.

“I had never suffered from anxiety before however, 9 months during pregnancy, life dramatically changed. Any mood swings I put down to hormones.”

Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental health problem – affecting one in four people in their lifetime. The likelihood of developing an anxiety condition or disorder in pregnancy is increased, with estimates that up to one in five women will experience this level of anxiety in their pregnancy. Rates are also likely to be higher amongst expectant fathers at this life stage.

Despite being common, however, often the symptoms of antenatal anxiety are overlooked, interpreted as part of the general symptoms of pregnancy or just considered part of some ones‘ organised personality’.

“I never really realised it before – now that I think about it, I guess I was a bit over-anxious and teary in the last few months of pregnancy. I was happy to be pregnant and looking forward to having the family/whanau, but I was worrying about everything from finances to being a first time mum. My whanau support was in Australia and I knew how to facilitate a board meeting, governance, 25 years in the Banking sector, internationally, but a “real life that was 100% reliant on me, wow, that was a game changer. The anxiety was repetitious and relentless hence no sleep.” Psychosis crept in and I can only remember parts (mostly because I choose to forget).

As a result, often these symptoms are not recognised at the time, but only in hindsight or even following birth, when other stressors may also be impacting on your emotional wellbeing.

“It was only after the birth of my second child that I realised how unwell and how bad the anxiety was during my first pregnancy. It really surprises me that no one picked up on it.” Of course, my husband was fully supportive however, his knowledge of anxiety was limited so there was a lot of misunderstanding.

Some women who previously endured pregnancy loss also describe feeling anxious during subsequent pregnancies. This is completely understandable and important to discuss with your health professional as part of your antenatal care.

“I am certain my anxiety stemmed from unsuccessful pregnancies and my fear I would lose this one. I can’t imagine I’m alone in that when there have been multiple miscarriages.”

Symptoms of antenatal anxiety

  • Worrying thoughts that keep coming into your mind – like worrying that something may be wrong with your baby.

  • Panic attacks – which are outbursts of extreme fear and panic that ‘take over your body’ and feel out of control. Sometimes this leads people to start avoiding situations for fear it may reoccur.

  • Constantly feeling restless, ‘on edge’ and irritable.

  • Feeling tense in your muscles and tight in your chest.

Some of these symptoms affect us physically (e.g. constant tension, lack of sleep, feeling restless or on edge), while others affect us mentally (e.g. having thoughts that something is wrong or something terrible is going to happen). In turn, these thoughts and feelings can impact on our behaviour (what we do), such as checking to seek reassurance, or avoiding people or situations that have made us feel uncomfortable. Living with the constant symptoms and trying to manage the intrusive, anxious thoughts can be exhausting.

HOPE

But I was lucky…… with the support of an amazing Health Provider, I got crisis intervention, 4yrs of follow-up, and linkage to Mental Health counselling, Couple and Family Therapy, Services for Children and Adolescents, Psychiatric Evaluation and Treatments, Psychological Testing and Group Therapy. By the time my third baby had arrived I had the tools I needed to be the mum I knew that I could be.


Now the banking sector seems a lifetime ago. I studied and upskilled in Mental Health, Public Health and Mental Health First Aid Aotearoa - Accredited Facilitator, leading me to launch One Less Thing in 2012, with a mission to combat mental health stigma and empower individuals and businesses. One Bite at a Time. One Less Thing.



Here’s three ways I can help you to proactively implement Mental Health First Aid and Wellness into your business:


Public 2-day MHFA workshop


Join my monthly public Mental Health First Aid Aotearoa two-day workshop (licenced by Te Pou). This workshop is ideal for HR, Managers, Health and Safety, and creatives wanting to know more about early intervention into mental wellness.



Learn more about the different course delivery options for your workplace and community


This two-day Mental Health First Aid Aoteaora Workshop (licenced by Te Pou) can be tailored for your organisation – ie apply your company values and current wellbeing practices. Would like to know how to book an inhouse Mental Health First Aid Aotearoa Workshop? Get in touch. Nothing is impossible, nationally.



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