A certain amount of anxiety accompanies pregnancy. We think it is normal, for instance, for you to worry somewhat about delivery. Do you have a fear of labor and delivery? It has been reported that 10 to 20 percent of pregnant women have a fear of the delivery process. You may even have thought about asking for a cesarean delivery because of your fears. These are healthy concerns, yet they may cause excessive anxiety if you don’t know what to expect. If your anxiety and worry start interfering with your daily life or are so consuming that you think of nothing else, then you should meet with a professional who can help you reduce these stressors.
Another alternative treatment to relax your mind is prenatal massage. Proper prenatal massage will help alleviate the physical stress of pregnancy. There are several types of massage which suitable for pregnancy mom, such as : prenatal massage, Swedish massage, hot stone massage and trigger point massage.
Anxiety and fear have been shown to increase the risks of preeclampsia (a disorder of elevated blood pressure and possible maternal seizures). As with most other times in life, severe anxiety will increase pain levels, which certainly is not desirable during labor. Women who have educated themselves about the labor process and who have good social support tend to have lower amounts of pain, and this may be due to decreased levels of anxiety. There are many studies showing that infants born to women with chronically elevated stress suffer from shortened gestation times and lower birth weights. There have also been multiple reported issues among children born to chronically stressed mothers. The main finding in a study of over 7,000 women with anxiety during pregnancy was that the risk doubled for hyperactivity in boys at four years of age.
Obviously, some anxiety is normal. With our current economical crisis and the numbers of unemployed rising, it is doubtful that your life is not touched in some way by anxiety and stress. This stress becomes problematic when it prevents you from working or partaking in activities or attending functions you normally enjoy. Many patients with severe anxiety will be prescribed benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax), and while these usually work well, they have a very substantial risk for abuse and addiction and so should not be used long term. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors like Prozac work well for those with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. We usually recommend medical therapies like Prozac when psychological therapies are either refused or not available. Again, a medication may fix an underlying chemical imbalance or mask the true depth of anxiety, but is it really getting at the root cause of the problem?
I remember Gigi, a sweet, quiet nineteen-year-old patient in the second trimester of her first pregnancy. On one particular visit I noticed that she was constantly trying to clear her throat while I was talking. When she asked a question, she would rub her throat. It was almost as if she had something she wanted to say but was too afraid to ask. She had a normal exam, although she was a little behind on the weight gain, as she had only gained eight pounds over the last twenty weeks. As we discussed her eating habits, she continued to rub and clear her throat.
I finally decided to ask her if there was something she wanted to ask me. She looked down at the floor and said no. I told her that I noticed she was rubbing her neck and clearing her throat like she had something stuck in there that she needed to get out. She looked up, and that was when the tears started to flow. She told me that she was very nervous about the fact that she worried that her husband was not going to be a good father because he had a problem with drugs and she did not want him to bring the drugs or the people with whom he associated into her house, especially after the baby was born. She had tried talking to him, but he always seemed distant or high and didn’t want to talk about it with her. I asked her if she had a plan just in case she needed to leave him quickly, and she didn’t, so we put together a plan and a place for her to go in case of emergency. I then asked her to bring her husband in to the next visit.
At the next visit I brought up the fact that she was worried about their abilities to parent with the current situation and that she was very scared and didn’t know what to do. I asked him if he was willing to at least go to parenting classes with “his wife, and he said that he was. I was hoping this would segue into getting him into a rehab program, but I didn’t want to bite off more than he could chew. A few weeks later Gigi was back in the office with her husband and no longer had the nervous look or the scratchy throat He had been going to classes with her, and she was feeling much more comfortable now that he was putting her and the baby first. He also said that being around other men changed the way he looked at being a father and he was ready to start on the road to recovery with his drug problem.