As I’m heading toward my third trimester, I wanted to discuss my mental health journey during this pregnancy. I also want to share tips on how I’ve helped my anxiety over the past seven months while pregnant.
During my first pregnancy, I was plagued with crippling anxiety. I wasn’t good at managing it and I suffered. I spent most days living in fear that something would go wrong with my pregnancy. A major source of my anxiety was, of course, the years I spent battling infertility, doing IVF, and dealing with other health issues. Pregnancy left me feeling very out of control. I wasn’t working at the time, and I didn’t leave the house much. I never considered taking medication for my anxiety because I was worried about the ill effects the medication could have on my unborn baby. In hindsight, I wish I had sought professional help. I also wish I got professional advice about taking anti-anxiety medication during pregnancy. There are safe options for meds and there needs to be more resources for women going through mental health issues DURING pregnancy as well as AFTER.
My second pregnancy is also the result of IVF. I had all the same anxieties going into this pregnancy. Once I saw that second line, I was worried and scared about miscarrying or something going wrong. In terms of anti-anxiety medication, I was taking Lexapro prior to my pregnancy. I weaned off of Lexapro about six weeks prior to getting the results of our IVF cycle. Looking back, I wish I had given myself closer to eight weeks to wean. The weaning period for me takes closer to two months whereas with others it could be shorter. I ended up suffering from head zaps and brain fog. Luckily, those side effects dissipated just as my nausea ramped up! Haha!
I did a great deal of research about SSRIs and pregnancy. I also talked to my therapist and fertility doctor’s office. I developed a plan with professionals that felt right for me. I decided that, if I felt I needed it, I would try Zoloft. So far, I have not been in a place where I have needed to go back on medication. However, it is reassuring for me to know that that door is always open. Please talk to your doctor and/or a professional about your mental health concerns.
Here are some ways I have dealt with my occasional, overwhelming anxiety.
- Therapy: I kept my weekly therapy appointments. I had the option of suspending therapy if I wanted to. I almost did, because I was so sick for the first fifteen weeks of pregnancy. The last thing I wanted to do was talk for an hour. Looking back, weekly therapy sessions were a saving grace. I had a lot of emotional baggage from the first pregnancy and a past miscarriage that I still hadn’t sorted through. All of those emotions hit me hard after I got pregnant again. I also needed to adjust to being essentially bed bound for three months. I felt like I was failing as a mother, a wife, and a person. I needed support to get through that rough period. My therapist helped me to navigate during some really tough weeks.
- Light Cardio: I haven’t felt much like exercising during this pregnancy. If I push myself too much physically, it actually increases my nausea. You have to find what works for you and your body. Listen to your body! I find that walking is agreeable for me. I try to get outside a few times per week and go for a walk. It has helped my mental health so much! I always feel better after a refreshing walk. I started off really slow and didn’t walk too far in the weeks after I was bed bound. I’ve worked up to a slightly longer and faster walk these days, but I’d still categorize this as light cardio. Do what you can and don’t punish yourself for what you can’t do.
- Meditation: I feel like I am constantly talking about meditation, but it really does work. Consistent meditation helps you remain calmer in general, but it really helps during times of high anxiety! There are times where I can’t catch my breath and I feel very overwhelmed. I’ve accepted this as part of having generalized anxiety disorder. It feels like the beginnings of a panic attack. If I get to this point, I do two things. I start by stopping whatever I’m doing. I find a nearby window, open it, and breathe in the fresh, cool air. I let it hit my face and try my best to catch my breath. Second, I go on the Insight Timer App and listen to a meditation. I have my all-time favorites, but recently decided to search for Pregnancy Relaxation meditations. I found a number of resources and am making my way through those. The app has free meditations that are applicable for many different needs and conditions. You can also choose to listen to relaxing music. I often do this when I’m going about my day.
- Rest Time: I’ve accepted that my body is working overtime to grow a baby. I need more down time than I usually do. I try my best to rest throughout the day and take naps when I can. On days when I don’t have as much energy, I choose lower energy indoor activities to do with K. We sit on the couch or lay in bed and read books. She can pick a craft or two and mostly complete it on her own while I sit on the couch. I have accepted that she is getting more screen time than usual and that’s okay. I try and monitor what she does while on her iPad and incorporate more educational games and online reading programs.
- Ask for Help: My anxiety starts to build when I take on too much. I had to acknowledge pretty early on in this pregnancy that I couldn’t do it all. It wasn’t the easiest transition, but L is doing more around the house. He’s doing more laundry and meal prepping than before. In the beginning, I felt a lot of guilt about putting these tasks on his plate. I felt bad and would get frustrated that I couldn’t do the things I always did. However, it has become part of our routine and it won’t last forever. Communication is key and I learned it’s better to speak up than hold it all in and hope L could read my mind.