What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, worry, or concern. These feelings are normal and common. Anxiety and pregnancy are a common combination, especially among those who had anxiety before.
An anxiety disorder is a mental health condition that happens when anxiety gets in the way of daily life. This is more than a temporary fear. The anxiety is intense, lasts a long time, or both.
Like other health conditions, anxiety disorders can be treated. Getting help is the best thing you can do for you and your family.
What are common types of anxiety?
Additional symptoms of anxiety disorders are described below. With any anxiety disorder, you may have multiple symptoms.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also are related to anxiety disorders. OCD causes recurring, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and urges to repeat specific behaviors (compulsions). PTSD may develop after experiencing trauma, such as exposure to violence, death, serious injury, or sexual assault.
How common is anxiety and pregnancy?
Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental health condition. Anxiety and pregnancy are a common combination. Nearly 1 in 5 adults has an anxiety disorder, including those who are pregnant or postpartum.
When does anxiety related to pregnancy usually start?
You may have anxiety for the first time in your life during pregnancy or after delivery. Anxiety can start at any time during or after pregnancy. It most often begins right after delivery and up to 6 weeks postpartum, though it may happen up to a year after delivery. Sometimes anxiety begins
What are risk factors for anxiety and pregnancy?
You may be at higher risk for an anxiety disorder during or after pregnancy if you
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
The symptoms are different for everyone and each type of anxiety disorder. But they usually include
A symptom of all anxiety disorders is feeling very worried or fearful for long periods of time.
How can I get help for anxiety and pregnancy?
Talk with your obstetrician–gynecologist (ob-gyn) as soon as possible. Tell them if you had anxiety in the past, if you take medication for anxiety or other mental health conditions, or if you are feeling anxious now. Also see the Resources section below for additional support options.
Your ob-gyn may ask questions about your mood during your prenatal or postpartum care visits. You may be asked to write down answers to questions that screen for mental health conditions. Your answers will help your ob-gyn understand what kind of help you need.
What are the benefits of getting treatment for anxiety disorders?
Treating anxiety can help you and your pregnancy. When you are less focused on anxiety, you may take better care of yourself. You may have more energy to eat healthy meals, get regular exercise, and follow other prenatal care advice. You may be less likely to give birth early and have a baby with a low birth weight than if you went without treatment.
The benefits of treatment continue after pregnancy. With treatment, you may be less likely to have severe postpartum depression. You may have an easier time bonding with your baby, and your baby may have a lower risk of mental health conditions and long-term behavior problems.
How is anxiety treated during and after pregnancy?
Therapy is recommended to help treat anxiety. You also can consider medication, especially if anxiety has a big impact on your life or if therapy does not help on its own. Making time for self-care, joining support groups, and using community resources also can help with anxiety.
Together you and your ob-gyn should discuss your options. Your ob-gyn also may help you contact a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, doula, or other health care professionals for additional help. Support groups can be helpful, too.
How can therapy help treat anxiety?
Anxiety typically is treated with psychotherapy, also called talk therapy. Therapy can help you function better and help you heal. In talk therapy, you may work with a therapist to
There are different methods and formats of talk therapy. For example, some types of therapy help you change how you think and behave. Other types of therapy help you better understand the causes of your feelings and behavior.
You may have one-on-one therapy (with just you and the therapist) or group therapy where you meet with a therapist and other people with similar concerns. Another option is family or couples therapy, in which you and family members or your partner may work with a therapist. Therapy may be done in person or with telehealth, where you speak with a therapist by phone or video chat.
How is medication used to treat anxiety during and after pregnancy?
Antidepressants are used to treat anxiety and pregnancy. These medications work to balance the chemicals in the brain that affect your moods. There are many types of antidepressants. If one type does not work for you, you and your ob-gyn can talk about other options.
If you took an antidepressant before pregnancy that worked well for you, it is best to continue that medication during and after pregnancy. The dose may need to be increased late in pregnancy.
If you start taking an antidepressant during pregnancy, you and your ob-gyn should talk at each visit about how you are feeling and whether the medication is working. After pregnancy, you should continue checking in with your ob-gyn or another doctor.
Is it safe to take antidepressants during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?
A healthy mother is important for a healthy pregnancy and baby. There are risks of untreated mental health conditions during and after pregnancy. Remember that treating anxiety can help you, your fetus, and your baby’s future health.
The most commonly used antidepressants are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Studies suggest that most SSRIs do not increase the risk of birth defects. Other antidepressants may be safe to take during pregnancy too. You and your ob-gyn can discuss which medication is best for you and your pregnancy. You also may discuss medication options with a psychiatrist.
How can self-care help with anxiety?
Self-care can be a useful way to help your mood and your overall health. There are many different approaches to self-care:
With anything you try, make your goal simple and break it down into small steps. Write down the small steps you plan to take each day. You can make this list during pregnancy and then update it again after you give birth.
What other mental health conditions are common during and after pregnancy?
Depression is common during this time and often happens alongside anxiety (read Depression During Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression). Bipolar disorder, OCD, and PTSD also are common. Therapy and medications can help with these conditions during and after pregnancy.
Talk with your ob-gyn if you feel sad, stressed, anxious, or if you have any mood changes. Also tell your ob-gyn about any stressful life events. These may include losing a loved one, having a loved one who is ill, living far from your friends and family, or moving.
Not having support and resources for your pregnancy can be a major source of stress. Talk with your health care team so you can get the help you need. Also see the Resources section below for more ways to find help.
Resources for those dealing with anxiety during pregnancy:
Postpartum Support International (PSI) Helpline
Text 800-944-4773 (English) or 971-203-7773 (Spanish)
Contact this nonemergency helpline for support, information, or referrals to mental health professionals during or after pregnancy. The helpline is open 7 days per week. Leave a confidential message at any time, and a volunteer will return your call or text as soon as possible.
PSI also offers online support group meetings and weekly Chat With an Expert phone sessions.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Find a Therapist: https://members.adaa.org/page/FATMain
Therapists who offer telehealth: https://adaa.org/finding-help/telemental-health/provider_listing
Directories of health care professionals who offer mental health care in person or with telehealth (using chat, video chat, or a phone call).
National Alliance on Mental Illness HelpLine
Free, nationwide support service for anyone with questions or concerns about mental health.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Helpline
Free, confidential mental health support in English and Spanish. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Lifeline Chat: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat
Free help from trained counselors by phone or live online chat. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. If you or someone you love has thoughts of suicide, call or chat for help.
Crisis Text Line
Text HOME to 741741 (US and Canada) for free, 24/7 crisis counseling.