Peri-natal Anxiety

It’s happened!

After trying, waiting and hoping for a long time you are finally pregnant.

 Maybe it's an unplanned pregnancy, but a very welcome surprise.

 It’s an exciting and time for you and your partner. There’s a lot to think about, and if you are like most Australian women, you will have received a lot of conflicting advice – do this, don't do that, read this book or follow that guru…Preparing for a new baby can be exhilarating – and bewildering.

Most women have thoughts about what their baby will be like, and if it is your first birth, how you will cope with labour. It can be quite scary, and being able to contain all these racing thoughts can be a challenge, especially for first time mothers. You may fear the loss of your old life. Pregnancy and birth make huge demands on our bodies, but the emotional demands of this period can be just as great.

 We have heard a lot about PND, but for many women, anxiety can also cause problems before and after birth. Some women are affected by both and having anxiety (during pregnancy or at other times) is a risk factor for post-natal depression.

Most women who are first–time mothers can feel anxious from time to time. You may have had a lifelong struggle with anxiety, or maybe its something that hasn’t bothered you, but has become much more troubling during your pregnancy. 

For some women, natural fears and thoughts can lead to rumination, with worries and self-doubt spiralling into something more serious. They can struggle to find answers to the questions that plague them.

Whilst some of these questions are innocuous, others can raise the spectre of more serious fears and forebodings.

  • What will my baby be like?

  • How will I cope with the birth and with a new baby?

  • Will I get the support I need?

  • Will I be a good enough parent?

  • What if something goes wrong?

TIPS for coping with anxiety:

1. Acceptance: anxiety is a normal part of life and if we can understand and accept ourselves more, we can begin to experience anxiety as slightly unpleasant, rather than overwhelming, learning to let go of anxious thoughts rather than dwelling on them.

2. Mindfulness: taking time out to notice your surroundings. Simple exercises such as taking a deep breath or noticing five things in the room (their colour, texture and shape). Sitting down and increasing your awareness of what is around you - what can you hear, smell, see and feel?

3. Meditation, and breathing exercises

4. Maintaining your physical activity, gentle exercise with the support of your GP/OBGYN

5. Making sure you are sleeping well

6. Taking time out from preparations or looking after others and pampering yourself – getting some “me” time and doing the things that you enjoy.  

Post-natal Anxiety

In the post-natal period, the arrival of a new baby brings a host of new demands: how to look after the little one, sleep and feeding, the often tricky and sometimes painful process of breast-feeding, coping with a niggly or hard-to-soothe infant and the constant underlying fear of something going wrong.

A difficult birth can cause trauma to you and your baby and interfere with the natural bonding that needs to happen for the attachment relationship to develop. This can have a huge affect on your well-being and cause more anxiety.

You might also be worried about your changing relationship with your partner. Sleep-deprivation can exacerbate post-natal anxiety and even the most well-supported and “chilled out” new mum can get frazzled by a baby who doesn't settle or cries a lot.

Looking after yourself and getting the support you need is vital during this period.

It is important to understand your own triggers and weak points, to be kind to yourself and to ask for help when you need it. It’s a challenging time and many women feel under pressure to “perform” their motherhood and pregnancy, as if it should all come naturally and without effort.

Yes, most of your instincts are good, yes, nature has designed things to work, but no they don't always work perfectly - and that is no reflection on you as a woman, or a mother.


Anxiety is part of the human condition, but if it stops you from enjoying this exciting time, if it feels isolating or overwhelming, then you need to seek help.  Many people don't realise they suffer from anxiety and this can stop them from getting help at the right time.

Signs to look out for:

1.     Feeling anxious, on edge or worried most of the time.

2.     Feeling overwhelmed or frightened.

3.     You might experience a range of physical symptoms as well, such as a racing heart, butterflies in the stomach, muscle tension, shaky hands or perhaps feeling nauseated.

4.     Panic attacks (a racing heart, palpitations, shortness of breath, shaking or feeling physically ‘detached’ from your surroundings)

5.     Persistent, generalised worry, often focused on fears for the health, wellbeing or safety of the baby

6.     The development of obsessive or compulsive thoughts and/or behaviours

7. Being nervous, ‘on edge’, or panicky

8.     Problems with sleep

9. Being easily annoyed or irritated

More Serious Symptoms/Signs of PND:

  • Abrupt mood swings

  • Feeling constantly sad, low, or crying for no obvious reason

  • Feeling constantly tired and lacking energy

  • Having little or no interest in all the normal things that bring joy (like time with friends, exercise, eating, or sharing partner time)

  • Sleeping too much or not sleeping very well at all

  • Losing interest in intimacy

  • Withdrawing from friends and family

  • Feeling angry

  • Finding it difficult to focus, concentrate or remember (people with depression often describe this as a ‘brain fog’)

  • Engaging in more risk taking behaviour (e.g. alcohol or drug use)

  • Having thoughts of harming your baby

  • Having thoughts of death or suicide.



“The severity of postnatal anxiety and depression depends on the number of symptoms, their intensity and the extent to which they interfere with getting on with day-to-day life. The combination and severity of symptoms will be different for every parent.”


Psychotherapy can help us manage anxiety in several ways:

1. Psychotherapy provides a containing space where our anxiety is met with empathy and understanding.

2. Psychotherapy can help us to explore what is really going on for us when we are experiencing anxiety.

3. Psychotherapy can allow us to recognise the signs that we are anxious (including the bodily states and symptoms) and to become more understanding towards our own vulnerabilities.

4. Psychotherapy can help us understand the emotions underlying anxiety and why we may have developed anxiety.

5. Psychotherapy can allow us to experience anxiety and understand that it will not destroy us. It can encourage us to follow our own values and life goals (and to work out what they are!) whilst also experiencing any accompanying anxiety, knowing that it will diminish with time and experience. 

6. A therapist can also help us by modelling good ways of managing anxiety and by being a containing presence in the face of our overwhelming anxiety.


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 If you are suffering from anxiety or would like support for your wellbeing and your relationship with your baby, please get in touch.

 For a free, confidential, no-obligation chat book a phone call now.


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