Perinatal Mood and Anxiety During Pregnancy: My Personal Story
I can’t remember the exact age I became anxious. I like to mentally prepare, and I worry when there are unknowns. When I became pregnant, it didn’t come as a shock to me that along with it would come a heightened sense of anxiety, which hasn’t always been related to the pregnancy itself. A pattern took place whenever a feeling of anxiousness, sadness, fear, etc. would creep in. I realized I was looking for permission from loved ones – rather than myself – to allow me to feel all of the feelings. I had to let go and give myself permission to feel afraid, sad, angry, and anxious – to sit in it and explore all of the feelings. Kelly Brogan, MD, has a wonderful blog about emotions and why they’re good for us and how to connect with someone rather than try to fix their problem. Below are some of the treatments and self-care regimens that have proven themselves to be quite helpful to me throughout my Motherhood Transition.
The BIRTHFIT Prenatal Series: While I am the Regional Director for BIRTHFIT Chicago North Shore and teach the Prenatal Series to others, I felt it was important for my partner and me to take a course together rather than me “teach” him about the motherhood transition. We went to the Prenatal Series hosted by Dr. Lauren Keller of BIRTHFIT Chicago Western Suburbs, and we came out of the weekend feeling more connected, prepared, and in sync with each other and our intentions. My partner understands, in great detail, his role as a supportive husband during pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum, which has eased many nervous feelings around feeling alone.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): For 10 plus years, a recurring memory of a traumatic event came to mind on a daily basis. I felt shame, anger, and sadness around this particular memory, and as a result, these feelings began to control my health and my conscience. Quickly realizing this is not a sustainable way to go about life, I tried EMDR. While it is not easy, EMDR provides a safe space to recognize the traumatic event. It allows the patient to flip the script on the narrative they’ve been telling themselves. For me, EMDR was the release I needed to accept, acknowledge, and heal from my trauma; when it comes into my headspace, it no longer makes me feel ashamed and embarrassed. I feel grateful for the ability to heal.
Neurofeedback: Feelings of anxiety and depression have made appearances in different seasons of my life, and this does not exclude pregnancy. Neurofeedback throughout pregnancy has helped to dampen the high and low feelings without completely drowning them out – allowing me to feel and express emotions in a more productive way. Neurofeedback is a literal workout for your brain. Our brain contains 5 different types of brain waves – delta, theta, alpha, beta, and gamma. For example, someone who meditates often will have increased alpha wave activity; a person with anxiety would have a lot of high beta waves. An electroencephalogram, or brain activity mapping, is obtained by the therapist in order to determine which treatment is best suited. It addresses brain dysregulations such as anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, attention deficits, and headaches, to name a few. This treatment has allowed me to use my brain waves in a more productive manner by giving positive and negative feedback through electrodes that are applied to the scalp. Positive feedback is received via sound and video, and the provider administering the neurofeedback is monitoring this process in real time with an EEG.
Meditation, mindfulness, and morning rituals: There is no one-size fits all approach. Some mornings this means 20 minutes of guided meditation with Tara Brach or Expectful. Other mornings it is simply taking 10 diaphragmatic breaths. No matter how the day starts, I write down the things I’m grateful for while making my morning cup of coffee. By starting off the day with a mindset practice, I have found that I am able to carry that mindset throughout the rest of my day.
Joy: Increase activities that spark joy. For me, this activity is baking. In order to stay present, I found that using my hands to prepare meals and treats for the fourth trimester not only increased my awareness of the present moment, it made me feel more connected to myself and my baby. This was especially helpful the last couple weeks of pregnancy when I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. Bonus: no free hand to scroll “mindlessly” on Instagram!
You are not alone. The feelings you might be feeling are not irrational, nor are they explained by those “crazy pregnancy hormones.” You are seen. You are heard. You are loved.
Amy DiMatteo, DCBIRTHFIT Chicago North Shore @birthfit_chicago_northshore