We all know stress during pregnancy isn't ideal… but sometimes anxiety and depression creep in while pregnant. Recently, I shared on IG that I had a panic attack for the first time in 5 years while pregnant. Today, I'm sharing my personal history with anxiety and depression, what it's been like coping with them during this pregnancy, and tips for how to calm anxiety while pregnant.
Every woman's story and experience will be different. During my first pregnancy I had NO anxiety. Honestly felt the best I ever had in my entire life; of course with the occasion mood swing in pregnancy lol! My Master's Degree is in counseling. I used to work as a counselor before deciding to leave the mental health field. I acknowledge that anxiety can happen early in pregnancy, at the end of pregnancy, or anywhere in between. And it can also go away just as quickly as it came. I encourage you to seek professional help and talk with people in your life. This is just my experience, not advice.
This post is kind of long, starting with my personal story from my background with anxiety and depression, to the events surrounding finding out I was pregnant, to the panic attack I experienced entering the second trimester, to inner child work and family issues and talk of medication – then a quick list of tips to calm anxiety while pregnant at the end. Jump to whatever section feels relevant to you if you don't want to read it all:
Table of Contents
How To Calm Anxiety While Pregnant: Personal Experience After A Panic Attack This Pregnancy
- Pregnancy Q&A…
- Early pregnancy anxiety about miscarriage
- Past coping with anxiety posts
- My background/experience with anxiety and depression
- First step I took to cope with anxiety while pregnant…
- Ways to calm anxiety while pregnant (personal story)
- Panic Attack While Pregnant…
- Missing piece of the anxiety puzzle for me this time…
- Putting my health and the baby first…
List of ways to calm anxiety while pregnant
WATCH Anxiety During Pregnancy Vlog:
If you've been a part of the TCM family for a while, you may have noticed I've gone WAY quieter on IG than ever before since finding out I was pregnant this time… I did a Q&A box on IG and a few of you asked if I'd ever had a miscarriage and how I'm dealing with pregnancy anxiety. I'm all about transparency and vulnerability so I guess I'll start there…
Early pregnancy anxiety about miscarriage
First, I've been very fortunate to never have a miscarriage.
With that said though, I do have a family history of miscarriages.
Personally, until this pregnancy I never felt concerned about having one. It just never seemed in the realm of possibility – despite knowing SO many people who have experienced it. But that all kind of changed in October 2020 when I found out. I shared this in our second pregnancy announcement post – but October is National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. The week I found out was actually Baby Loss Awareness Week. On top of those 2 things… our actual anniversary (the day I surprised my husband about our second pregnancy announcement) is national remembrance day for miscarriage and pregnancy loss.
In other words…
Every time I opened my phone from the week before I found out I was pregnant through the following month I was faced with story after story of loss. I'm thrilled people have community to share and support one another in those heavy times today. It was just not the best thing for me to see as a newly pregnant person coming off the high tension/anxiety/emotions of the Summer of 2020, going into the election of 2020, and well you know…. the rona of all of 2020!
Generally speaking, I'm pretty good about putting my blinders on and finding the silver lining in things. I've been through some seriously dark, traumatic times in my life. I can move through density pretty quickly at this rate. Here are some past posts I've shared on coping with anxiety and depression:
- How to Cope with Anxiety (my personal story of everything I've done to manage anxiety)
- Living With Anxiety? 15 Tips to Help You Manage It (follow up to previous post)
- 11 Ways To Cope With Financial Stress And Anxiety
Quick background on my experience with anxiety and depression:
I was diagnosed at 17 years old with PTSD, dysthymic disorder (type of depression) and generalized anxiety. While earning my B.S. in Psychology from the University of Florida I received amazing individual and group counseling services as well as utilized their biofeedback lab. I went onto pursue my Master's Degree in Counseling from FAU and worked as a mental health and substance abuse counselor for about a year before starting my own business and eventually leaving the mental health industry.
It took about a decade but I dove in full force to counseling, utilizing medications when I needed them under the guidance of a psychiatrist, and working with loads of alternative health practitioners to really understand my personal relationship to anxiety and depression.
Personally, I always knew on a deep level that I wouldn't be on medication for the rest of my life. I knew I had a chemical imbalance in my brain at the time – but it never felt permanent. Which is sort of why I left the counseling world before receiving my license as a psychotherapist. I find a lot of the evidence based practices to be outdated and think some of the most commonly accepted practices in the mental health space can actually be maladaptive and keep people stuck rather than healing.
Now with that said…
I do believe they all have a time and a place. I'd be NOWHERE without medication and traditional evidence based therapies as the starting point for my healing. I also feel grateful to have known when those were no longer working for me and continued asking questions to find NEW things that did work for me.
I never felt shame or rushed to “get off meds.” Letting go of medication, traditional therapy, etc. always felt organic and never rushed for me and I do not suggest trying to rush through those things or even trying to force being done with them. There is no timeline and the most important thing is making sure you are healthy and ready for the next step.
Being on medication, seeing a therapist, getting help in whatever form isn't a failure.
I bring all of this up – because during this pregnancy I've seriously considered going back on medication at points. Ultimately, I decided to do a lot of restructuring and going back to the basics in my life. If those didn't work, I'd go back on medication.
I gave myself a pretty swift timeline for this too (2 months), because to me, the most important thing was feeling “okay” again – especially after the panic attack.
My goal is always a peaceful pregnancy (hello, growing a baby who is absorbing all my energy) and was willing to do whatever I needed (that was safe of course) to achieve that.
First step I took to cope with anxiety while pregnant…
The first step was obviously getting off social media. Yes, because of all the events of October, but then the election in November, and the intensity of world events that have followed. I had already stopped watching the news back in 2016 or 2017 so that doesn't impact me.
I knew social media was a trigger for me because I felt myself doom scrolling and my body becoming addicted to the negativity. Historically, I don't touch my phone for the first hour I'm awake, but I noticed I was grabbing it right away again.
My nervous system was crying out for help during that time.
I lived my life for a LONG time in my fight-or-flight response and didn't really notice the high cortisol levels or rigidity in my body until doing the biofeedback lab. Once I broke free from living in that nervous system response through biofeedback, healthy foods, regular chiropractic adjustments, I became VERY sensitive to knowing when I was backsliding.
E.g. While working my 9-5 life, I thought it was just normal that I'd get a headache and shoulder pain every single day for 6+ hours a day. My mom had chronic headaches growing up and I thought it was just genetic or something and there wasn't anything I could do about it (and I had TRIED with chiropractors and massages and regular spa/exercise visits). It wasn't until I found my prenatal chiropractor, started detoxing my body, eating healthier, working with alternative health and spiritual practitioners, that I finally got rid of my headaches, chronic pain, and so much more.
Today, I know my body in a totally different way.
When I experience a headache or pain or tightness in my chest, it's a symptom. It's a gift actually. It's a sign that something is out of balance and needs my attention.
Anywayyyy social media was triggering some of my old physical, emotional, and mental symptoms. I just talked about my physical symptoms. Emotional symptoms for me were things like crying (which isn't bad! LET IT OUT!) or dissociating with TV or games on my phone to numb out. Mental symptoms for me include racing/obsessive thoughts, increased negativity/nit picking, and worrying about the future.
Okay so back to anxiety during pregnancy…
How to calm anxiety while pregnant: my personal experience
I made it through October and November mostly off social media but still felt anxiety inching its way up…
Physically, I was having trouble drinking water. I struggled with nausea for the first time ever while pregnant. I wasn't working out and just didn't feel right.
Emotionally, all sorts of things were coming up…
R's first year of life, she'd been to California, Disneyland AND Disneyworld (this was the first October in YEARS we didn't go to Disney or see my favorite band in concert), and a few other places – and in 2020 we'd been nowhere.
We were supposed to go to on a surf trip to Costa Rica after having R and before I got pregnant again… which obviously didn't happen with 2020.
We'd also always talked about getting a jacuzzi before I got pregnant again (we are BIG spa goers – before baby we'd go to the Russian + Turkish Bath House, and take advantage of all the 5 star Spa Week Deals in Miami). We always had plans to turn our home into a mini high end spa experience (jacuzzi, sauna, steam)… and if we owned the jacuzzi I could set it to a safe temperature and go in while pregnant.
Anyway, I was crying to my husband that we'd become “those types of people who always just TALK about doing stuff but don't actually do any of it.”
I know that may sound silly or luxury to some people. But our goal/strategy over the last decade to live our lives as if we are retired today. We both know life is fragile and precious. We don't want to work towards some arbitrary golden years when we are old (read our retirement strategy here)
Our goal as a couple has always been to live a life that we don't need to retire from. We prioritize things that probably seem odd/extravagant to other people. On the flip side, we skip/don't spend money on certain things that probably seems odd to people too.
I took this little emotional breakdown seriously. I didn't shame myself for it or judge it…
Instead I looked at it as a gift and really listened to what I was saying. Clearly part of my sole had been feeling neglected and I needed to nurture it. We decided to take a mini road trip to the other side of FL to a small beach town I'd wanted to visit since I was pregnant with R.
It was pure magic and exactly what my soul craved… minus the food. If you caught this video where I shared about our diet changes in 2020 you know we eat a very non-standard US diet. So while the food was “delicious” by conventional standards, my body didn't handle it so well and I felt my anxiety going up.
Yep – when I eat foods with too much sugar or too many chemicals I can actually feel the anxiety trigger
in my chest now ever since the parasites have started passing (seriously, go watch this video about our health story if you haven't!!).
So we got back home and while I felt better on some level, I also felt like I needed to cleanse my physical body. We also went and bought that jacuzzi!!! Again – I took my mini breakdown very seriously. I didn't look at it as what some might label a “spoiled child's temper tantrum” but instead looked at it as my soul/inner child crying out for what I'd committed to.
With some clean eating for a week, the trip in the books, the jacuzzi on order, and still on my social media ban I felt like I was returning to normal…
The anxiety in pregnancy I'd been experiencing began subsiding most of the time –
Note how I say “the” anxiety not “my” anxiety…
I no longer claim anxiety, depression, etc. as part of me. Words are powerful for manifesting and speaking our futures into existence. By separating the anxiety I've experienced as just that – an experience – versus part of who I am, it's allowed me to observe it/move through it more easily.
Of course, I'm not perfect with this little language hack, but make an effort with it and have noticed a difference!
But every now and then, I'd feel the tightness rise in my chest and my heart start racing… before I get into what that was exactly I suppose I should share a little about the panic attack during pregnancy I posted a photo of on IG…
The Panic Attack…
Around 13 weeks pregnant my midwife sent me for my first ultrasound. I had a BAD feeling going into it. Even thought about canceling it that morning. But I ignored my intuitive hits and pushed on.
NOTE: I really only wanted 1 ultrasound this pregnancy (20 weeks). Ultimately I decided to get 2 after my midwife wanted me to get one for diagnostic purposes around 13 weeks. With all the fears about miscarrying and the anxiety I was experiencing, I kind of just wanted a look inside for some reassurance that the baby was okay. Which is why I ignored my intuitive hits and went anyway.
Welp – that was a bad idea.
I won't recount everything that happened that day but basically when I looked the doctor up he had a low 4 star rating – only when I read the reviews AFTER my appointment I realized this dude should not have a medical license. Very dark claims… Anyway, when the panic attack occurred, I took off my mask to get through it. I was the only person in the waiting room and I was hyperventilating… If you've never had a panic attack, it's like you can't breathe. It 100% qualifies for a medical exemption, which FL and our county support.
So there I was, alone in the waiting room, crying, hyperventilating, gasping for air, head between my knees wailing/screaming just trying to breathe and calm down…
The doctors response was to come out (making it so I was no longer the only person in the room), and stand literally on top of me, telling me to put my mask back on repeatedly… I kept trying to move away from him, pointing out that he was the one breaking 6 ft, but he just would move closer and closer… ultimately he backed me into the fetal position in a corner.
I want you to know I'm ONLY sharing this in hopes of helping someone…
If you are mad at me for taking my mask off in a waiting room by myself in the middle of a panic attack, kindly leave. I have a zero tolerance policy for stress in my life and that includes internet trolls right now. If you can't lead with compassion, and instead choose to react out of fear, then I'll block you.
There is so much about being pregnant during this bizarre time in history that I wanted to share my experience because I've spoken with far too many women who are fighting this battle alone silently.
My hopes for our future…
There is a constant push for inclusivity and a woman's right to choose with her body – whether that's having a baby, gender, sexuality, personal space, whatever. We advocate for women to get out of abusive relationships. We stand with women when they said they've been traumatized or abused. Then why do we shame/judge/attack women who may show up differently when we don't understand? Since when are we demanded to lead with our trauma versus trusting that someone is doing what's best for them and their unborn baby? Since when does inclusivity only include those you agree with and deem worthy of it?
If you are experiencing anxiety during pregnancy, know that you aren't alone. None of our situations will look or be exactly the same, but the feelings coming up are valid and real. There's no need to pull out a measuring stick to compare others pain.
My hope is that we move back to a place where differences are celebrated, even when they aren't understood. That we give others the benefit of the doubt that they're doing their best before persecuting them or demanding they meet our expectations/beliefs.
None of us know what is happening behind the scenes for others. Life and health aren't cookie cutter/one size fits all. Let's give one another the benefit of the doubt they are doing the best they can. Hate/bullying/cancelling/negativity will never breed the change and acceptance I think we all want to see in the world.
Moving on… to the big – underlying missing piece of this puzzle:
In August, my mom randomly decided she was mad at me once again. A fairly common occurrence in my life I've shared about before and will circle back to…
When I was pregnant with R, telling our families was an interesting experience. My mom wasn't talking to me at the time and it took a month of calls, texts, and finally getting my grandma involved to get her to return my calls.
Needless to say, it didn't go well.
I went home and cried that night.
Some of you may even remember a month after I told her I was pregnant with R she sent me and E this text: “I think it would best for all that you consider me dead.” So that's what I did for the remainder of my first pregnancy. While it was weird/hard to grieve someone who was still alive – it also was peaceful no longer holding my breath every time my phone buzzed; fearing it was her.
This second pregnancy, I found myself in a wildly similar situation…
She was mad at me for months leading up to my pregnancy and we basically weren't talking again… The month before I found out I was pregnant she said some pretty messed up things about E and R dying too – another reason I think the miscarriage stuff was getting to me so hardcore.
Anyway, there's parts of this story I'm not ready to share yet – but the long story short of it is this:
I'd never consciously made the choice to cut her out of my life.
While we didn't speak for the better part of my 20s, that was always her choice. She does this to everyone in our family, where she just ghosts them.
I used to think it was subconscious – like those split second decisions of “ehh do I want to answer this call? Nah not in the mood” and before you realize a few months have gone by… innocent enough.
But while we were speaking this last time I realized it she actually ghosted people consciously. She said something along the lines to me: “Oh I'm not talking to grandma again, she's driving me nuts and I need a break.” That's when I realized she KNEW she was doing this to people for months/years on end!
I made the decision to put my health and the baby first…
I texted her I was pregnant because I didn't want to go through another conversation like the last time. This was a big decision for me… historically I'd try to do the “right” thing and call her or see her face to face. I worked through the guilt and owned the decision and am honestly happy with it.
Then some more stuff went down between us that I won't get into as the holidays rolled through.
On January 1st, I sent a very clear boundary text. Basically it explained where I was at with her. My zero tolerance policy for stress in my life at this point. And my unwillingness to go through a repeat of my last pregnancy with her (anxiously waiting for her to blow up on me/cut me out).
I made it clear I wasn't mad or upset with her and I was willing to move forward, but if she attempted to “take me emotionally hostage and turn vicious/vindictive when I don't act/exist in a way that meets [her] expectations I will block… and not speak with [her].”
Nothing I said to her was new. I'd set these boundaries with her countless times over the last decade. In the past, it was always “I'm going to hang up the phone now;” not “I'm going to block you from my life.”
This is the first time I've drawn such a hard line in the sand. After all, I'm no longer thinking about myself, my kids involved here.
She didn't take it well and I blocked 2 or 3 days later.
Honestly, this was probably one of the hardest decisions of my life…
There's SO much conditioning about parents, grandparents, and grandchildren. I probably should do a seperate post on it since it's probably an email I get asked about the most in response to my post about Why I’m Scared To Have Kids [+ How I’m Working Through It]…
Not to bring this back to Vanderpump rules (but I'm going to) in the final finale reunion episode, Arianna sort of tries to guilt Jax into reaching out to his mom (an experience I'm ALL to familiar with) and then Dayna is like, “uh no Jax, sometimes you do everything you can and you just have to let that person go, even if it's a parent.” Which is where I'm finally at.
For years, I kept trying and trying with her. And I'm happy I did. I learned something new each time. I truly accept her for who she is today. I have compassion and empathy for her. And no long feel any resentments or ill feelings towards her. I could never say that in the earlier years. I'm not asking her to change. In fact, anytime in the past, when we wouldn't speak or something would happen I'd pray that it'd be the wake up call for her to change… I don't expect/wish that anymore.
Today it comes down to this…
My decision wasn't about her or making others happy. It was about me and my kids.
I always talk about teaching the Universe and others what you will and won't accept in your life. The reality is, our relationship was abusive on both ends for many years. It takes two to tango. Over the last year and a half, I was able to step out of that dance for the first time in my life. While she would likely disagree with that statement, I know it's true. I can honestly say I am proud of how I handled every situation. I honored and accepted myself. For the first time, I didn't make myself smaller to make her more comfortable. I finally stood up for my inner child, without being a child.
And of course I made this decision for my baby. It's what protected our health and happiness. And for my daughter, who (just like I did as a little girl) has to live in with this energetic relationship around.
I remember so much about watching my mom and grandma have their ups and downs as a little girl and I'm just not willing to have my daughter go through that too. Furthermore, I don't want me daughter to learn that pattern like I learned it. It's not normal and I don't accept it for our future.
Anxiety while pregnant is going to look different for everyone and not necessarily happen for everyone.
Yes, mood swings, thanks to hormone changes in pregnancy, will inevitably happen to some degree at some point. But that doesn't mean they'll progress to full blown panic attacks or anixety. Nor does experiencing anxiety while pregnant at points, mean you'll have it postpartum. Of course, it's important to know yourself, have support, and seek professional help when needed.
Again, I was considering going back on medication at points during this pregnancy. Ultimately, I spent a few months clearing out things that weren't working for me and was fortunate to find calm after the anxiety while pregnant.
If my anxiety had persisted, I would've sought professional help. I follow one woman on IG – our first babies had the same due date and we are both pregnant again now – she chose to go on an antidepressant after having her first child and has stayed on it this second pregnancy and says it's helped her SO much and I'm thrilled for her! I think every single persons experience is unique and only you know the best path forward for yourself.
Always stay open to the reality that the path forward may change or end up looking different – and that's okay!
List of ways to calm anxiety while pregnant
Identify + address your symptoms
Like I mentioned in this post, I had to figure out what my physical, mental, and emotional symptoms were leading up to intense feelings of anxiety. This is different than your triggers which I'll talk about in a moment…
Symptoms are things like: shoulder pain after talking to a specific person or eating a certain food; identifying and addressing what you're actually crying about or avoiding, questioning your thoughts, etc.
Identify your triggers
Sometimes we know that talking to X person will trigger feelings of anxiety. Other times, it's not as obvious, which is why this step may come before or after identifying your symptoms.
One trigger I mentioned in this post that I want to dive deeper into is food.
I mentioned the food while traveling – it's not like,”oh I ate a cinnamon bun and now I feel bad about myself” – NOPE.
It's actually backed in science and on a chemical level. Non-organic grains (flours, cereals, breads, etc.) are typically sprayed with a herbicide called glyphosate which is known to disrupt our gut microbiome. Our gut microbiome effects SO much from our immunity to our behaviors. One study found that glyphosate in mice leading to behavioral impairments presenting as anxiety or depression. This is why I always stress the importance of buying organic processed foods and eating healthy while pregnant. It's all connected!
Get clear on what YOU want
I focused on this more during my first pregnancy and thinks it's ESSENTIAL.
Get really clear on what you want your pregnancy, labor and delivery, and postpartum experience to feel like or be like.
Obviously, don't get so fixated on it that if things change you'll feel devastated. What I'm really trying to say here is be very intentional about your birth and parenting experience. Only engage in conversations or read from trusted sources.
For me, during my first pregnancy that meant not watching ANY labor and delivery experiences in movies or TV (they are totally over dramatized). I also was very intentional with the conversations I'd have. I knew I wanted an unmedicated birth with as little interventions as possible. So I'd float that out to people early in conversations to get a feel for the type of conversation we'd have. I knew I didn't want to listen to a ton of stories about how excited people were for their epidurals (no judgement/shame). I often cut people off when they went to tell me their birth story by saying, “I'd really love to hear this story after my baby gets here. Right now I'm just focusing on our experience and this present moment.” You can generally tell whether someone is about to tell you a positive or negative story in the first sentence.
I also used my 7 steps to manifest anything you desire to have my exact birth plan as a first time mom come to life!
This pregnancy I was making a decision about my provider and birth experience and asked the Universe for signs about my path forward and that I'd be supported – sure enough, that weekend I randomly met a mom at the beach with her 3 daughters. I could tell from her tattoos and the way she spoke we had some shared philosophies on life so I asked her a couple questions and sure enough – she'd had the experience I'd been dreaming of 3 times over!
TL;DR: Figure out what you want, then be intentional to flood your senses with only thoughts/things that support that!
Guard yourself and your baby
You become a mom the moment you conceive IMO.
Be prepared to set physical, energetic, or emotional boundaries in order to protect your emotional state so you can stay calm and protect your baby.
The research and speculation is all over the place – some people believe in utero babies begin energetically imprinting the mother's state in the third trimester. Others believe it's the second. For a smaller subset they believe it's at conception or even pre-conception!
The pre-conception idea comes from notion that we actually form in our maternal grandmother's womb. We know where we begin to take on our grandmother's physical toxin load – so why not spiritual/emotional? In combination with the book Spirit Babies (which I LOVE and highly recommend EVERYONE reads – not matter what their journey into motherhood looks like). It's super short.
I know those are some big concepts to gloss over, so if you have any questions feel free to hit me up! With that said, don't feel anxious or worry if you do experience anxiety while pregnant! Healing ancestral trauma carries 7 generations backwards AND forwards. Beating yourself up or piling onto your concerns doesn't help the situation. What I always remind myself when we've gone through emotionally or physically challenging times is that we are being gifted with these moments to heal them for those who will come. Again, symptoms are gifts pointing you towards imbalances that need your attention. Nothing more, nothing less. They are something to be observed and transmuted – not ignored or judged.