Perinatal Anxiety: Signs and Symptoms

Perinatal anxiety refers to a range of anxiety disorders that can occur during pregnancy and up to a year after childbirth. It is estimated that around 10% of pregnant women and new mums experience perinatal anxiety, making it a relatively common maternal mental health condition that requires more recognition and attention. 

While it is normal to have worries and concerns during this life-changing time of being a new or expecting parent, perinatal anxiety manifests as intense and persistent feelings of unease, fear, and worry that can significantly impact your overall well-being.

Symptoms of Perinatal Anxiety

  1. Excessive worry: Constantly worrying about the health and well-being of your baby, as well as your own ability to care for them, is a prominent symptom of perinatal anxiety. These worries may also extend to various aspects of life, such as finances, relationships, and personal identity.
  2. Physical symptoms: Perinatal anxiety often presents with physical manifestations such as headaches, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, digestive problems, and muscle tension. These symptoms can be distressing to control and contribute to a cycle of heightened anxiety.
  3. Sleep disturbances: Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restless sleep can be a sign of perinatal anxiety. Racing thoughts and worries may make it challenging for you to achieve the rest they need during this crucial time.
  4. Intrusive thoughts: Unwanted and distressing thoughts or images about potential harm coming to your little one or yourself are common in perinatal anxiety. These thoughts can be upsetting and may lead to guilt or shame for the individual experiencing them.
  5. Avoidance behaviours: People with perinatal anxiety may exhibit avoidance behaviours, such as avoiding social situations, isolating themselves, or even postponing seeking medical care, fearing judgement or feeling overwhelmed.
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Signs to Look Out For

  1. Heightened emotional responses: Experiencing frequent and intense mood swings, irritability, tearfulness, or a sense of being on edge can be indicative of perinatal anxiety.
  2. Changes in appetite: Significant shifts in appetite, either increased or decreased, may contribute to changes in weight and overall well-being.
  3. Difficulty concentrating: Perinatal anxiety can make it challenging to focus, remember information, or make decisions. This cognitive impact can further exacerbate feelings of stress and anxiety.
  4. Impact on daily functioning: If the anxiety begins to interfere with your ability to perform daily tasks, engage in self-care, or maintain healthy relationships, it is essential to seek support and guidance.
  5. Persistent anxiety: Perinatal anxiety is characterised by persistent anxiety that lasts for an extended period, rather than being temporary or occasional.

Seeking Support for Perinatal Anxiety

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of perinatal anxiety, it is crucial to seek support and assistance. Speak openly to a healthcare professional, such as your GP, health visitor, or a mental health professional.

For more information on where to seek help for perinatal anxiety, have a read of our maternal mental health resources guide. 

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