Tuesday, September 16, 2014

how to ease fear and worry in pregnancy

The more babies I have, the more profound my fears are. Ignorance may be bliss and knowledge may be power but there's a murky in-between - the more you know, the more you fear.

I often talk to my prenatal students about fear. To be honest, I don't think it's a discussion many of them expect from a yoga class. But when you give pregnant women the opportunity to share they do so; with their hearts wide open and all their guards down. For some women it's the first time they've ever spoken of past miscarriages; an experience shrouded in silence, a secret finally shared. Others talk about fear of pain, labour complications and birthing a baby that needs special care. Some women are genuinely worried about how their partners will cope and others are anxious about overbearing relatives.

Worry and fear is pertinent in pregnancy and it can easily become all consuming. Here's five ways to ease worry and fear and, ultimately, make space for the joy and delight.

acknowledge your fears and write them down

Fear is easily brushed aside or pushed down. Perhaps the worst result that can come from ignoring fear is that it will arise again and, more often than not, at the most inconvenient of times (like when you're deep in labour - all-of-a-sudden those fears bubble up and bring with them the inability to breathe and maintain positivity). Ignoring your fears is easy - acknowledging them takes courage. Writing down your fears is a practical way for you to acknowledge them and, ultimately, start letting them go.

create a positive affirmation/intention

In times of fear and doubt it's incredibly beneficial to have a positive affirmation or intention to repeat to yourself like a mantra. Yogis often talk about a sankalpa (san-kal-pa); an idea or intention that's formed in the heart or mind, a solemn vow, a definite intention. My sankalpa during Poet's pregnancy was: I will carry my baby to full term and birth calmly and confidently, a healthy baby. I never shared my sankalpa with anyone else but every single day I repeated it to myself - three times, like a mantra.

The beauty of a positive mantra is that it's always there; if you can shift your thoughts from negative to positive you automatically stop the "spiralling out of control" thought process.

my baby grows perfectly and healthily within me
I will be a wonderful mother to my baby
my baby is perfectly supported by my body
I accept and honour the physical changes in my body
my partner supports my choices surrounding the birth
I accept all the love and support that is offered to me in pregnancy and during birth
I let go of all fear and embrace complete faith
I release all memories of negative birth experiences and replace them with positive, nurturing ones
my baby is born healthy and happy

be selective with the information you read; seek it from reputable sources (ie. don't google)

It's ironic that I share this advice on a blog but, in general, the internet is rife with fear-fuelled stories of pregnancy, labour and birth. Read articles that are written by reputable sources and ones that, ideally, contain expert advice. Arm yourself with books like Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth, The New Pregnancy and Childbirth and Your Best Birth and, if you're interested, watch documentaries like The Business of Being Born and The Face of Birth.

If you do get sucked into an article that starts to conjure fear and worry within you stop reading it and come back to your mantra.

own your experience; discuss your concerns with your support person and caregiver and don't be a magnet for negativity 

This is a sensitive matter, I know. Pregnant women are magnets for a gamut of birth stories. Whether you're standing in line at the supermarket, waiting in the playground at school pick up or chatting with a new friend at a wedding - someone, at sometime during your pregnancy, will offload their birth experience to you. For the woman sharing, it's an opportunity to work through her own experience but often, that's best done with a midwife or counsellor. Remember that you have the right to own your pregnancy and birth - that means taking responsibility for it. You can politely ask someone to stop telling you their grief-filled story; it's not rude, it's self-awareness and self-care.

Chat with your partner or support person about your fears and work through them together. If you feel that you're not understood talk to your midwife, obstetrician or GP - they are there to offer support and advice every step of the way, even if that means referring you to a counsellor or psychologist. If you feel more comfortable discussing your worries over the phone, PANDA has a 24hour hotline for those suffering ante and postnatal depression - 1300 726 306.

get out of your head - exercise, practise yoga, connect with your body and your baby

One of the best ways to ease stress and anxiety in pregnancy is to exercise - walking, swimming and yoga are extremely beneficial on a physical, emotional and mental level. If you have the opportunity (and sometimes it requires discipline and determination to create the opportunity) enrol in a prenatal yoga class. Whilst every class is different, yoga encourages body awareness; when you are aware of your body you automatically develop faith in its ability to grow and birth your baby. If you're a second, third, fourth time mum, a yoga class can provide a set time each week for you to just be - to connect with your body and your baby and consciously prepare for the journey ahead. It's also a great opportunity to let go of your past birth experiences and memories and, ultimately, create a fresh perspective for your imminent birth.

There's a lot to be said for connecting with other pregnant women in a safe and open space. I've witnessed many friendships blossom in my classes - proof that finding your "village" is incredibly beneficial in pregnancy.

If you want to find support online I highly recommend Smiling Mind for easy-to-follow meditation.

How did you deal with your fears and worries in pregnancy? What books brought the most comfort and how did your partner and caregiver support your journey?


  1. You're so right about getting more anxious with each pregnancy! It's what's held me back from having number three so far! Something I did with my second pregnancy was to have my work password as 'healthypregnancy2' and then 'healthybaby2' I know it seems silly but by typing that into my computer every morning it helped affirm that all would be ok and gave me some time to think about my baby.

    1. I'm considering changing all my passwords ;) - what a brilliant (and practical!) idea x

  2. Is it odd that I found this so helpful and I've never been pregnant myself? I was just talking to my partner yesterday that yoga may be a helpful tool to releasing the anxiety I suffer in my life and reading your post today just motivated me to get started.

    Feeling present is something that helps ease my anxiety. Finding my peace in the now and leaving the scars of the past and the fears of the future behind is something I try and balance everyday. Thank you for this Jodi. It was just the encouragement I needed today.

    1. You are so welcome. In case you missed it, this post may be of interest to you: http://www.practisingsimplicity.com/2014/03/10-ways-to-ease-anxiety.html

  3. With my first pregnancy I had unrelenting anxiety so intense I had my DH take me to the hospital. I'd never before heard of anyone having PREbaby mental health issues and I felt so very alone. They actually insisted on me taking medication, which helped me endure. Also, a lot of prayer and reading and rereading favorite comforting scriptures.
    I thought I had things figured out by #3 and laughed at people who were worried about being over 30 and pregnant. At 36, nothing to worry about right? I had no worries other than never ending nausea and vomiting. Little Oliver's untimely miscarriage at 17 weeks caught me totally off guard and I grieved fast and hard. We buried that sweet little body with its perfect fingers and toes, and 6 weeks later I was joyous to be pregnant again. I worried all the time now if course, but the continued growth of Little One helped me through all the stages of grieving, and the terrible vomiting, even worse this time. I think my kids (then 5 and 7) were the most anxious though. In the dressing room after the ultrasound at about 4 months where we saw him kicking and healthy, my 7 yo son wrapped his arms around my belly and said, "God is going to let us keep this one!"
    We are so blessed with Little Renzo, (meaning third son in Japanese) and I marvel at his 3 year old presence daily!

    1. Goodness, what a story. I'm so sorry for your loss x

    2. This comment is terrifying given the spirit of the article. Sorry for your loss.

  4. Thank you for this post Jodi! I wrote a similar one a few weeks back about letting go, my previous pregnancy was very hard and I almost died! I came so close to going into a coma from septic shock... It was harrowing to say the least. I had no way of dealing with this fear then. It led me to despair and PPD, but those things worked out for good eventually because I came to a faith that restored me.

    Now with this babe things have been relaxed so far but my hyperemesis has been really hard on me, I'm still on medication daily at 22 weeks it's nice to know other women go through this to feel this community of sorts!

    I now deal with my fear by letting go of it. As a Christian I believe personally that everything happens for a reason, even suffering, and so I give up my fears to the surrender that all will come to good in God's plan. Romans 8:28 is my favorite verse for this reason, and I've really been meditating upon this verse as of late.

    Thank you for sharing your experience Jodi. I hope that you are filled with peace on this journey. :) <3

    1. I have my own fears, that's for sure, but I'm slowly working through them. I hope the hyperemisis eases soon x

  5. Jodi, thank you deeply for this post.

    I'm 6 months pregnant with me and my husbands first child and there are fears regarding my bodies ability to birth beginning to arise, that honestly, I didn't anticipate.

    Just this afternoon, I was feeling quite anxious about birth and decided to dedicate a portion of my afternoon to reading birth stories from Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth. It helped, but I can tell my fear is still lingering behind the scenes. I know I need to deal with it wholly before the big day and can see the real need to completely surrender...I logically know this but I now have to let my body and spirit get there.

    I've been a regular reader of your blog but hadn't stopped by in a while and just this evening felt the need to come by. And of course, I was shown again that the universe always provides...your post was exactly the reassurance I needed and for that I am grateful.

    1. I definitely felt the urge to write this post and I'm so glad it provided you with comfort and reassurance. One step at a time...and go gently x

  6. Hi Jodi, good points!
    I'm 13w3d pregnant now and as we got pregnant after a round of IVF and many years of infertility, it seems that I kept the fears from the treatments with me. In the first few weeks I was really anxious, looking for every sign of my body, it was overwhelming! Then I realized all the readings weren't doing me any good and stopped reading anything google-related. I kept journaling and now I'm feeling better, much more confident in myself and in my body.

  7. This is very timely advice for me, thanks for the book suggestions.


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