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Coping With Anxiety After Pregnancy Loss

FACTS TO KNOW
  • Both physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety are common after pregnancy loss.

  • Experiencing anxiety in a pregnancy after loss is common

    The majority of respondents to Bodily's Pregnancy Loss Survey reported feeling anxiety all the time or most of the time during their subsequent pregnancy.

  • Advice on Coping

    • Schedule “worry time” for yourself to sit and freely think about the things that are worrying.
    • Narrow your searches for information down to 1 or 2 reliable sources, preferably including your doctor.
    • Try journaling. Write down your thoughts, and pen responses to each.

After experiencing pregnancy loss, you may feel anxious. It is completely normal and very common to have anxiety after loss—your body and mind require time to heal and reconcile all the feelings you have about your experience, and that healing process may involve dealing with anxiety. You may be concerned about your ability to become pregnant again. If you do conceive again, you may feel anxious about experiencing loss again. Give yourself permission to accept this as a fundamental part of the process that doesn’t need to be judged or solved—you will move through this difficult moment, whether you do so on your own or with guidance and support from loved ones or a professional.

What is anxiety?

It’s important to recognize that anxiety is a signal that tells us to pay close attention to what is happening to us. It is not a sign that something is wrong. It is a cue to pause and observe what is going on in our mind and around us in our lives that may be causing us to feel anxious. In new experiences, such as pregnancy or pregnancy loss, feelings of anxiety surrounding the unknown are very common. In pregnancy and after loss, the hormonal shifts that occur within your body can also trigger anxiety for short periods of time.

What does it look like?

Anxiety can have physical and emotional symptoms that should be identified and considered individually.

Physical symptoms

The physical symptoms can include, but are not limited to:

  • Heart racing
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Headache
  • Exhaustion and difficulty with sleep because of constant recurring thoughts
  • Muscle tension that causes pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sweaty episodes that cause palms to sweat or body to break out in a sweat
  •  

    Emotional symptoms

    These symptoms are common emotional manifestations of anxiety:

    • Frequent ruminations of the same thought over and over in your mind
    • Thoughts or worries "stuck” in your mind that keep coming up and are difficult to reconcile or move past
    • Getting frustrated at yourself for feeling upset
    • Anger, disappointment, or sadness

     

    What can I do about it?

    Recognizing anxiety is the first step. Being aware of when it comes on, how it manifests itself, and how you handle it and talk about it are important things to pay attention to. It’s extremely important to know that you don’t have to justify your anxiety. It’s a normal experience and you don’t need to explain it or dig too deep into why it’s happening: anxiety around pregnancy and pregnancy loss is a totally valid, understandable experience that is very common.

    These techniques of addressing your anxiety can be helpful in keeping it from becoming overwhelming.

    Schedule “worry time”

    Schedule “worry time” for yourself to sit and freely think about the things that are worrying you without judgement or telling yourself not to think about them. It can be helpful to have your support person join you during this time to help you talk through the things on your mind.

    Seek information but set limits

    If you want to seek out information to help quell anxiety, make sure you are going to reputable sources to ensure that you don’t encounter incorrect information that will amplify your stress. Consult your doctor with any questions or concerns, and narrow your web searches down to 1 or 2 reliable sources. Set limits.

    Tap into your inner self

    How do you cope with hard things? How can you best access your strength and resilience to help yourself move through this difficult moment? Positive self talk and productive reassurance from your support team are great tools for bolstering your confidence, which can greatly minimize anxiety.

    Use your experience with loss to help cope

    If you are pregnant again, use your experience of previous pregnancy loss to your advantage. What did you learn from what you went through? Maybe it's that you're much stronger than you ever thought. Or maybe it's something more actionable, like the fact that regular morning walks or phone calls with friends helped you quell the chaos in your mind. Those coping techniques can be helpful during periods of anxiety.

    Try journaling

    Journaling offers an opportunity to slow down your thinking and really be mindful of each thought or concern that comes up. Write them all down, and pen responses to each one to help find closure or coping techniques for each individual point of anxiety.

    What should I avoid?

    Unproductive reassurance

    Unproductive reassurance offers temporary relief but not long-term solutions. While it might seem helpful to do a web search on your symptoms, you may find that it only offers information that causes more worry or anxiety.

    Triggering experiences and people

    Avoid triggering experiences or people who will not offer comfort or support. Be aware of what might set off a bout of anxiety and make a conscious effort to avoid these instances or limit time if possible.

    Dependency on reassurances

    In the case of subsequent pregnancy after loss, resist the impulse to request extra surveillance such as multiple ultrasounds beyond what is suggested or using a fetal doppler at home. While those reassurances might feel supportive in the moment, they can create a dependency on that feedback that is counterproductive.

    Succumbing to anxious feelings

    Try to avoid succumbing immediately to anxious feelings. Anxiety can bring a false sense of urgency that can be mitigated by slowing down and thinking through the way you react to it. Can you wait 5 or 10 minutes before responding to an urge to say, google your symptom or fall into a negative thought loop? Being able to pause and not immediately respond to feelings of anxiety can curtail anxious episodes.

    When should I seek help?

    If your anxiety has become something that you can’t manage with the above suggestions, or if it interferes with the functions of your daily life, that's a sign a professional may be helpful. If you are at this point, please consider calling your care provider.

    You don’t need to meet any of these criteria to seek help — simply not feeling like yourself is enough. These are some signs that you should seek guidance.

    • Feeling like you cannot function in the worlds of your home life, parenthood, work life, and social life. If you don’t feel like you can inhabit these roles to the level you want to, that is a red flag that your anxiety may require professional support.
    • Losing the ability to take care of yourself, loss of appetite, and poor sleep.
    • Feedback from others that you do not seem like yourself.
    • Physical symptoms to look out for: Muscle tension, difficulty sleeping and/or staying asleep, intrusive thoughts, fatigue, difficulty concentrating.

    For additional support, Postpartum Support International is a toll-free hotline that offers resources, basic information, and support.

    Explore our hub on pregnancy loss here.

    Bodily does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The resources on our website are provided for informational purposes only. You should always consult with a healthcare professional regarding any medical diagnoses or treatment options.

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