What is Perinatal Anxiety?

Perinatal anxiety is anxiety experienced during pregnancy or in the year after childbirth. You might hear it called:

  • prenatal or antenatal anxiety if you experience anxiety during pregnancy

  • postnatal anxiety if you experience it after giving birth

While many people are aware that you can become depressed after having a baby, it's less well known that many women experience anxiety during and after pregnancy. In fact, it's common to experience depression and anxiety together.

Some women experience a particular anxiety about childbirth. This is called tokophobia, a fear of childbirth.

Common Signs & Symptoms

How you might feel: 

  • Feelings of apprehension or dread

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Feeling tense and jumpy

  • Anticipating the worst

  • Irritability

  • Restlessness

  • Watching for signs of danger

  • Feeling like your mind’s gone blank

  • Worrying you may unintentionally harm yourself or baby

Physically you may experience: 

  • Pounding heart

  • Sweating

  • Stomach upset or dizziness

  • Frequent urination or diarrhea

  • Shortness of breath

  • Tremors and twitches

  • Muscle tension

  • Headaches

  • Fatigue

  • Insomnia


There are a range of treatment options for anxiety, any of which you might find useful to treat perinatal anxiety.

  • Talking treatments. You're likely to be offered cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or your local mental health services may run specific counselling or group programmes for anxiety. You can speak to your doctor, or contact your local services to find out what they offer. 

  • Self-help resources. You can access online CBT programmes like MoodGYM, as well as have books prescribed to help you learn to manage your anxiety. 

  • Medication. There are several different drugs that can be helpful in managing anxiety. If you have any concerns about taking medication during pregnancy or breastfeeding, you can always discuss this with your doctor as there are medications that are deemed safe to take in pregnancy and while breastfeeding. 

You may be offered a combination of medication and a talking treatment. Many people find that taking medication helps them feel stable enough to get the most out of a talking treatment. However, other people find medication or talking treatments alone are more helpful.

If there are long waiting lists for talking treatments, your doctor may recommend that you try an antidepressant to help you manage your mental health in the meantime.

Many mums who are experiencing anxiety find it helpful to have the support of a mum befriender  - you can find out more here.

© 2016 Nurture the Borders C.I.C

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