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title pic Anxiety and Pregnancy: Chill the Heck Out, Girlfriend

Posted by Hilary Parker on June 27, 2011

Anxiety and Pregnancy: Chill the Heck Out, Girlfriend

Oh, great: According to a new study, simply worrying about the health of your unborn child can cause the child harm.

Research has shown maternal antenatal anxiety can increase the risk of preterm birth, postnatal depression and impact on the child’s development. The baseline risk for birth defects is estimated at up to 5 percent, regardless of risk exposure, the authors say.

Now, I’ve carried two beautiful babies to term, and I can tell you that there’s no mother on the planet who doesn’t have a bit of trepidation about the health of her babies. After all, as the study points out, medical professionals — and society in general — inundates expectant mothers with tons of pregnancy dos and don’ts. An undercurrent of this dialogue is the expectation that a woman can ensure she gives birth to a healthy baby if she “does everything right.”

“This can lead to a heightened sense of awareness of risks, and to a feeling of personal blame if something goes wrong,” the commentary associated with the article says.

But for those women who suffer from chronic anxiety, it’s a very different story. They don’t just get a fleeting moment of doubt about their baby’s well-being — they literally lose sleep doing kick counts and have to ask their significant other to block them from overdosing on WebMD.com. They call their doctor daily, convinced something is wrong.

Is medication right for these women? Or would it just be another thing they’d worry about? That’s between them and their doctors. The study’s authors do recommend that expectant mothers develop good relationships with their OB or midwife to help keep their stress levels under control.

After all, the authors note, the idea that we have complete control over pregnancy and birth is a fallacy.

“Sometimes the perception of how risky things are and our ability to control it can often get inflated,” says Dr. Monique Robinson, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research.

Regardless of whether anti-anxiety is needed, it’s clear that many expectant mothers would benefit from a dose of chillax.

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