Most moms-to-be experience anxiety during pregnancy. But what’s it like for an OB/GYN physician to feel anxiety during her pregnancy? I can tell you, because I just gave birth to my daughter less than a year ago. And it has changed how I practice medicine with my patients.
Honestly, I was surprised at how much anxiety I experienced early on. I worried about possible miscarriage because I had one once before, and later I worried when I wasn’t sure I was feeling enough fetal movements, as I had an anterior placenta which can make it harder to feel the baby move. That experience helps me now when talking to moms who are newly pregnant or who have experienced miscarriage previously. I voluntarily share my story with my patients, and then I ask them about their specific worries at every visit.
Some of the most common worries my patients tend to have include “the unknowns,” such as infertility, how long it will take them to get pregnant, pregnancy itself (including “how will my body change?” and “what if complications arise?”), labor, and parenthood in general. Having been there myself, I feel that the most important thing I can do for my patients is to first listen so I can have a clear understanding of their specific concern so I can next identify how I can help ease their concerns. Once I have identified their needs, then I tend to share a combination of evidenced-based information along with my personal experiences from myself as well as with other patients. I often recommend links online or books that I think will be helpful depending on their specific concerns and background.
Like many of my patients, when I was pregnant, I turned to my friends who are moms to ask questions. One told me something that really stuck with me: When I told her how much better I’d feel when I was out of the first trimester, she said, “That’s parenthood! There is always something to worry about. Once you’ve passed one thing, there will be something else. You just have to learn to put it in the back of your mind and focus on the good things.”
I have found this to be so true – it really put things into perspective for me!
Once my little girl arrived, I became anxious about breastfeeding. It was so difficult for me! It was painful, tiring, and stressful. I had to get help from lactation nurses and friends. I actually found so much relief when I learned I wasn’t alone in my struggles. I appreciated advice from them such as what nipple creams worked the best, what pumps and supplies worked best for them, and how they managed breastfeeding schedules with the baby as well as pumping at work. Now I try to share all of this with my patients, including my personal struggles with milk supply.
Again, this personal experience shed light on how I could better support my new-mom patients. Now I discuss with my patients beforehand that worries and anxieties are a normal part of being a parent and are inevitable. Sometimes, though, anxiety can become overwhelming and can cause dysfunction. When this happens, I can help by identifying specific worries and easing concerns through education and reassurance.
I can also provide resources in the community such as therapists, mental health providers, and labor coaches/doulas. I encourage my patients, especially first-time moms, to attend childbirth classes at the hospital. There are classes about labor, breastfeeding, parenting, and even specific classes for dads. Sometimes medications for depression and anxiety are also necessary.
Lastly, I had – and still have – the most anxiety about the pressure to be perfect. Women tend naturally to put a lot of pressure on themselves to be perfect, and social media tends to feed into this pressure. Social media is full of women who “bounce back” to having a perfect body. As a working mom, I struggle with guilt about not spending enough time with my daughter, my husband, and my friends, as well as being constantly tired!
We need to remind ourselves that Facebook and Instagram tend to depict the “ideal world,” which is rarely entirely accurate. I have started to talk with my patients about this more because I am so much more aware of it myself. I give them permission not to feel guilty about things they’re not doing “perfectly” and remind them that there is the “ideal world” as well as the “actual world,” and both are totally different for everyone.
Remember, anxiety and worry during and after pregnancy can be normal and are very common, but you have resources to lean on, especially through your OB/GYN and his or her practice. Be sure to call your doctor with any questions or concerns you may have, or contact me at PremierOBGYNdenver.com or 303-393-4330.