Barbara Woodworth, Nurse Consultant at Private Midwives gives her tips on reducing anxiety in pregnancy
What are your best tips for calming anxiety during birth?
The main priority is creating a relaxing environment for the mother. This can be done simply by playing relaxing music in the birthing suite. Hypnobirthing is also an excellent technique to help reduce anxiety during birth - this technique helps to encourage a more comfortable birth. It places emphasis on controlling breathing patterns, helping mothers to focus their attention on positive aspects of their birth rather than worries and concerns. Steps can also be taken by the mother ahead of the birth to help reduce her anxiety. For instance, going to mother and baby groups and discussing any fears and worries is a great stress reliever, especially if they can speak to other mothers who have previous experience regarding these. By offering mothers the opportunity to verbalise their feelings, it will create a good support network where mothers can help each other with coping mechanisms to ease stress.
Partners of anxious mothers generally get forgotten about. What would your advice be for partners who are struggling to deal with their partner’s anxiety and a new born baby?
An understanding of what anxiety is, is crucial in helping a partner deal effectively with any signs they may notice in their partner. In addition, getting partners involved by attending sessions together to gain more understanding about the birthing journey, can help massively. However, reminding their partner to take time for themselves and relax is the most important tip I can give. Providing care and support to each other plus talking through any concerns can allow partners to deal with each other’s symptoms effectively. When tensions are high, it’s key for partners to not take it personally and reassure the mother. If possible midwives can always offer assistance, by communicating and agreeing on a level of involvement that both partners are comfortable with.
What steps can be taken to reduce anxiety during pregnancy?
There are many ways in which pregnant women/mothers can attempt to reduce their anxiety. Gentle exercise, however simple it may seem, can be a fantastic way to deal with anxiety. Pregnancy yoga releases endorphins which assists with relaxation and the tense moments bought on by generalised anxiety. Secondly, taking time to relax and having ‘Mummy Time’ is crucial, it’s important for mothers-to-be to look after themselves, whether taking an hour out of the day for some peace and quiet or catching up with a friend over a coffee. As well as helping them to relax it is great for mental wellbeing and especially create a better environment for the baby. Partners can help by assisting with daily chores, from providing support with other children or simply doing the dishes. Working as a team and making sure that the mum-to-be does not feel alone is essential. Another simple but effective solution for pregnant women with anxiety is focusing on connecting with their baby. This can be done by simply placing their hands on their bump for a short while each day. This helps to build those endorphins and thus aid relaxation. Finally, soon-to-be mothers must try to learn how to say no to things that are going to be too demanding on their time and energy. Being selfish when they need to be and putting their comfort and enjoyment first a little bit more is imperative. Better understanding about the positive effects this can have on mental health can make a great difference. If they are able to understand what is happening to their body and what their options and choices are, they can begin to feel comfortable in being selfish and prioritising their happiness.