If your first trimester has ever brought you heightened stress and nervousness, you may be wondering why women experience high anxiety in early pregnancy and what you can do about it.
Women often experience high anxiety in the form of OCD, PTSD, panic disorder, and others in early pregnancy (first trimester) due to increased hormones like hCG and cortisol. Fortunately, medicine and professional help exist to manage this anxiety.
In the following guide, we’ll share details about early pregnancy-specific bodily changes that lead to heightened anxiety. We’ll also discuss the courses of action you can take to manage that anxiety. Stick around to the end as we give answers to frequently asked questions.
Early Pregnancy Anxiety Sources
According to information from Harvard Health, GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) tends to appear at its highest rate during a woman’s first trimester. Although anxiety symptoms may persist in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, the early days are when it is commonly at its peak.
The primary sources of this early anxiety are thought to be one or more of the following:
- Increased cortisol hormone levels
- Heightened pregnancy hormone levels
- Environmental circumstances
- Individual history of an anxiety disorder(s)
It’s important to discuss your likelihood of experiencing these symptoms with your doctor of OB-GYN, especially if you have a mental health diagnosis history.
Increased Cortisol Levels
Since cortisol is the body’s official “stress hormone”, then it makes sense that an increase in this hormone during early pregnancy would affect anxiety levels. During early pregnancy, the spike in cortisol is essential for the health of the growing fetus. But unfortunately, this spike can be a source of more significant stress for the mother.
Furthermore, it can be a risk factor for spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) in the first 3 weeks of pregnancy, according to PNAS studies.
Heightened HCG Levels
The apparent reason for heightened anxiety in early pregnancy is increased pregnancy hormone hCG. In the first trimester, this hormone keeps increasing in concentration until the 10th week, at which point it peaks, declines, then plateau.
These hormonal fluctuations affect brain chemicals, leading to more anxiety symptoms. Furthermore, the presence of all of the changes (hormonal and otherwise) going on in your body is intense enough sometimes to cause anxiety on its own.
Another factor contributing to high anxiety in the first trimester is a combination of your past and your present. For example, if your doctor has informed you that you will have a Para high-risk pregnancy, your stress and anxiety will likely increase.
Or perhaps you have a history of high-risk pregnancies and/or miscarriages. These experiences could lead to current pregnancy anxiety symptoms.
And, of course, if you have a stressful work environment or dysfunctional interpersonal relationships while pregnant, you may experience an uptick in your anxiety.
History of Anxiety Disorder(s)
Last, consider your mental health history, possibly informing your anxiety during early pregnancy.
For women with a noted history or diagnosis involving anxiety disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or panic disorder, those disorders and their symptoms could be intensified by pregnancy.
Managing Early Pregnancy Anxiety
Luckily, anxiety symptoms are manageable, even while dealing with the other symptoms of pregnancy.
Your doctor can advise you on whether or not medication may help treat your heightened anxiety. They can also advise you on your risks in taking medication while pregnant and whether or not the medication will preclude you from breastfeeding once the baby is born.
A licensed professional therapist or psychiatrist is another source of help for pregnant women with heightened early-day anxiety.
If you can afford this option via insurance or out of pocket, there are various modalities of therapy to choose from to treat your anxiety. Your general doctor can refer you to someone, or you can seek out providers online.
Even affordable online therapy services allow you to get help without ever having to visit an office.
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If you’ve ever wondered why women experience high anxiety in early pregnancy and what to do about it, hopefully, this guide has helped. Anxiety increases in the first trimester due to increased hormone levels, environmental stressors, and pregnancy and mental health history.
You can treat early pregnancy anxiety with appropriate medication, professional therapy, or a combination. Your doctor will be able to best direct you in terms of the best course of action, so be sure to consult with them first.
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