It started out with normal worries about making sure I was eating the right things, and most significantly, not eating the wrong things. The anxiety slowly increased and soon worries about what I was eating, or had touched and then put my hand near my mouth turned into catastrophising and at times, overwhelming panic. I even convinced my doctor that I needed to be tested for listeria having touched something that hypothetically could have carried the bacteria – despite washing my hands repeatedly afterwards.
Strangely, despite bursting into tears at my initial midwife appointment and scoring low and therefore triggering at risk for PND on their questionnaire, it was never discussed again, and I kept it all to myself (and my ever patient, not knowing how to handle me mid-panic husband!) I didn’t necessarily recognise how anxious I was at the time, and I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. Looking back, the anxiety affected my coping with stress outside of the pregnancy too and I ended up leaving work early and getting a very stress free temp job instead in my final months.
Unfortunately during my son’s birth, I was failed by my midwife, putting my son at risk, and resulting in me ending up in theatre. I felt real anger at the experience and mainly at myself for not feeling strong enough to trust in my own body over someone else’s opinion on the telephone. However, following the birth, all went ok. I was feeding alright, me and my husband were doing our best. We were abroad and had no family support but I felt very supported by him.
The nature of my anxiety changed when my son was born. Soon I found myself panicking over germs and the cleanliness of everything he came into contact with. When my in-laws visited I later found out they spoke to my husband as they were concerned about me, but the anxiety was never really openly recognised above that. It was just something I muddled along with, managing ‘risk’ where I saw it and hiding it the best I could. In time, my anxiety reduced and I became self-aware regarding the anxiety, feeling strong enough to challenge it myself when it occurred.
About 4 months into my second pregnancy, I found the prenatal anxiety returning again, and it was beginning to affect what I would do with my son. I made the decision to self refer to a local charity, and took part in a four session group CBT class. I was educated on the principles of CBT and sent off home to complete the homework and manage my thoughts and feelings. With the self awareness I had gained and the insight of being able to look back at my previous experience, I was able to challenge my thoughts and self manage – although the anxiety was very much still present! I still catastrophised at times, I just felt more in control in general. Thankfully I then had a very positive birth experience where I listened to my own body and trusted in myself. I did not go on to experience any post-natal anxiety or depression second time around.
If you'd like to talk about anxiety during or after pregnancy contact us at Poynton PANDAS by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting our Facebook Page www.facebook.com/poyntonPANDAS