Hi, everybody. This is the Mastering Motherhood Podcast, and I'm your host, Nicoll. This show is made by a mom, me, for moms. Covering pregnancy, postpartum and parenthood topics as we go through this motherhood journey together. Today's topic is one that I don't think we talk about often enough, which is anxiety during pregnancy. Postpartum depression and anxiety are, thank goodness, being talked about more publicly now. But there's just not as much attention on the very real anxiety that women can have while they're pregnant. Why isn't pregnancy anxiety talked about more often? Probably because pregnancy is a temporary condition. There is an end date, even if it doesn't feel like it sometimes. And because of that, some conditions, like anxiety, might not be taken as seriously as they need to be. We think to ourselves, and often doctors think, it will get better when the baby's born. And let me tell you something. Most conditions do. Hip pain? I can almost guarantee you it'll go away once that baby is born. And maybe in some cases anxiety will, too. And of all the many ailments we suffer for the nine months that we're pregnant, most of them we just can't do anything about. We just have to suffer through them. But unlike the hip pain you have, for example, which you're suffering because of your rapidly changing body, there are things that you can do about anxiety. You may not get rid of it completely, but you can probably ease it a little bit. I'm going to start out by saying I am not a doctor. I'm not here to provide you with medical advice, but I am here to tell you that you're not alone. It's very common. I was there and I can share with you my experience, what worked for me and what I wish I would have done different. First, I want to share with you my experience with pregnancy anxiety. It's important for me to share this because, A) I didn't recognize my anxiety symptoms for what they were and B) when I did recognize that I had anxiety, I didn't get the help and support I needed from my doctor. It was really hard for me to tell my doctor that I needed help, right or wrong. I felt a lot of shame in admitting that I had any mental illness. We still don't live in a world where it's okay. So when I allowed myself to be vulnerable and tell my doctor what was going on and she didn't help me, I think back on it now and it just makes me so angry. I wish I would have handled it differently. And I don't want any other moms to feel the way that I did. If you've listened to the previous two episodes of this podcast, you know that I'm a very anxious person have been riddled with anxiety, probably since birth. So I knew when I became pregnant that it was likely something I was gonna face. I had stopped taking all of my medications, including anxiety medication, before becoming pregnant, because I just didn't want to take any chances contaminating my unborn child. I didn't do any research, this was just me wanting to go into pregnancy with a clean body or whatever. I'm not gonna say my first trimester was great. Physically, it was for sure, but mentally I was very stressed, as I think many mothers are. I was glued to the computer screen trying to research everything I possibly could. Looking back, I can see now that I was trying to get control over a situation that was totally out of my control. Like maybe if I had more knowledge, I could somehow make sure that my baby would develop exactly how I wanted him to. I quickly learned that so much of it was out of my control. I was just so paranoid, and this paranoia and stress continued throughout my entire pregnancy. Granted, I had a lot going on. I had just gotten married. I wasn't feeling great about work. But we all have things, right? You've got to consider every aspect of your life when you're bringing a baby into the world and especially your first pregnancy when you just have no idea what to expect. I spent so much time trying to find things out to see if what I was experiencing was normal, or trying to figure out what to expect next. Like, if I'd get stretch marks, if it was normal not to get morning sickness when I'd start to show, and on and on and on. I've obviously never been pregnant in any previous eras, but I feel like the amount of information that we have at our fingertips now, while oftentimes helpful, can also be detrimental. All of my research and Googling was creating these fears about conditions I didn't even previously know existed. I simultaneously looked forward to and dreaded each doctor's appointment because I was always terrified they were going to find something wrong. But I also wanted validation that everything was going right. I remember feeling such relief when they played my baby's heartbeat at the appointments, just to leave the appointment, do a Google search and then be paranoid that it was the placenta and not the heartbeat they were hearing. These people are professionals, by the way. They know what they're listening to. My fears were irrational. At every, or almost every doctor's appointment, I was required to fill out this survey to be screened for anxiety and depression. I'll be the first person to admit that I wasn't entirely honest. When I filled out those surveys, I thought I knew myself well enough to know if I was suffering from anxiety and depression. So I embellished my happiness a little bit because I thought I was fine. I took my physical wellness and I confused it with mental wellness because I didn't have any of those typical symptoms that you hear about. My breasts weren't sore, I didn't have morning sickness or anything like that. And I honestly didn't think anything of my high levels of stress. I thought it was normal. Maybe it was. I'm gonna take a quick second to pause here and say, if anything in this episode resonates with you, take a screenshot, post it on social media and tag me so other mamas or moms-to-be can listen. And if you like what you're hearing, head on over to Apple Podcasts and leave a review. Alright. Now, back to the show. When I was seven months pregnant, I made a crazy, but worthwhile decision and left my company of five and 1/2 years to accept a job at a new company. Taking a new job in the United States in your third trimester is a bold move. It made me legally ineligible for FMLA, meant changing my insurance, all sorts of other things. Not to mention learning a new job when your brain is foggy. Luckily, my new company worked with me as best they could and I was able to take leave after having my baby. But it's still scary knowing that you're not covered under FMLA, so your job isn't legally protected. After I started my new job, I went to another routine prenatal appointment and filled out the same depression and anxiety survey I had filled out before. But this time my answers were a lot different. Now I was experiencing physical symptoms of anxiety, feeling very tense in my muscles, unable to shut my mind off to sleep, very short of breath. Especially when I started thinking about stressful things. For example, I had an upcoming work trip, and I just kept thinking, "What happens if I go into early labor when I'm on this trip? Does my insurance cover me when I'm in a different state? What if my husband can't get there in time and he can't witness the birth of his child?" Things like that. And it had gotten to a point that I felt like I needed to talk to somebody about it. So I did. I told my doctor that I had suffered from anxiety issues before, so I knew what it looked like, and I was definitely having some major anxiety issues. She just casually glanced over the notes from a previous visit and said, "You weren't having any anxiety issues at your last appointment." I said, "A lot has changed since then, and I'm telling you about it because my anxiety is bad enough that I need help." She seemed really irritated at this. It seemed to me like she was just there to do a quick, routine appointment and move on with her day. Anything beyond that was just not what she wanted to deal with. So she said, "If you've had anxiety issues before, did you have a therapist?" I said, "Yes, but that was a few years ago." And she said, "Well, then I'd recommend you talk to them," and got up to leave. I told her, "It's not that easy. For one, I saw this therapist a handful of times, so it's not somebody that I have a trusted relationship with. For two, I just started a new job and I have to be there every second that I can because I'm here ,at the doctor's, every other week. It's just not a possibility for me to schedule an appointment with another doctor. And when I've scheduled with them in the past at my therapist's office, appointments are booked out several weeks in advance. I need help now. I've already sat on this for long enough." And at this point, I'm starting to get really upset. I'm sitting here telling my doctor that I'm struggling and literally begging her to believe me and to help me. Begrudgingly, she made a comment like, "So what do you want? Medication?" And I said, "Actually, yeah, that would be great." So she proceeded to tell me all of the possible horrible side effects, including my baby having trouble latching when he was born. Well, breastfeeding was really important to me. And the last thing a pregnant woman wants to do is anything that will harm her baby in any way. She'll die before she hurts her baby in any kind of way. So I just broke down in tears, had a complete meltdown in her office. I told her that I didn't want the medication now and I didn't know what to do, and she basically just left me there. It was awful. Looking back, now that I know more and have a clear head, I should have advocated for myself better. I should have asked to speak to a different doctor who likely would have told me that the benefits of having a mentally healthy mother, in my case, likely would have outweighed the possibility of the very manageable side effects from the medication. But I didn't. I let her leave me alone in this room having a complete mental breakdown and feeling completely helpless. I'm now six months postpartum, and if I could go back to a seven month pregnant Nicoll and give her advice, I would tell her this: See your doctor. And if you aren't feeling supported, see a different doctor. When your doctor isn't giving you what you need, ask if there's somebody else you can talk to. Call or email the office later and tell them you need to speak with someone else. We have to advocate for ourselves, and we have to advocate for our babies. To give you a little bit of context, the OBGYN office that I go to has multiple doctors, so I had other options within that office. And if yours isn't like that and you don't like your doctor, go to a different office. It doesn't matter if you're seven months pregnant. A few weeks later, I was in the office for another appointment and a very pregnant woman was at the front desk scheduling her next appointment. She gave the receptionist the day that she wanted to come in, and she said she'd be willing to see any doctor in the practice. Except...you guessed it. The doctor that I had talked to about my anxiety. I just remember feeling like, relieved and kind of angry at the same time. I was like, "So it's not just me. This doctor isn't vibing well with her other patients either." My question for you guys is, Did you feel like your doctor was asking you questions about anxiety and depression because they really wanted to know or because they were just checking it off a list? I ask because sometimes it seems like we're seemingly open about mental illness. But in practice, maybe not so much. How do you feel when you fill out your depression and anxiety surveys? Do you feel the shame that I do? I'm gonna take a quick second to pause here and say, if anything in this episode resonates with you, take a screenshot, post it on social media and tag me so other mamas or moms-to-be can listen in. And if you like what you're hearing, head on over to Apple podcasts and leave a review. Alright, now back to the show. I want to talk now about what did work for me. If I had the time, I think I really would have benefited from seeing a therapist or a counselor. But I didn't. From that point forward, I had to work really hard to focus on my stress and anxiety. So here's what I did: I started a daily gratitude journal. I always thought those were so corny, but I was desperate, so I did it every day. I wrote down something that I was thankful for, and I made every entry meaningful. And I think that that's the key here. I had tried doing gratitude journals before, but I would just be like, "Oh, it's time to put in something I'm thankful for. I'm thankful for my dog," or whatever it was. But this time, when I did my gratitude journal, I really sat down and thought about big, important things. And I not only wrote down what they were, but I also had, like, an explanation behind them, too. So I wrote down things like: I'm so thankful to have a supportive husband, and then I would go into how he was supportive and why I was thankful for that. I wrote down other things like: I'm thankful to have a job that allows me to support my family that provides me with insurance. This is why it's so important at this time in my life. Second, I stopped consulting Dr. Google. This one was hard. Like a lot of people, I obsessed over Googling every single symptom. I had to consciously make an effort to stay positive and rational. That was the biggest thing. Third, I called the doctor for anything and everything I wanted to. Your doctor may be the same, where they make it really easy to ask them questions on a whim. So my doctor, for example, I can email them. I can call them, or they have a live chat future as well. And you know what? They weren't bothered by it. I went in for stress tests when I was worried about Baby's movement and let me emphasize here that I did all the right things. So, like, I did kick counts and stuff like that. And even if my baby would kick the number of times that they needed to in an hour, if it didn't feel normal to me and I was worried about it, I called my doctor and my doctor would tell me to go in. My new doctor, I should say. And I'll never forget this. She told me that she would rather I go in 50 times for no reason than to not go in the one time that I needed to. I'm gonna say that again. She told me she would rather I go in 50 times for no reason, then to not go in the one time that I needed to. Don't feel like you're bothering your doctor. And if you feel like you're bothering your doctor or if your doctor makes you feel like you're bothering them, get a new doctor. Do you know how good that felt for my doctor to tell me that? Fourth, I took more baths. These felt good to me and they worked. I'd throw on my favorite book on, well, audiobook, or my favorite podcast, and I would just relax for however long I needed to in that bathroom. Alone, with the door locked. And fifth, I stopped talking about my stress to people who didn't make me feel good. There were several people, even close friends, that I just couldn't talk to anymore about my pregnancy issues because for whatever reason, their responses just made me mad. They weren't trying to be mean, and they weren't even like saying mean things. But sometimes it was just in how they delivered their response. So, for example, I'd say like," Oh, my hip really hurts." And whatever their response was, sometimes it just irritated me. And so I just stopped talking to those people about my stress. Of course, I continued to talk to them about other things. Those five things worked for me, and I wish I would have started doing them sooner. So what's worked for you? Have you struggled with pregnancy anxiety or depression? I'd love to hear your experience. Thanks for listening today. For more on pregnancy, postpartum and parenthood, visit MasteringMotherhoodPodcast.com and subscribe to this show wherever you get your podcasts. If you have a topic that you'd like to hear, shoot me an email at MasteringMotherhoodPodcast@gmail.com. Thanks.