Janice* shared a long list of genuine issues that deeply concerned her, now that she was pregnant and just about to change jobs.
Although she was able to clearly identify her problems, what was evident was that Janice’s approach to her problems was exacerbating her distress. She was quite literally paralysed by her problems. She suffered anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and was unable to focus on any solutions or take effective actions.
Due to the pregnancy she had a natural deadline that added to her anxiety and overwhelm. She felt she was running out of time to “deal with things”.
She was an extremely intelligent woman, having completed a double science/engineering degree, so it was with some desperation that she sought help.
Decision Making in Pregnancy
It was obvious that her usual capacity for decision-making and effective action was being hampered by her inability to still her mind. The hormonal changes in pregnancy and the pending lifestyle change increased her practice of being critically analytical, but the lack of knowledge and experience of pregnancy and impending motherhood made her doubt herself and she became indecisive. In the absence of close support she got into a cycle of worry.
Some effective techniques were offered that helped to restore confidence and balance:
Reinforcement of Social Support – Social support is very important for the pregnant woman. The rapid physical, hormonal and emotional changes can make pregnancy both a challenging and exciting time.
However for career women, whose identity is often tied in with their work and achievements, this time of transition can be daunting, scary and full of unknown variables. “Knowledge is power” and equipping oneself with information about what is happening in one’s pregnant body can empower the woman to take ownership of her present and her future. Knowing when to disclose the pregnancy can be a difficult conversation, and knowing one’s rights in the workplace as well as having support are important.
Women often move away from their social supports and families either when they are pregnant or shortly after the birth. This shift away from support can affect a woman’s capacity to adjust to her new role especially if new social connections have not been made and isolation kicks in.
For Janice, having regular contact with her mum and husband who were both overseas helped build her confidence and strengthen her decision–making. She also joined a pregnancy yoga group.
Exploring Strengths and Validating Skills and Knowledge – Janice was obviously a very intelligent and capable young woman. Identifying her skill set and what skills overlapped in her emerging role as mother helped to build confidence and self-esteem. Often when women change roles, the skills and abilities are not automatically transferred. It is useful to write a list of strengths, skills, usual coping strategies and resources. Asking loved ones to help build the list will provide evidence of competencies that are interchangeable and established.
Relaxation Therapy – Breath awareness, progressive muscle tension/release and using imagery to connect with her baby, helped to centre Janice and alleviate muscle tension associated with pregnancy. Over a few weeks we practiced and recorded our relaxation sessions and she was able to replay the recordings at home. This encouraged her to take ownership of her rest and relaxation, build the techniques into her schedule and become familiar with them. The techniques of breath awareness and conscious relaxation are also useful skills during labour.
Meditation – An ancient therapy, also known as mindfulness, increases focused attention and over time increases the capacity for mind-stillness. It focuses one’s awareness on the present moment, accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. This was particularly helpful to reduce anxiety by limiting the intrusive, worrying thoughts.
Help for Pregnancy Worries
If you are struggling with anxiety, having difficulty concentrating, feeling stuck and unable to make decisions or if you are pregnant, feeling overwhelmed, uncertain or have low-confidence, I would love to help you with counselling and techniques to restore your confidence and balance.
Author: Julie Fickel, RN, PG Cert Health Science, PG Dip Midwifery, Cert 4 T & A, Cert 4 Pastoral Care.
Julie Fickel has training and experience in counselling for pregnancy and related issues such as postnatal depression, anxiety, birth trauma, sex therapy and early parenting support. As a midwife, Julie is well placed to sensitively explore your unique story, helping you along the way to connect events to emotions and fill in missing pieces.
Please note: Julie Fickel is currently not practising
*not her real name