Anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder - Sarah's story

I have always been a worrier. But while I was pregnant after a miscarriage I started having panic attacks and was diagnosed with anxiety.

A few months after my diagnosis I was pregnant again. I was so excited, but also filled with dread that I’d have another miscarriage. I told my midwife about how I felt at my booking appointment, and she referred me to the mental health midwifery team at my local hospital.

It felt good to talk about how I felt

I met with the mental health team every couple of weeks and felt that I was coping OK. It wasn't until I was 19 weeks that I started to panic about every little thing. I worried about the baby’s movements, whether I was going to miscarry or if the baby would be stillborn.

The anxiety became so intense that I started going to the maternity unit constantly to be checked. I even went online and started diagnosing myself with everything under the sun. I’m a nurse, I really should have known better! It got to the point where I was seeing my midwife every week, just to hear the heartbeat, calm myself down and ask questions. My midwife referred me for cognitive behavioural therapy, which was really helped. It felt good to talk about how I felt and put strategies in place to help me cope.

When I was around 28 weeks pregnant, I started to really struggle again. I was referred to the psychiatric team who suggested medication. I chose not to do this, but as I look back now I wonder if that was a mistake.

I was eventually diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder and severe anxiety. I was going to the hospital every day and even paying for private scans, just so I could see him move. I was then diagnosed with gestational diabetes and induced at 38 weeks. Thankfully my little boy, Charlie, arrived safely.

I didn't want to leave the house

What happened after this is a bit of a blur. I just remember feeling so ill that I couldn't think straight. I put it down to having a newborn and after being prescribed medication for my mental health I was discharged from hospital. Unfortunately, when I got home, I couldn't cope. I didn't sleep because I kept thinking something was going to happen to Charlie if I did. I panicked about his little movements, believing they were seizures. I took his temperature every hour and I didn’t want to leave the house in case he caught a bug.

I finally ended up having a panic attack that lasted for an hour. My husband even rang the emergency services because it was so different to any panic attack I had ever had. The mental health crisis team were called in and were amazing. I don’t know what would have happened if I didn't have their support. I was put on a higher dose of medication, carried back on with the cognitive behavioural therapy and had regular appointments at home with the crisis team to check how I was getting on.

You can slowly overcome your fears

I still worry now and still have my OCD rituals, but I feel like I am slowly but surely getting there. I’m still in contact with the mental health team and I’ve got a care plan in place in case I start to feel that I'm not coping again.

My advice to any pregnant women or new mums who are feeling anxious would be to please get help. I thought people would think I was going mad, but no one judged me. Things do get better and I’m living proof that with the right treatment and support you can slowly overcome your fears.