Anxiety in pregnancy: Katie’s story

Here is Kate’s story about mental health and anxiety in pregnancy - she discusses how her counsellor provided little pointers and tips to get through situations and help rationalise her thoughts.

Before I fell pregnant, I wouldn’t say my mental health was great. I was suffering from heart palpitations and just generally feeling quite stressy and anxious.

I put it down to work as I have quite a stressful job. But the heart palpitations were really starting to bother me. I thought it was actually a heart problem and that was making me feel even more anxious.

I went to the doctor and they did lots of tests around my heart that all came back normal. I had a chat with another GP and explained how I was feeling and he was like, ‘It’s anxiety’. So he prescribed medication straight away. It took a couple of weeks to kick in and I felt a hundred times better.  

When we were thinking about having a baby, I mentioned to the GP that we were thinking about trying for a baby. And also I asked her if she could write me a repeat prescription for my medication. She said you can’t be on medication if you’re trying for a baby or if you’re pregnant.

I got really anxious straight away. 

So once we fell pregnant, we were absolutely over the moon and I was fine. I was very excited, I was anxious. I made it up to about 20 odd weeks before I started to feel my heart palpitations coming back at work. I had to attend to some quite big meetings and I was just a mess, I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t get my words out at meetings and it was, again, escalating, escalating and escalating.

The fact that I was pregnant added to my anxiety. What was this anxiety doing to my baby? Everything came crumbling down.

I’d been googling everything. The first three months I’d been googling miscarriage. 

After that I was getting more worked up about the 20 week scan and googling the stuff that and again it was escalating. So I went to my GP and said ‘I’m anxious, I’m anxious’.

She said that they find with women on anxiety medication that when they hit the 20 week point it kind of escalates. She made me feel really, a lot better. She also said that by 20 weeks the baby is well-developed and the effect of medication generally is lessened. And she recommended a type of medication that had no impact on the baby.

I took the medication and within a week I had calmed.

I was referred at that point for the CBT too and because I was pregnant I jumped the list.

It was over the phone at first. I thought, ‘Oh, over the phone, how is that really going to work?’ But I thought it was worth a try. So I used to go in the car park at work and they’d ring me. Each session was about half an hour, 45 minutes.

I think I had about ten sessions. The lady counsellor was lovely.

At first we just discussed everything really, from childhood, teenage years, right up to the present day, so I guess she was trying to figure out at what point I was at my most anxious. Once she got a picture of my past and the present, she started to tailor a package for me.

I really, really enjoyed it. Sometimes we chatted and then at other times we’d do little quizzes. She also sent me little workbooks in the post and I’d work on them. I had a little guide book so if I was feeling anxious at work or at home, I could refer to my guide book and it would give me little pointers and tips to get through certain situations and rationalise my thoughts. 

I didn’t think it would work but to be honest I found it really helpful.

My husband Stuart, he’s amazing anyway, was very supportive and understanding. When I had my anxious thoughts, instead of telling me not to be silly he helped me rationalise my thoughts. He really calmed me, especially through pregnancy.

Pregnancy is an anxious time anyway, and for me, having a healthy pregnancy was absolutely key. I didn’t take any chances, I did everything the midwife told me to do.  I did a lot of reading on the internet but actually it helped me. I quite enjoyed reading up about certain things. Yes at times it did add to my anxiety but overall I felt equipped.

Once he’d finally arrived, we were discharged from the hospital, we were at home and it was complete whirlwind as we knew it would be. I felt absolutely over the moon. He was safe and he was beautiful and all the things I imagined it to be.

The thing that helped me the most was the support from my husband Stuart, and the midwife, my midwife was incredible.

Everybody at the doctors surgery, the GPs and midwives, they were so approachable, they really put me at ease.

If you’re struggling with anxiety in pregnancy talk to your midwife. Talk to your family, to your husband and talk to your partner.