Pregnancy is an emotional time, especially for first time mothers. Anxiety in expectant mothers is common yet much can be done to help ease the feelings of uncertainty. While a moderate amount of fear and worrying is normal, if anxiety is becoming overwhelming, it can be a positive step to learn how to identify anxiety and methods of how to manage it.
More than half of mother’s experience anxiety, symptoms can range from mental, emotional and physical, and can present in the form of increased heart rate, tight chest, muscle tension, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating and focusing, forgetfulness, avoiding particular activities, situations, places, and people, and being overly cautious.
Herbs and Minerals For Anxiety
Magnesium is an important mineral, especially in pregnancy where it can reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia as well as increase birth weight. Magnesium also plays an important role in the health of the nervous system with studies showing that magnesium has anxiolytic effects. Magnesium also helps to down regulate the body’s central stress response system, the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA axis), which can result in the body being less reactive to stress.
Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata) has been used in traditional herbal medicine to help treat anxiety, insomnia, and to promote relaxation. Passion Flower increases levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, GABA is an amino acid that works like a neurotransmitter to help calm the nervous system.
Skullcap Leaf (Scutellaria lateriflora) has been used in traditional herbal medicine for nervous tension, anxiety, and insomnia as it is calming to the nervous and muscular systems. Skullcap Leaf is highly indicated in those with racing thoughts, exposed to prolonged periods of stress,and those who feel like their nerves are constantly on edge.
Lifestyle Modifications to Help Manage Anxiety
- Breath-awareness, body-scanning, and gentle Hatha yoga have been shown to reduce anxiety symptoms
- Increasing effective communication with partners, family, and social circles to foster positive connections has been associated with less anxiety during pregnancy
Anxiety can manifest in different ways, many women experience absent mindedness and forgetfulness, which is known as “momnesia” or more commonly as pregnancy or baby brain. Anxiety along with hormonal changes and sleep deprivation can affect mental capacity, impairing mother-to-be’s ability to concentrate and remember even the smallest events and details. This can result in forgetting why you walked into a room, leaving objects in unusually places, and forgetting whether you locked the door.
Brain Boosting Nutrients
Omega 3’s, namely long chained essential fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoicacid) and eicosapentaenoicacid (EPA) are essential for brain health and have been shown to help improve memory. Daily requirements for omega-3 fatty acids are increased during pregnancy and can help support the growth of baby’s brain and tissues.
An adequate intake of Choline is also important during pregnancy as it supports cognitive function within with brain. Choline is the precursor for acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter involved with cognitive function and memory. Acetylcholine supports working memory, long-term memory, in addition to memory consolidation and retrieval. The importance of chlorine intake in pregnancy is being increasing recognised with The American Medical Association (AMA) in 2017 published new advice stating that prenatal vitamin supplements should contain ‘evidence-based’ amounts of choline.
Lifestyle Changes to Help Manage Pregnancy Brain
- Having a To-Do list
- Set reminders, many phones, laptops and tablets will have an app to keep track of tasks that need to be completed
- Leave post it notes around the home or office to jog your memory
- Setting an alarm if a task needs to be done at a certain time
- Delegate to others to help lighten your load
Lesley O’Connor, BHSc is a certified senior herbalist at Finlandia’s own herbal dispensary. Lesley has a special interest in women’s health, especially postpartum care, and believes that all women should have access to emotional, physical and social support during the postnatal period.
Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only. Please seek medical advice and treatment in case of illness. If you are pregnant or suffer from any illness, please seek advice from your healthcare provider regarding these or any supplements and herbs you may want to take.