Featured Mental health Pregnancy

Anxious and Pregnant? You’re not alone

Written by Marie Sanderson

May 4 is World Maternal Mental Health Day. Anxiety and depression with anxiety affect about three in every five pregnancies. These mental health issues can start in pregnancy and can continue after your baby is born.

There is hope, and treatment, for anxiety during pregnancy.

A new study – Treating Anxiety in Pregnancy (TAP) – by Sunnybrook Research Institute and Women’s College Research Institute is looking at a type of talk therapy called Mindful Adaptive Practice in Pregnancy to determine how the treatment works in reducing anxiety. If you are 18 years of age or older, live in Ontario and are between 12 and 30 weeks of pregnancy, you may be eligible to participate.

Dr. Sophie Grigoriadis, Head of Sunnybrook’s Women’s Mood and Anxiety Clinic: Reproductive Transitions, answers questions related to pregnancy and anxiety, and about the study.

I’m pregnant and feeling quite anxious and overwhelmed. What should I do?

Don’t keep it to yourself. Talk to your family doctor, midwife or obstetrician. There is help available.

What will my doctor or midwife do when I reveal my anxiety?

Your health care provider will use screening tools and ask you questions like:

  • How are you sleeping? How’s your appetite? Can you focus and concentrate?
  • Are you getting pleasure out of any activities, or is everything overwhelming? Are you thinking of harming yourself?

How will my anxiety be treated?

There are different approaches to treating anxiety during pregnancy. These include community resources like support groups and apps to connect you with techniques for reducing anxiety. Your family physician, obstetrician or midwife may also refer you to a psychiatrist. Following a psychiatric consultation, you may be given resources and may be further referred for individual or group psychotherapy. Medication is reserved for moderate to severe anxiety in those diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or depressive disorder with prominent anxiety.

What’s involved if I’m selected for the TAP study?

Our team has adapted a talk therapy treatment called Mindful Adaptive Practice in Pregnancy, which can help women who are pregnant learn how to reduce their anxiety very quickly. It is an exciting and innovative treatment because it is:

  • Ultra-brief in duration (one month)
  • Specific to pregnancy
  • Delivered in a group format
  • Provided over the internet and done from home

What is talk therapy?

“Talk therapy” is also sometimes called psychotherapy. It’s a term for a variety of treatment techniques that aim to help you identify and change troubling emotions, thoughts, and behaviour. Talk therapy is recommended to treat mental health problems but some treatments are not often utilized because they take time to learn and use. The pandemic has added another layer of burden because in-person treatment is not routinely available.

Have questions about the TAP study and eligibility? Please contact our research assistant, Morgan Sterling at morgan.sterling@sunnybrook.ca.

About the author

Marie Sanderson

Marie Sanderson is a Senior Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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