Pre/Postnatal Anxiety - PANDAS Foundation UK




What is Pre/Postnatal Anxiety?

PerinatalAnxietyChalkAnxiety is part of normal human experience, and is a reaction to situations which we find stressful, fearful or dangerous. It is sometimes known as the fight or flight response. It is simply your body preparing for action – either to fight danger, or run away from it as fast as possible.

When you are in danger, your body reacts by providing a ‘boost’ of adrenaline into your blood stream. A certain level of anxiety is normal, and can keep us away from dangerous situations. However, anxiety becomes a problem when it is severe, or inappropriate, and affects your quality of life. It can make you believe that a situation is worse than it actually is.

Anxiety disorders are common:

13% of pregnant mums experience prenatal anxiety*

We surveyed just over 1,000 parents, 52% said they had experienced Postnatal Anxiety**


What are the Symptoms of Pre/Postnatal Anxiety?

Anxiety can affect us in at least four different ways:

Feelings Thoughts
Anxious, Nervous, Worried
Feeling that something bad will happen
Tense, Stressed, ‘On Edge’, Unsettled
Unreal, strange, woozy, detached
Constant Worrying
Can’t Concentrate
Racing thoughts
Mind jumping
Imagining the worse
Actions Physical Reactions
Starting jobs and not finishing them
Can’t sit still and relax
Always on the go
Speaking quickly or more than usual
Snappy or irritable behaviour
Drinking or smoking more
Changing in eating habits
Rapid Pulse, tight chest
Sweating or flushing
Feeling lightheaded
Muscle tension
Tiredness or weakness
Nausea, loss of appetite



There may be many reasons why someone becomes anxious. Anxiety symptoms are common among Pre or Postnatal mental illnesses, and can also be linked to Depression, OCD, or PTSD.

· Some people may have an anxious personality

· Others may have a series of stressful life events to cope with, which can be the birth of a son/daughter

· Others may be under pressure at work or home, with family or financial problems

· Having a traumatic birth or illness in pregnancy can cause Health Anxiety


Treatments for Pre/Postnatal Anxiety

There are a few different approaches to helping people with anxiety

  • Talking therapies
  • Medicines
  • Self help

Talking therapies

The common therapy used by the NHS is Cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT. Many areas of the UK offer self-referral for talking therapies. Visit the NHS website here to see if there are any available in your area.


Speak to your GP or healthcare provider about medications available to help treat the symptoms of anxiety.

Self help


Mindfulness is about paying more attention to your surroundings and self, in order to relax and destress. You can find our more about mindfulness on NHS choices, and visit our special Self Care pages for resources, videos, and links. Find it HERE.

Controlled Breathing

Over breathing is very common when someone becomes anxious. Try to recognise if you are doing this and slow your breathing down. Getting into a regular rhythm of in two three and out two three will soon return your breathing to normal. Some people find it helpful to breath into a paper bag or by cupping your hands to help your breathing.


If you take your mind off your symptoms they often disappear. Try to look around you and look at them in detail for example registration numbers, what sort of shoes people are wearing. Try to do this for at least three minutes before symptoms will begin to reduce.


Once a vicious circle has developed, lots of anxious thoughts increase the anxiety symptoms. Trying to avoid places or situations that will make you feel anxious can be very inconvenient and difficult. This sort of avoidance can result in a great loss of confidence. But building up the tolerance in small steps will help overcome avoidance altogether.


Support for Pre/Postnatal Anxiety

Your family and friends can play a big part in helping your recovery, for them to be able to help it is important you are honest with your friends and family about how you are feeling, and don’t bottle up your emotions as this can cause tension. Allow them to carry out small tasks for you, such as house work, taking your baby for a walk, or simply looking after your baby for one hour every other day to allow you to do something you want. It is important you allow yourself to have some ‘me time’.

Self-help groups can offer you good advice and support on how to cope with anxiety as well as comfort to know that other mums are feeling the same as you, hearing other individuals experiences of anxiety as part of their postnatal depression can be a huge benefit, as you will be able to discuss techniques on how to cope, and have an understanding of each other’s feelings. PANDAS Support Groups offer just that, in a non-judgemental, safe environment.

The most important support aid you can have is being able to talk to someone and be honest about your feelings and emotions.  Ensure you write down on a piece of paper or a notebook the numbers of people you can call when you are feeling your worst, and make sure the list is readily available, so if you feel you are becoming aggressive, upset, angry or anxious you can call someone and know that you are not on your own. You can add PANDAS Help Line on your list 0843 28 98 401, and we will always be here to listen.





*PANDAS Big Survey, 2016

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