If ever there is a time that anxiety can surface, pregnancy is a biggie. All of sudden you have so many more things to worry about. Can you feel your baby move? Are you eating the right things for you and baby? Are you thinking the right things? Are you getting enough exercise and of the right kind? Are you sleeping on the right side of your body? Your mind can really start to over-think things.
In Chinese medicine, over-thinking is said to arise for a few possible reasons, all of which, if supported and re-balanced, can help in reducing anxiety in pregnancy:
- Spleen Qi Xu
- Heart Qi Xu
- Liver Qi Stagnation
The Role of Spleen in Pregnancy Anxiety
Spleen Qi Xu – what’s that?! Yeah I know, it does sound strange. It literally means Spleen Energy Deficiency and this relates to having a weak digestive system.
Taking antibiotics a lot can bring this on, as can long-term steroid use and taking any prescription drugs for a long period as they can have an adverse effect on your gut. It can also arise from over-thinking (funnily enough).
The symptoms you could experience if you do have this imbalance include looser bowel movements, feeling low in energy, fatigue, a foggy head or a head that doesn’t stop thinking. When the Spleen is deficient you can also suffer from skin problems like acne and red rashes. Longer-term problems can flare up like eczema, psoriasis and dandruff. You could feel dizzier than usual as well with a weak digestive system so it will be important for you to eat food that helps to make more Blood – that means protein. Having a little protein at every meal can go a long way to decreasing that dizzy feeling.
The Role of Heart in Pregnancy Anxiety
Heart Qi Xu literally translates as Heart Energy Deficiency. Things like an emotional shock can bring this sort of thing on. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be shock though, it can also be lingering anxiety that you had prior to pregnancy that can intensify when you are pregnant.
If you have Heart Energy Deficiency your symptoms might include disturbed sleep, tiredness, heart palpitations, dizziness, not being able to rest your mind. You might feel like you’re all in your head and not so connected to your body.
It may be hard to get to sleep or stay asleep for long periods. It’s complicated in pregnancy though as the further along you are, these things tend to happen anyway and it’s important to figure out what the cause is. Is it because you’re physically uncomfortable or is it more emotional? Deciphering this will be a big win for you and ultimately your bub, as you’ll be much happier and more rested as a result.
The Role of Liver Stagnation in Pregnancy Anxiety
The Liver Qi Stagnation pattern involves elements of both digestive and emotional influences. If this pattern is stronger in you, you’ll be more on the constipated side of things and have a tendency to feel frustrated and angry. You’ll have less patience. You’ll be the person who likes to sit up straight in the chair versus the Spleen-deficient person who more wants to sink into a sofa and not get up. Your muscles, joints and tendons will be tighter in general, whereas the Spleen-deficient person feels more floppy.
Reducing Pregnancy Anxiety
According to Chinese medicine, anxiety is different according to the underlying pattern that it stems from. Rebalancing that underlying pattern will help enormously with how you feel mentally. I would also recommend talking to a counsellor or qualified therapist to sort out your patterns of thinking that you may not be aware of as it’s great to have a good grasp of yourself before you enter birthing – and the big one, parenthood.
From a scientific point of view, a lot more is now known about the important link between gut health and your brain. When your gut is healthy and in balance in terms of the good bacterial colonies in there, then your brain is happier and healthier too and you’ll feel better and more positive. This is one of many recent studies into the link between gut health and mental health.
I love that Chinese medicine noted those associations way back then…2500 years ago kinda thing… that to me is very cool indeed. They were onto something when they said the foundation of health can be found in your gut – well, technically they said your Spleen which we wouldn’t agree with literally of course but it relates to that whole idea of digestion when you look into it and translate everything.
Clearing up your gut, looking at your diet, improving your good bacteria and having some acupuncture will all help to rebalance you so your pregnancy anxiety will lessen and you can get that pregnancy glow you hear about – inside and out!
Some more gut-brain research to sink your scientific self into:
Read about pregnancy acupuncture at Red Tent.
Read more about pregnancy anxiety.