Worrying for Two (or Three)
I had my first ultrasound scan when I was 12 weeks pregnant. I scheduled an hour off work, and walked across the road to the ultrasound clinic. I was feeling excited and nervous, and met my husband there who had taken a couple hours off work. The sonographer called my name in, and I remembered that she was a straight-up kind of person; not overly friendly but strictly business. For her, I was just another bump. As she put the cold gel and moved the stick around my tummy, she helpfully labelled the blurry shapes that we saw on the tv in front of us. “Here are two arms and two legs”, she said factually. My husband and I ooh-ed and aah-ed, and I thought “Wow, how amazing is that there are two arms and two legs in my stomach!”.
Then the sonographer moved the stick to the other side of my belly and said, “Here are another two arms and two legs”
My husband didn’t say anything.
There was silence in the room.
I turned around to her and let out a ‘please-tell-me-you’re-joking-laugh’, “That’s because we’re seeing the same baby from a different angle, right?”
The sonographer looked at me with furrowed brows and quizzical look, “No, that’s because you have two babies in there”. She looked at me with a “D-oh” look; how many babies do you think you have if there are two sets of arms and legs?
I started crying – not from happiness but from shock. The idea of having twins never crossed either of our minds. My husband and I do not have any twins on either side of our families, we didn’t do IVF, and we weren’t particularly old that would increase our chance of having multiples.
We walked out of the ultrasound clinic and went straight to get coffee at the café next door. We were in a state of shock, and fluctuated between denial and disbelief throughout the rest of my pregnancy. To be honest I didn’t have the joyful pregnancy that I thought I would be having. There was an undercurrent of anxiety and thoughts of “Crap, how are we going to handle two babies?”, “How are we going to get enough sleep?” and “What???”
Feeling anxious during pregnancy is very common for mums, especially first-time mums. It’s all new to you, and there’s so much to think about and to prepare. For some mums, they dive straight into the list of things to buy, in order to feel more prepared and control for the pregnancy and the massive change in their life. My husband and I certainly did this, as he meticulously researched different pram options, their different widths (to make sure that we can take the pram through standard doorways and buses), and pros and cons of different configurations. Meanwhile I borrowed lots of books from the library and read up on everything about twins – because more knowledge is power right?
While feeling anxious and worried is common and normal during pregnancy, for some mums-to-be and mums their anxiety and worry can be so overwhelming and overpowering that it affects their life significantly, and cause significant distress. When it gets to this point - it may be an anxiety disorder. Antenatal anxiety disorder can affect 1 in 5 pregnant women.
Antenatal anxiety disorders are often missed as symptoms may be explained as pregnancy symptoms such as feeling restless, irritable, feeling tense in your muscle and tight in your chest.
Everyone is different but here are some anxiety symptoms to be aware of:
- Worrying thoughts that keep coming into your mind that are intrusive, excessive and affects your functioning at work, relationships and other areas of your life. Worried thoughts may be focused on the health and well-being of your baby or more general areas.
- Worrying so much that you are worried that your worries may be causing harm to yourself or to your baby or worrying that you’re not worrying enough (e.g. “Worrying about worrying”)
- Panic attacks -these are episodes of extreme fear and panic that affects your body (e.g. heart racing, sweating, shaking, rapid breathing, trembling), your thoughts (e.g. “I’m having a heart attack” or “I’m going to die”) and your perceptions (e.g. feelings of unreality or detachment)
- Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
- Being easily annoyed or irritated
- Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
- Muscle tension
- Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep)
If you have some of the symptoms above, it’s best to talk to your GP or maternity care provider such as your midwife or obstetrician. They will need to rule out physical conditions first. However, if everything is good on your physical health front, but you are still feeling significantly anxious, worried or distressed then you may need to be screened for antenatal anxiety disorder. Ask your GP or midwife, or book a 15-minute consult with me via Zoom below.