Anxiety when expecting a baby

Hello everyone.

This blog entry is the first written by a guest author. We have Jenni Shaw talking about pregnancy-related anxiety, and her research on the subject. Enjoy....


As I am new here, a little bit about me: my name is Jenni Shaw and I am a Trainee Clinical Psychologist at the University of Surrey in Guildford, Surrey. That means that I have already completed an undergraduate degree in Psychology and have had several years of work experience in mental health services before starting the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Training Programme. I work with all sorts of people experiencing all sorts of difficulties, but my main areas of interest are child and adolescent mental health, perinatal and postnatal mental health. As part of the doctoral training I am undertaking a piece of clinically relevant research. I have chosen to research symptoms and causes of anxiety in people expecting a baby (men and women).

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a very normal experience and I’m sure that everyone reading this has experienced anxiety and worry at some point in their lives. Sometimes a bit of anxiety can be helpful; it can make us revise for important exams or make us leave a situation if we feel threatened. However, more than 1 in 10 people are likely to have a ‘disabling anxiety disorder’ at some stage in their life (1). These disorders represent anxiety at the severe end of the severity spectrum and include panic attacks, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), social anxiety or specific phobias.

What about anxiety disorders during pregnancy?

Even though we don’t hear that much in the media about anxiety disorders during pregnancy, they are actually more commonly experienced than depression (2). Some research has found that 5-16% of women struggle with an anxiety disorder during pregnancy and the post-partum (3) (the period just after birth). These numbers don’t even include all of the fathers-to-be that have similar anxiety or the people who have anxiety below the ‘anxiety disorder’ level.  The good news is that there are effective treatments available for anxiety disorders, including Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) (2, 4).

So… why do we need more research?

Although there has been a lot of research into the prevalence of and treatment for anxiety during pregnancy and the post-partum, there is very little research into the causes of anxiety or why some people experience it and some don’t.  This is vital information because if we knew more about the reasons why anxiety develops, we may be able to put more resources into prevention. That is why I have decided to focus on this in my research. I am currently recruiting people expecting a baby (men and women) to complete some questionnaires on two occasions; once during pregnancy and once after the birth. The information gathered will hopefully give us more information about the reasons why some people develop symptoms of anxiety and some don’t. I am trying to get as many people as possible to take part in the research so we get some meaningful results.

If you or someone you know may be interested in taking part in this research you can look at more information here:

Alternatively, you can email me on

What should I do if I am feeling anxious?

If you or someone you know are feeling particularly anxious, it is important that you contact your General Practitioner (GP) for some advice. They should be able to refer you on to an appropriate service for talking therapy. There are also many self-help books available that you can work through independently. One general book that I have found helpful is ‘Overcoming Anxiety: A Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioural Techniques’ by Helen Kennerley. If you are looking for something specifically for pregnancy and the postpartum you could look at ‘The Pregnancy and Postpartum Anxiety Workbook: Practical Skills to Help You Overcome Anxiety, Worry, Panic Attacks, Obsessions and Compulsions’ by Wiegartz and Gyoerkoe.

Any thoughts and comments would be appreciated.

Thanks for reading!



(1) Ehlers, A. ‘Anxiety disorders: Challenging negative thinking.’ Quoted in the Wellcome Trust Reviews, 1997.

(2) Tartakovsky, M. (2012). 4 Facts About Anxiety During Pregnancy & How to Find Help. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 10, 2014, from

(3) Wiegartz, P. S. & Gyoerkoe, K.L. (2009). The Pregnancy and Postpartum Anxiety Workbook: Practical Skills to Help You Overcome Anxiety, Worry, Panic Attacks, Obsessions and Compulsions. New Harbinger Publications.

(4) Austin, M. P., Frilingos, M., Lumley, J., Hadzi-Pavlovic, D., Roncolato, W., Acland, S.,Saint, K., Segal, N. & Parker, G. (2008). Brief antenatal cognitive behaviour therapy group intervention for the prevention of postnatal depression and anxiety: a randomised controlled trial. Journal of affective disorders, 105(1), 35-44.

Add new comment