What’s the difference between stress and anxiety?

First trimester, Postnatal, Questions/answers, Second trimester, Third trimester, Your questions

Marie, I would like to know what the difference is between stress and anxiety. I have a friend who was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, and sometimes I find that the signs that she talks about are very similar to what is happening to me. Do I have an anxiety disorder too? Expecting a baby is much more complicated than I thought it would be. I am looking forward to your response. Thank you,

Anne-Lys


Dear Anne-Lys,

When faced with all the unknowns surrounding the arrival of a baby in your life, feeling stressed or worried sometimes can be very normal during pregnancy. There is no agreement about the definition of stress and anxiety when taken separately. It’s very normal if you have trouble sleeping for a few nights or feel tired sometimes.

However, the difference is that when faced with stress, some people develop anxiety. This means that the worries they frequently feel as uncontrollable have a negative impact on their daily lives — work, with their partner or their support network (family and friends).

Pregnancy is a period when many people will ask many questions, and you will experience different things during each trimester. Feeling stress and anxiety can be diagnosed at any time during this period, but even more so when feeling fragile. Unfortunately, hormones don’t protect your mental health and actually make it more vulnerable. We know that anxiety disorders are underdiagnosed because many mothers prefer hiding it as it’s a taboo, stigmatised because pregnancy is supposed to be beautiful and you’re supposed to be happy! In this light, we really shouldn’t complain if both the baby and mother are physically fine. However, what about at the psychological level?

I’m happy you asked the question because we can understand what we feel and how we can find ways to feel more peaceful. The in-utero baby does well when its mother is doing well…the baby can be affected by its mother’s feelings, such as towards natural disasters, daily stresses and conjugal violence. These factors will drastically increase the daily level of anxiety. This is why we try to protect the mother’s emotional health, which is also a good thing for the baby.

I don’t know your personal situation, and I would suggest that you talk about it with the caregiver that is monitoring your pregnancy. They’re better placed to evaluate your condition and guide you towards the right resources. If you’re really worried more than 50% of the time, this might be perinatal anxiety. I’m pleased you asked this question during your pregnancy because we can likely help you so you can better enjoy the rest of your adventure. Don’t forget to use your support network, friends, family members. They can listen to you, encourage you and reassure you when needed. That’s a fantastic gift!

You can read my article on Tokophobia, or the Fear of Childbirth (in french).

Talk soon,

Marie
The Baby Expert

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