Becoming a parent is a very important transition in life. Even if you really wanted to welcome a baby in your life, you’re quickly faced with many unknowns. You’ll face questions, concerns that sometimes come without answers. We lose control of many things, like a woman during pregnancy, with all her physiological, body and hormonal changes. Each day we learn to function with different symptoms throughout gestation, then with our children. It requires continual adaptation, shuffling our daily life during each stage.

Based on current literature, a high degree of anxiety is experienced during the perinatal period, twice as much as usual. This is even higher for women. One person in four will have symptoms associated with anxiety during this period, upsetting their lives. It’s often argued that future anxiety symptoms are due to this stage. The signs are more frequent and intense for people who are already experiencing anxiety about becoming parents. For some people, becoming parents is harder to take than for others. Anxiety is a persistent problem, but we don’t know a lot about it.

Anxiety can take on many shapes and forms, both for future mothers and fathers. In this sense, this educational entry is crucial for helping prospective parents better understand the phenomenon. Anxiety can still be taboo and misunderstood. We need to identify it better and help you get the appropriate support as required.

In this article:

Becoming parents, not always easy!

You might say to me that it’s normal to experience anxiety in the period surrounding the arrival of a baby, in the face of this great unknown. Well, yes! Of course. How can you distinguish if the anxiety that you’re experiencing is normal or excessive? This is another thing you should consider.

Little scientific work today examines the phenomenon of anxiety during the perinatal period. You shouldn’t be surprised to know that even less information is available about the experience of men becoming a father than women becoming a mother. Gabriel Grenier-Mélançon is a father and currently completing his doctorate in psychology. He studies this period as a researcher in the Department of Psychology at the Université de Sherbrooke. Karen Chabot is a sexologist. She wants to help people during the perinatal period, so she decided to orient her career towards a doctorate in psychology, studying the question of anxiety in both women and men. Both will help me provide you with the most relevant information to help you through this stage.

In this article, we will look at the definition of anxiety, anxiety in men and women, the different forms of anxiety, potential consequences and the support services that are available to help you.

Definition of Anxiety

Anxiety has no clear definition in a perinatal context.

The term “anxiety” is often used to group a series of phenomena like fear, stress, worries, concerns, panic, and anguish.

When a parent talks about their anxiety and what they’re feeling, they often talk about these aspects generally to describe the discomfort they’re experiencing. Many mothers and fathers report feeling stress or anxiety at different levels starting in the first trimester of pregnancy or following childbirth. Many anxiety triggers are set off in this period of life. It can be a situation, for example, a parent that is worried about their child’s potentially declining health, or a parent that is worried because they will have lower available income after the child’s arrival. It can also be a feared situation, such as the fear of illness in yourself or your child, the fear of future financial problems, the fear of problems in the couple, etc. It can also be uncertainty itself, the fact of not knowing or being able to control everything.

Other people talk in terms of worries or concerns: “I’m really concerned about my health,” “I’m scared of the delivery,” “I’m scared of dying.”

Others will feel a general dread that something negative and unknown will happen, like for example that the baby won’t get enough oxygen.

Finally, others describe their anxiety in terms of physical and somatic problems like tension, apprehension, a feeling of always being on alert and having anxiety attacks.

Generally, anxiety is a “state” characterised by the dreading of a negative situation/consequence involving a real or anticipated danger. This state of anxiety can be observed based on four main levels:

  • Emotional, meaning feeling anxious, internally agitated, irritable, with anger as a secondary emotion
  • Physiological, like muscle tension, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pains
  • Cognitive, which refers more to thoughts, such as worries, obsessions, the fear of dying or losing control
  • Behavioural, where we avoid places or situations because of the fear of feeling bad, overprotecting the child, controlling their environment

Continue to the next part of this entry: Worries and Levels of Anxiety.

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