Read the previous part of the article: Impacts of Perinatal Anxiety

Indeed, personal factors can predispose the development of anxiety during pregnancy or after childbirth.

  1. Biological, hormonal and physical changes
  2. Difficult life experiences and events
  3. Previous personal history of anxiety or emotional difficulties

1. Biological, hormonal and physical changes

Research has shown contradictory results about the effects of certain hormones on anxiety. It suggests that some women are highly sensitive to sudden changes in hormones, which will bring on more negative emotions.

Physically, women experience an increase in their heart rate. Also, as the uterus grows, it pushes on the diaphragm, which leads to shorter breath and difficulty breathing. Women that are sensitive to these symptoms can erroneously label them as danger signs or signs that their emotional state is becoming worse, which leads to anxiety.

2. Certain difficult life experiences or events

Certain traumatic events, like sexual abuse, perinatal loss or miscarriages can also predispose anxiety.

3. Previous personal history of anxiety or emotional difficulties

Most studies conclude that a previous personal history of anxiety or emotional difficulties is a recurring risk factor for the development of perinatal anxiety.

This supports the idea that previous psychological vulnerabilities can be reactivated during this period of life. This doesn’t necessarily mean that anxiety disorders were present in the past. Some developed vulnerabilities can affect how you react, think or manage your emotions.

During the perinatal period, we sometimes see people that tend to think that nothing works, that something negative will always happen. Generally, they can even have a very negative attitude about possible complications or problems, pessimistic thoughts. In other words, during life, some people develop a lower level of tolerance for uncertainty. Because the perinatal period is full of uncertainty, new things, changes and unexpected events, the parent is less able to tolerate these uncertainties, which will make them worry more, and they can become obsessed with specific issues. All this can reactivate vulnerabilities or expose them in this period full of challenges to overcome.

For example, a parent can have very high demands, perfectionist, for themselves and for others around them, or is someone who is never wrong (dysfunctional perfectionism). This parent will likely never be satisfied with their efforts. They have overly high and unacceptable standards for themselves and others. Consequently, their thoughts and behaviours regarding anxiety will be more present.

If the parent looks at life through a filter of intolerance of uncertainty, perfectionism or sensitivity to anxiety, they will strongly react to the stages and the stresses during the perinatal period. Once activated, these vulnerabilities can continue and become more and more automatic, which helps sustain the anxiety.

Continue reading: Perinatal Anxiety in Men and Women.

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