Learning not to worry during pregnancy

Guest post by Camilla Wells
Painting while pregnant?! Oh noooo! ;)
Painting while pregnant?! Oh noooo! 😉

I was an unstable person in early pregnancy. I sweated over every symptom I did — or did not — experience. Constantly anxious, I fretted that my breasts weren’t tender enough, that I was nauseous but not throwing up, that I was tired but not that tired, or that the back pain I had was just a little too intense. I googled every symptom and inevitably ended up on some page with multiple posts from women who had symptoms just like mine … and miscarried four days later. I was also worried that I would screw up. I thought that I would exercise too much (ha — that hasn’t happened yet), I wouldn’t exercise enough (more likely), I would drink caffeine and hurt my child, I would eat Chipotle too often and have too much sodium in my system, I would paint the nursery and the fumes would cause some strange deformity, or I would eat some lunch meat and get listeriosis.

When faced with some minor spotting (which is normal in 1/3 of pregnancies, according to The Mayo Clinic Guide to Pregnancy), I finagled my way into a viability ultrasound (at five weeks!) and gladly signed up for another one at nine weeks. My new doctor, the chill one, was all like, “Why’d you have so many ultrasounds?” when I saw him for the first time. Um, because I’m nuts?

Camilla and her one-a-day diet soda.
When I got to my second trimester, I started a no-worrying campaign. I decided not to look on any more internet sites with editorial comments from grieving women. I made a vow not to worry about every little thing that the pregnancy books tell you to do or not do. And you know what? It has been tremendously liberating.
Along with this liberation, I have adopted Pregnancy Vices, for which I am sometimes repudiated, and gleefully, I ignore those who would doubt me.

These are my confessions:
• I drink one diet soda a day. Okay, I drink two sometimes. I counteract them with water, lots of milk, and ice cream (I hear ice cream replaces the calcium that the soda leaches from your bones … ha!)
• I take a walk when I feel like it, but sometimes I don’t. This weekend, I skipped prenatal yoga.
• I take Tylenol when I have a headache.
• I took Alavert during the week or two I had allergies.
• I use face wash with salicylic acid. It helps the preggo acne.
• I use whitening toothpaste sometimes.
• This weekend, I painted. I got paint that was low-VOC, but not no-VOC. Yep. I feel no worse for the wear, and the baby is kicking just as hard as ever. I do think that if you DRINK like, oil paint or something that you might hurt your little one. But all the stuff about paint is just way over-hyped. I’m glad my living room is Tawny Birch, and not dingy gray anymore.
• I’ve eaten at Wendy’s twice. It was delicious.
• At my work retreat, I drank a beer. At a friend’s house, I had a glass of wine.
• Sometimes I substitute green vegetables with those green smoothies from Odwalla or Naked. They have blue green algae and wheat grass and stuff. So, that’s like vegetables, right?
• Yes, I do eat lunch meat. I make sure its fresh, and then I eat it. And it’s a good thing.
• Tonight, I had pizza. With bacon on it.

I hope to extend this philosophy to my child-rearing. I think a person can over-think things too much — it hurts your psyche, and you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of a baby. I feel more confident since I stopped worrying so much, and I think the same thing will be true when the baby is born. You can’t do all of the right things all of the time, and you can’t beat yourself up when you don’t accomplish all that you’ve wanted. You can’t worry over every symptom, or overreact when your child meets a milestone a month later than he or she should. If you spend your life sweating the small stuff, you aren’t really living, and what kind of message does that send to your child? I know I’ll always be a worrier, so I’m glad I learned this lesson early.

Comments on Learning not to worry during pregnancy

  1. I think with the advent of ultrasound scans, pregnancy tests that are effective before your period and the like, our generation is unique in that the baby is in our scope earlier than what our mothers and grandmothers went through, which adds to the pressure of the responsibility we have for it – and subsequently the pressure we put on ourselves to do things the ‘right’ way, sometimes before conception has even occurred.

    I think that given the worldwide variation in what women do/don’t do during pregnancy shows that the babies come out alright in the end!

  2. I definitely struggle with the worrying aspect of what is and isn’t safe. Google can be awesome, and it can also be the worst thing ever. It is nice to see that others have the same struggles and have been able to overcome the paranoia!

  3. If I hear one more person gasp when they hear I’ve been painting I’m going to punch them! 🙂 I’ve adopted a very relaxed (yet responsible) approach to pregnancy and I intend to carry it into parenthood. Great post- I’ve accomplished that entire list! 🙂

  4. I am so glad I read this. I was sobbing last night because a pain on the side of my abdomen, so I went to the doctor this morning because I thought I had an ectopic pregnancy. He laughed at me and said that there was no way I would be this calm (and not puking) if I did so it’s just muscular. Whoops.

    I, too, have decided that googling is not a good way to find reliable info. Everyone has an opinion on what you’re doing wrong so I’m just taking it in stride now. I feel much better after reading the pregnancy chapter of “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom” by Dr Christiane Northrup if anyone is looking for a non-alarmist and semi-holistic doctor’s opinion I’d suggest having a look. 🙂

  5. Pheew! I have been totally worried. I had a miscarriage earlier this year. Then, I got pregnant right away. I was told to wait two months to try. I tried after one figuring it would take a while. WRONG. I have been worried ever since. I drink my one cup of coffee a day but try to avoid the rest. Dreaming of wine, brie, blue cheese and lunch meat. I do take unisom as I have nausea and severe insomnia. I have a stepson with ADHD so just a constant worrier. I dont know where it came from. I am 23 weeks and now worried if my baby is normal. SIGH. Trying to meditate more and relax. The internet can be friend and foe. Trying to learn to take a chill pill. My fiance is so relaxed about stuff. I wish i was 🙂

  6. I love this article! I was the same way with my first pregnancy. I worried about everything! I would have panic attacks about certain symptoms that I thought were life threatening when they weren’t. I would have anxiety about every little thing. Ladies – do not stress! Your body will react to it. With me I ended up getting shingles and later boils under my armpits. When you stress your immune system is weakened and your body can react to it. After all that I am now 30 weeks pregnant and my baby is currently healthy and kicking a lot! I just have 10 more weeks to go and can’t wait – but what I did learn is not to stress…trust your body and your instincts….let nature take its course..pregnancy is natural and beautiful!

  7. Thank you thank you thank you for writing this!! I am just about to start the second trimester- a time when I should be relaxing a little…however I’ve been consumed with worry from day 1…that something could go wrong or I would eat, drink, or do something to jeopardize things…Reading all the comments has really helped me chill a little and remember this is out of my control…I too had some spotting week 8 which totally freaked me out and I think that’s the main source of my anxiety…anyone else experience that but go on to have normal pregnancies? My dr. isn’t worried so I’m trying to learn how to relax mentally and just enjoy the next few months. Best of luck to everyone 🙂

  8. Thank you so much for posting this – I’m a natural worrier, and I’ve convinced myself that I’m doing everything wrong and because of that, I’m going to miscarry.

    So thank you again – I needed this.

  9. I’m only 7 weeks and I literally worry about everything. In fact, I came across this page after googling “how not to worry in the first trimester.” I worry about not eating & when I give in and eat what I crave (which has mostly been pizza or pasta,) I feel horrendously guilty. I do want to be healthy but I also want to be healthy. I’ve already heard a heartbeat which supposedly drops miscarriage risk a lot, and before I found out I was pregnant I ate deli meat, drank and even took diet pills and my baby is still fine. I just can not help worrrying. I wish i could be as carefree as this. Hopefully I get there soon! Its already inspired me to give deli meat a try..maybe.

  10. Great post….. I am 36 weeks pregnant and have a happy, healthy 3 year old….. And I have worried my way through both pregnancies.
    Wish I would have read your post earlier…… I think I inherited my tendancy to worry about EVERYTHING from my mum…… And I am determined not to pass it onto my little ones…..
    Gonna try and chill out and enjoy the last month of my pregnancy!

  11. I know I’m really only a handful of weeks along, I’ve already started the worry process. “I had half a Coke!” (Trying to wean off). “I’m not nauseous enough!” “I’m too exhausted at this early stage” “Am I going to feel like this the entire time?” etc etc etc.
    I’ve been reading way too many bulletin boards about women not telling people early because more often than not, there’s a miscarriage.
    OK. So don’t tell anyone because basically I’m not mom material right now. It’s “nice” to hear that I’m not the only worry wart. I hope I get over this by week 12.You know, when you’re “allowed” to tell everyone.

  12. Dude. Thank you for this. This is my second pregnancy, and even the first time around I was like FUCK ALL Y’ALL TELLING ME THIS RIDICULOUS SHIT. YOU DON’T KNOW ME Y’ALL DON’T LIVE MY LIFE. I was absolutely appalled when I someone told me I shouldn’t eat lunch meat. I literally PFFFED in their face.

    My fuck off manifesto:

    -I eat sushi. All the time. Raw ocean fish. I crave the hell out of raw tuna (I’m more cautious with high mercury fish due to the mercury content, so I only do once a week at most). You think they tell Japanese women to not eat sushi during their pregnancy? Doctors encourage women to eat raw fish in their pregnancies in Japan (I know, I lived there as a teenager.) I’ve read a few articles recently that have affirmed that the worry about eating raw ocean fish in pregnancy is even less a risk than eating bagged spinach, which carries an even higher chance of foodborne illness. And even if it WASN’T: my choice. I had to tell a waiter off last time by asking him if he was my doctor or not. I pfffed in his face, too.

    -I also take acetaminophen and sometimes ibuprofen, because I suffer from really, really bad headaches (which other meds I’ve tried don’t touch). Ibuprofen is not a more serious risk until the third trimester, and then I avoid it.

    -I’m taking ondansetron for severe morning sickness, as well as two drugs for depression that slightly raise the chances of birth defect. The benefits absolutely, absolutely outweigh the risks in my case.

    -I’m too sick and tired to exercise because of the severe morning sickness. And whatever.

    -I drank a moderate amount of coffee last time. Now I can’t drink it at all due to gastrointestinal issues, but I would do it again if I could.

    -I eat the hell out of stinky soft cheese.

    -Last time I didn’t drink at all. This time, I will drink a glass of champagne or wine once in a great while in 2nd and 3rd trimester. Usually I go on a low-key bender with my husband and MIL during Christmas. This, I swear, I will avoid this year.

    By the logic of what they tell pregnant women not to eat and what to do, they should be telling us to never drive, because there is literally nothing more dangerous than that on the daily. And not to mention the insanely lax chemical regulations in this country (considered safe until proven not safe aka human guinea pigs), half of the products you’re using have dangerous chemicals in them, including your couch, your mattress, your cosmetics; EVERYTHING. Johnson’s baby wash, for instance, was independently tested and proven to have formaldehyde in it in 2012. Because profit and who cares until there’s a lawsuit.

    I really honestly believe most of this shit is an easy way to control women’s choices and behavior. Alcohol, nah, that definitely causes FAS. The rest of it is out of control, and I ain’t playing. They might as well be telling us to lock ourselves in a damn bubble.

    I mean, if you’re really cautious in pregnancy, I’m not judging you, that’s totally your prerogative. You’re all good.–I just am very skeptical and always do my own scholarly research when anyone tells me what I should and shouldn’t do with my own body.

    And EXCUSE ME what is this thing about pizza?!?!?!?????!!!1111 NO. (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

  13. I’m well into my third trimester and I’ve “given up” a lot of things since I found out I was pregnant, because I’m a paranoid nervous person. My 3-4 cup of caffeinated tea a day habit turned into one, I haven’t eaten cold cuts, I avoid sushi and non-pasturized dairy. But those things aren’t huge losses and they help me sleep at night. That’s my choice.

    But when other people want to make choices for me? Please just stop. I teach – and plan to do so until the day I deliver – and if one more person stops by my room and tells me I can’t move desks…or I need better shoes…or I should take time off now…we may have an issue. Let me make my own decisions about what’s best for me and my baby.

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