Anxiety During Pregnancy
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Topic: Anxiety During Pregnancy
RC: Hello everyone. This is Liz Harvey coming to you from our studios in New York City where we are dedicated to bringing you cutting edge interviews from many of the leading industry professionals across the US. In today’s episode, we are speaking with Stephanie Heintzeler. Stephanie is a German educated midwife, a US educated doula and acupuncturist and she’s a certified lactation counselor. She is known as the New York Doula. Stephanie has delivered over 1,200 babies and has experience with twins, triplets, breech babies and water birth. She also works with newborn parents in their postpartum stage and holds classes and seminars for moms and dads to be. With a wealth of experience and knowledge in her field, Stephanie Heintzeler is widely considered to be one of the top doulas in the country. She is also a contributing member of our national network of industry professionals.
Today, we’re going to talk about a very important topic, what to expect in a childbirth class. Hello Stephanie. How are you today?
Stephanie Heintzeler: I’m good, thank you. How are you?
RC: I’m doing great. Thanks so much for being here.
Stephanie Heintzeler: Thanks for having me.
RC: What effects does anxiety have on the pregnant mother’s body?
Stephanie Heintzeler: Depending on how the anxiety plays out, if it’s affecting her lifestyle or if it’s affecting her sleep or just general overall anxiety during the pregnancy, it can cause a low birth weight or a premature birth, if it really affects the body. Mainly, stress and anxiety causes just a non-happy pregnancy. Mothers who are very, very anxious throughout their pregnancy, they usually don’t have a good experience. They go in labor already being stressed out, already being maybe in pain, they couldn’t sleep, they’re tired, they have back pain. I mean, all the tension in the body really, really reflects on the birth and, of course, post-partum. We do have a higher rate of post-partum depression after the birth. We know that moms who have had depression before pregnancy or during pregnancy, they often have a hugely increased risk of post-partum depression. Working with a doula can really help lower that risk and, of course, working closely with an OB or midwife to make sure, if necessary, you take medication.
RC: What are the main causes of anxiety in pregnant women?
Stephanie Heintzeler: It’s several things. It depends, again, on whether the mother had anxiety before the pregnancy, meaning depression or panic attack or general anxiety, then we need to look at what caused it before the pregnancy. Pregnancy itself causes a lot of anxiety because there’s so much changing. I mean, it’s just crazy how the body changes, like you don’t even feel your own self anymore. Maybe you notice or your doctor says something about the pregnancy, the baby isn’t growing properly, little things sometimes can cause a tremendous amount of anxiety. Nowadays, we have Zika in New York, it being in the US causes anxiety. We really need to look at is it anxiety that is related to something, is it general anxiety, is anxiety looking at the birth, is it anxiety about all the changes.
What I can say is that many parents don’t understand that the pregnancy itself is a huge change, but then they also think they need to get married or even need to move because of the pregnancy or both. Then they call two months before their due date and they’re completely exhausted and they’re completely out of place because they moved and they got married and everything happened in one month and they know they’re going to have a baby, so they’re completely lost. I can only strongly recommend to try to avoid getting married, as beautiful as it is to get married, before the baby is born. It’s just so stressful. Also, moving, moving is really… Yes, it’s nice to have a bigger place, but the baby doesn’t care. The baby doesn’t care where you live. It’s really more important that you have a healthy pregnancy and keep that stable, keep the relationship. Just focus on the pregnancy as a couple and then after the birth you focus on everything else when you’re actually able to give your baby to your mother or just at least feel like you have your own self back.
RC: How can hiring a doula help to alleviate anxiety during pregnancy?
Stephanie Heintzeler: The doula is a person who stays throughout pregnancy. Usually, we get hired very early, like now it’s November and I now get inquires for June. We get to know each other throughout pregnancy so the mother has a personal coach, an expert next to her throughout the pregnancy. The partner has someone he can call, depending on the questions and, of course, changes in life. The doula knows the mother and really knows what kind of birth she wants, what’s important for her throughout pregnancy, so just keeping her sane and keeping her healthy and happy. Little questions can be answered, like ‘little’ in terms of they end up being very big, but nutrition is very important, it helps her prepare for the baby. Usually, I send out emails regularly just reminding that this is when you should get your stroller and this is where you should look into childbirth classes because otherwise they’re booked, and do you have a car seat, and did you pick your pediatrician. Literally, like a wedding planner, the doula is like the birth planner but also for post-partum which of course is a much longer phase.
Doulas also see throughout the birth if the mom panics. In early labor, we stay in touch, we’re on the phone often times. Then I’m in the home as soon as the mother is not feeling well. I had a mom in the tub a few weeks ago and she was just sitting there and then she suddenly said, “Oh God, I’m not feeling well. I’m not well, I’m not well.” The dad, I could see him getting pale, he was like, oh my God, here’s my wife and she’s in the tub and she’s not well. She looked fine, she just noticed a stronger contraction and she didn’t know how to breathe through it so we breathed through the contraction. In between, we talked, like how it changed and where she felt it. And then the next one, again we took the same breathing technique and then she was fine.
It’s really about catching the second the mom isn’t well and bringing her back to a technique that works for her with the breath and also positioning. Also, if the doctor says something like, let’s break your water, that sounds scary. It’s something that is an intervention but usually there’s a reason why the doctor would like to do it. It’s someone who can help making the connection between the OB and the mother so that she that feels there is someone who is kind of on her side and maybe advocates a little bit for her but generally who knows her. I know my mothers and that helps tremendously to have this bond.
RC: What are some helpful tips to naturally alleviate feelings of anxiousness?
Stephanie Heintzeler: As esoteric as this sounds but meditation is really the best thing a pregnant mom can do. It calms down the mind, you learn about the breath. That’s something you can do everywhere and all the time, no matter where you are. You could do it ten minutes a day, so it really saves a lot of time too, and it’s super effective. Everything else that has to do with exercise – yoga, running, anything with consistency where you don’t exhaust yourself too much. Then talking things through with a doula. See what anxiety you have, breathing exercises can help, talking with the obstetrician or the midwife, and really see what it affects. What is it that causes the anxiety? Is it the body changes, is it just the thought of having a child, is it the birth? Kind of narrowing it down. Some moms don’t know but once we speak, we can narrow it down and it’s actually just pointing to one thing – having the baby, breastfeeding, the birth, things like that, it’s usually not everything. Once we narrowed it down, that helps tremendously because we know just one or two things and then we can work on those and alleviate the anxiety.
RC: Great. Well thank you so much Stephanie. We know you’re extremely busy. I just want to thank you for your time and your help.
Stephanie Heintzeler: Thanks for having me.
RC: For our listeners across the country, if you are interested in speaking with Stephanie Heintzeler, you can either go online to www.thenewyorkdoula.com or call 917-399-2031 to schedule an appointment. On behalf of our entire team, we want to thank you for listening and we look forward to bringing you more top quality content from our country’s leading industry professionals.