It’s natural to have a newfound sense of responsibility and protectiveness when you become pregnant. Which is why no matter how healthy your pregnancy is, worrying about miscarriage or pregnancy loss can quickly take hold. Miscarriage anxiety can be especially prevalent for those who may have previously experienced a loss or had a difficult time conceiving.
But constant fear and spiraling on the ‘what ifs’ will only cause stress and take away from the precious, limited time of being pregnant.
Nearly 20% to 25% of women experience anxiety at some stage of their pregnancy. We spoke with experts on the subject to bring you tangible tips and resources to reduce anxious thoughts, so you can worry less—and enjoy your pregnancy more.
Worrying about miscarriage risks
One of the most common worries expectant mothers experience is the fear of miscarriage, especially in the early days, as 80% occur by the first trimester. The likelihood of miscarriage decreases significantly after 13 weeks.
It may be helpful to know that the majority of miscarriages are not actually preventable—and therefore not usually a result of anything you did.
“The majority of first-trimester miscarriages are caused by genetic abnormalities in the growing fetus,” say midwives Marea Goodman and Ray Rachlin. “Pregnancy loss later in pregnancy can also be associated with health conditions like some autoimmune disorders, toxin exposure, infection and physical trauma.”
While miscarriage is common (statistics show that as many as 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage), it still feels taboo to talk about, which can contribute to even more fear and anxiety around pregnancy loss.
As public figures like Meghan Markle, Chrissy Tiegen and Whitney Port have spoken out about their pregnancy loss experiences in recent years, it’s helped others feel more comfortable opening up, too, but that’s not to say the taboo has gone away.
Getting past fears if you’ve previously experienced a loss
While anxiety during pregnancy can be common, if you’re pregnant with a rainbow baby after you’ve experienced a miscarriage or loss, your likelihood of anxiety or depression increases, affecting as many as 64% of women even two years later.
The anxiety is real, confirms Rachel Rabinor, LCSW, PMH-C, a therapist who runs a practice focused on pregnancy, parenting, loss and postpartum. Though the reality is it’s very unlikely that you’ll miscarry a second time—and nothing you did caused the miscarriage the first time around.
“Many women find relief after passing the week of their previous loss,” shares Rabinor. “And especially after completing the first trimester; the likelihood significantly drops after that point.”
Some of the expert-recommended ways to manage anxiety if you’ve experienced miscarriage before are below, along with bringing support to each of your scans, setting milestones for yourself, journaling, connecting with others who’ve had similar experiences and allowing yourself to feel whatever comes up for you.
Expert-backed ways to reduce miscarriage anxiety during pregnancy
1. Get back to your breath
The number one recommendation to bring yourself back to the present moment is to focus on your breath.
“There’s nothing more grounding than our breath,” says Rabinor. “When anxiety arises, your body typically is having a physical reaction and you’re taking shorter breaths, so slowing down and practicing deep breathing is important and will help bring you back.”
Practicing more active breathing in the moment can be effective in reducing anxious thoughts. A regular prenatal yoga, breathwork or meditation and mindfulness routine can help ground you when the worries set in.
To help start a new regimen, try Expectful (a mindfulness app designed specifically for expectant mothers, which even has a program for anyone who has experienced a miscarriage), or Insight Timer (a meditation app for sleep, relaxation and offers guided pregnancy practices) which you can access anywhere and will send you helpful reminders throughout the day.
2. Use the Five Senses Method
“When you have anxiety it’s almost as if there’s a lion in front of you, so your body goes into fight or flight mode, but the reality is there is no lion there,” explains Katayune Kaeni, Psy.D., PMH-C, who specializes in mental health during pregnancy and postpartum.
One method Dr. Kaeni recommends to clients experiencing any sort of anxiety is to practice using all five senses to slow down and come back to the present moment.
This entails simply taking a few minutes to identify the following:
- 5 things you see
- 4 things you can touch
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste
“It helps calm your mind and allows you to recognize that all of the stuff around you is what’s real, not the anxiety you’re creating in your head,” shares Dr. Kaeni.
It’s important, though, to practice this even when you’re not in a worried state, so you’ll have tools at the ready when needed.
3. Prioritize getting out in nature
Spending time in nature has been proven to have significant healing effects, improving mood, mental health and emotional well-being.
In particular, exposure to sunlight boosts vitamin D levels, which has several benefits including helping lower blood pressure, lowering the risk for type 2 diabetes, strengthening the immune system and improving energy levels.
“Even getting out for 10 minutes can completely turn around your day,” says Rabinor. “It can be as simple as going out for a walk and putting your feet in the sand or grass. Ideally you live near nature, but even if not, go to the nearest park or walk around the block and you’ll still get some of the benefits just being outside. Whatever you can do and fit in can help.”
This is your sign to take that break for yourself. You and your health will feel better for it.
4. Seek out therapy or support groups
It can be very beneficial to have a confidant, particularly an expert on the subject, to talk through any worries and emotions that come up during your pregnancy. BetterHelp and TalkSpace enable you to speak with a licensed professional nearly anytime via text or video.
“Joining a support group can also be incredibly helpful to connect with others going through a similar experience,” says Dr. Kaeni.
Online platforms like Conceive and Peanut can virtually connect you with others who are trying to conceive or pregnant and may share similar experiences. Reach out to your friend circle too to share experiences with others in real time.
Evidence-based therapies like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and even general walk and talk therapy can be incredibly effective and grounding.
“EMDR is an evidence-based integrative psychotherapy approach researched and used for over 20 years to alleviate emotional distress and anxiety, particularly for those with past trauma,” explained Rabinor who practices EMDR with certain clients.
Similarly, IPT, CBT and walk and talk therapy are all research-backed methods used to reduce anxiety. “Therapy is very individualistic; it really depends on the person what type would work best for you,” says Rabinor. “I recommend trying out a couple of different ones and finding which you connect with most.”
5. Lean on your partner and friends
Partners and/or a pregnant woman’s support system can have a powerful impact, too.
“A partner or friend just offering support in whatever you may need and validating your feelings can be extremely comforting,” shares Dr. Kaeni.
This almost immediately can reduce stress by knowing you’re not alone. Your partner can also help you identify when you may be starting to go back to anxious thinking and remind you of the tools that you have to stop it from getting worse.
Katayune Kaeni, Psy.D., PMH-C, is a perinatal psychologist specializing in mental health during pregnancy and postpartum, and author of The Pregnancy Workbook: Manage Anxiety and Worry with CBT and Mindfulness Techniques. Dr. Kaeni’s podcast, Mom & Mind, is focused on sharing real experiences and tools to help women in pregnancy, postpartum and motherhood. Available on Spotify, Pandora, Apple and YouTube.
Rachel Rabinor, LCSW, PMH-C, is a therapist based in California who focuses on pregnancy, parenting, loss and postpartum.
Dennis CL, Falah-Hassani K, Shiri R. Prevalence of antenatal and postnatal anxiety: systematic review and meta-analysis. The British Journal of Psychiatry. 2017 May;210(5):315-23.
Nynas J, Narang P, Kolikonda MK, Lippmann S. Depression and Anxiety Following Early Pregnancy Loss: Recommendations for Primary Care Providers. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2015;17(1):10.4088/PCC.14r01721. Published 2015 Jan 29. doi:10.4088/PCC.14r01721
Prettyman RJ, Cordle CJ, Cook GD. A Three-Month Follow-up of Psychological Morbidity After Early Miscarriage. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey. 1994 Sep 1;49(9):600.