Most women today easily juggle multiple roles with home, work and a busy social life. Yet the moment the pregnancy hormones hit, their rational nature slips away — they turn into a raging Pregzilla.
Says Eleanor D’Souza, 31, mum to Finn, 6 weeks, and Wyn, 17 months, “I hated the idea of birth being out of control. I overcompensated by writing a ridiculously comprehensive birth plan and having a colour-coded list for my hospital bag. In the end, my labour did not go to plan and I only used 5 per cent of the things in my hospital bag. But the fear of the unknown sent my organisational streak into overdrive.”
Consultant clinical psychologist Dr Fiona Starr notes that it’s common for pregnant women to go into overdrive. “It’s mainly to do with control — or lack of it — especially if it’s your first child, as you don’t know what is going to happen. For example, the colour of the walls in the nursery becomes important because it’s something you can control.”
It’s easy to have information overload: A recent Google survey revealed the things women fret about in pregnancy — top of the list was whether they could eat prawns, while the most Googled question was, “Can pregnant women wear heels?”
This is all normal, according to Lisa Barnwell, a UK healthcare centre founder. “I see phases in pregnancy — the honeymoon one of early excitement, then the flurry of panic in the second and third trimester,” she says. “There’s a fear you’ll run out of time — and you don’t think about things rationally.
“The rapid increase in oestrogen makes your senses react more strongly, which can alter your behaviour,” Barnwell says.
Sarah Choo, 28, mum to Adam, 2, says, “I was obsessed with clean floors. I imagined nasty things hidden in our carpets that might somehow make me and my baby ill. I even had our white Ikea rug cleaned for $50, which cost almost as much as buying a new one!”
"The moment the pregnancy hormones hit, their rational nature slips away — they turn into a raging Pregzilla."
“Trying to be ultra-controlling is a way of handling anxiety, but it’s not always the best way to diffuse it,” says clinical psychologist Dr Christine Puckering.
“Eat healthily, look after yourself and be aware that you’re growing a new person,” she adds. “The tipping point comes if you are stressed about these things, which isn’t good for you or the baby, as stress hormones can pass through the placenta.” The best way to alleviate this is to spend time with other mums-to-be and not take your situation overly seriously. “If you can laugh about it, this helps keep things in proportion,” she points out.
Barnwell agrees, “Take ‘need’, ‘have to’ and ‘must’ out of your vocabulary. All that you really need are nappies, milk and a few baby clothes. Bring it back to basics — a lot of the extra stuff is really for you, not for the baby.”
Click next to see the warning signs of a Pregzilla attack!
Warning signs of a Pregzilla rampage
Dr Adrian Wang, a consultant psychiatrist at Gleneagles Medical Centre, gave these tips for friends and family to watch out for:
• It's not uncommon for pregnant mums to feel anxious — feeling irritable or weepy from time to time is all right as adjusting to physical and hormonal changes can be stressful. But some women develop antenatal depression, while symptoms may deteriorate in those with a history of panic disorder, generalised anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder, and other psychiatric illnesses.
• If you are unable to cope with things — your pregnancy, job or relationships — talk to your obstetrician or GP about your symptoms. Also, talk to friends whom you can trust. Other mums who have gone through similar experiences may be able to give you good advice.
• In extreme cases, if the mother’s stress levels are so high that it affects her health, it may affect her baby’s growth. So, it’s important for a mother to be physically and emotionally healthy.
Action plan to soothe your bump diva.
“Work out things you can plan — things like the car seat and the cot — and things you can’t, like the actual labour,” says Dr Puckering. “Separating out these worries into those that can be tackled and those that can’t could help you relax.”
“Ask yourself, ‘Why am I obsessing about yellow walls in the nursery? Does it really matter?’,” says Dr Starr. “Chances are, the answer will be no.”
Ask a friend to be your sanity anchor
“A good friend will be able to remind you of the bigger picture and help you work out what’s really bothering you and how to ﬁx it,” says Barnwell. “Ask someone you trust to let you know if your behaviour’s getting OTT.”