Is it normal to worry?


“How do I stop worrying about the chance of a miscarriage? I’m 13 weeks pregnant, and everything is good so far, but I’m still in a constant panic.” ~ WTE user Donna K

How I wish I could wave a magic “no worry” wand over you and all the other moms-to-be who find themselves stuck in pregnancy panic mode early in pregnancy, stressing over every symptom…or just as likely, the lack of symptoms. Overthinking and overanalyzing every twinge, every drop of discharge.

Let’s be real, here: worry is what we moms do, and some of us are especially good at what we do — excelling at stress, especially in the first trimester of first pregnancies. I know I was a worry over-achiever (in fact, my own round-the-clock first-pregnancy worry was actually what motivated me to write a book that I hoped would help parents worry less: What To Expect When You’re Expecting).

And it’s no wonder we worry. Here we are, growing a baby — a process that seems completely out of our control (but isn’t at all, more about that later), taking place deep inside us with no tangible, take-it-to-the-baby-bank proof that all is well within, at least between ultrasound appointments or heartbeat checks, and certainly before baby’s tiny flutters of movements pack enough punch to be felt. Even then, we worry…was that a movement? Or gas? Why did I feel kicking yesterday, but not today? Sure, I heard baby’s heartbeat at the last OB visit — but that was a week ago!

It’s hard not to worry about miscarriage, even if there is absolutely no reason to worry about it — and the truth is, there is less and less reason to stress and more and more reason to relax as you put early pregnancy (when the vast majority of miscarriages occur) behind you. All the more reason to breathe more easily (or just resume normal breathing!): you know that everything has been progressing normally. You’ve likely seen and heard your baby’s beating heart, your doctor or midwife is satisfied with the growth of your uterus. All good (no, great!) signs that your pregnancy is on track and your baby is safely ensconced for the long, 40-or-so week haul.

In the meantime, since baby has settled in, you should try to as well. It may help to think about all the positive steps you can take to make your baby’s stay in your womb an even healthier one. “Doing” positive helps you think positive, which in turns encourages more positive action and more positive thinking, a cycle you can feel good about getting stuck in. If you haven’t already, eat as well as you can, challenging yourself to take on a new healthy food every day (if you can stomach them yet): walnuts, pumpkin seeds, wild salmon, kale, kiwi, baby broccoli, mango, farro, lentils, purple carrots, edamame, baked sweet potato fries, winter squash of every variety, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, whole-grain pizza. Start a practitioner-approved exercise routine (operative word: routine), which will not only help keep your pregnancy uncomplicated (talk about a positive!), but has perks for your baby (including perhaps, research shows, boosted brain power).

So, hopefully you’re committed to trying to stress less (and I’ve been able to talk you at least a few levels down, if not entirely off, the worry ledge with a little mom-to-mom reassurance). But don’t stop there. Now is also a really good time to learn to manage the stress you do have better — new mom stress, after all, is just around the corner. Take a prenatal yoga class to relax, body, mind, and soul, and to find your inner calm (it’s there..really!). Download some meditation apps, as well as some soothing sound apps to quiet that background noise of worry.  Another reason to make that workout routine: the release of feel-good endorphins that comes from exercise, which can boost your mood, and turn that worry-frown upside down. Also, don’t forget to unload your stress…talk it out with your partner, your doctor or midwife, your best friend, your mom, other moms on the WhatToExpect message boards (who can almost certainly relate!), and of course me (you can always find me on my Facebook page, Instagram, or Twitter under @HeidiMurkoff).

Just one thing to keep in mind: a certain amount of stress is normal during pregnancy. But stress that is all-consuming, that interferes with everyday life, with your work and relationships, with sleep, with eating, with taking the best care of yourself possible, isn’t normal, and could be a sign of pregnancy anxiety disorder or another pregnancy mood disorder that requires — and can benefit greatly from —  treatment. So make sure you check in with your practitioner right away about excessive stress that reassurance won’t help relieve.

Remember, the What To Expect family is always here for you, and so am I!

Here’s to worrying less and enjoying pregnancy more.



Help Me, Heidi! is a weekly advice column in which What to Expect creator Heidi Murkoff answers your most pressing pregnancy and parenting questions. She’s tackling the stuff you are desperate to know right now — so if you have a question, ask Heidi here or on Facebook and she might answer in an upcoming column. (Not sure if Heidi’s answered one of your questions? Check out the rest of the columns here.)

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