Does anxiety during pregnancy affect the baby?


Fertility expert Zita West looks at anxiety during pregnancy and how to manage it

Through my work as a midwife for more than 30 years, and as an acupuncturist for 20, I see first-hand the link between mind and body when it comes to fertility, and how important this is once you are pregnant.

Many of the women who come to me have had IVF and are so excited about getting a positive result, but sadly this only lasts for a short time before the anxiety sets in. Sometimes this means they don’t want to connect with the baby or the pregnancy, for fear of disappointment after trying for so long to get pregnant in the first place. It’s also commonplace for women who have had no fertility issues to then have anxiety that it
may all go wrong.

As a big believer in the Chinese philosophy and approach to health, I strongly believe our mind and body are one, and the thoughts and emotions we experience – such as worry, fear and anger – could affect an unborn baby. We now know that every emotion we experience causes a cascade of biochemical responses, and chronic stress can raise adrenaline and cortisol levels which may pass through to baby.

The good news is, there is so much you can do to influence this on a daily basis and reduce the stress levels in your body. If you can do just 20 minutes of yoga, meditation, acupuncture or hypnotherapy a day, then you really will see and feel a huge difference.


Your mindset is determined by your experiences in pregnancy, and if you have a history of miscarriage or IVF failure then you are bound to feel anxious. Even if you haven’t experienced anything like this before, the changes that go on in your body in early pregnancy – not to mention the hormones and tiredness, while trying to act ‘normal’ at work – is stressful in its own way. So, whatever your situation, make sure you put time aside each day to relax in some way and manage your stress levels, whatever those triggers may be.


The placenta is the nutrient highway to your baby, but don’t worry if you haven’t been able to eat well in early pregnancy due to morning sickness. Your baby doesn’t rely on what you eat in one day, it’s your store of nutrients that is key. If you are suffering from morning sickness and are struggling to eat healthily, just eat what you need to get by. Just make sure you eat as well as you can, when you can, and take supplements if possible for maximum nutrition. If you feel fine, try not to give in to those sugar cravings that most pregnant women have – after all, we now know that ‘eating for two’ is a myth!


It’s important to connect with your baby, even before she is born. If both you and your partner are talking to and bonding with her throughout your pregnancy, then you are much more likely to continue this when she is born, and this is vital for her development and growth. You are your baby’s world while she’s growing, and your heartbeat is her backdrop. When you are calm, she is calm, but when your heart is racing, imagine what it does to hers! The same goes for when you have your baby in your arms, so make sure you always have the ‘mind, body, baby’ mantra in your head at every stage: preconception, pregnancy and postnatally.

Zita West is the founder of the Zita West Fertility Clinic which specialises in a holistic approach to IVF. Instagram: @the_first_1000_days

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