Managing stress, anxiety and fatigue in pregnancy with arthritis – Emer Sheridan
So it’s very normal in all those stages of pregnancy from pre-planning right through to the very end and the post-pregnancy period to experience stress and anxiety. I’m Emer Sheridan, one of the senior occupational therapists in Our Lady’s Hospice and Care Services in Harold’s Cross, in the rheumatology, rheumatic and musculo-skeletal unit. So some of the very practical tips you can do on a day-to-day basis involve practicing deep breathing techniques throughout the day, where you stop yourself and take several deep breaths; also practicing mindfulness, which is trying to keep our thoughts in the present moment, not letting our thoughts race ahead; and of course, one of the very important stress-management techniques is to engage in a little bit of exercise every day. So fatigue is a very commonly experienced symptom, not just in managing arthritis, but also during pregnancy, and sometimes it’s difficult to know which is having the bigger impact. But some of the very practical strategies someone experiencing fatigue can use are what’s called the three Ps – Planning, Pacing, and Prioritising your everyday activities. So when you’re planning, pacing and prioritising, you’re really looking across your day and across your week, prioritising tasks that you need to do and have to do and want to do, but delegating or delaying tasks that really, you don’t need to do, or that someone else can do, and then you’re planning your time accordingly. So again, very practical techniques when you’re looking at lifting, carrying, trying to manage your baby, move your baby around – instead of lifting with your hands, you can use your arms to lift the baby; and again, looking at the lightweight equipment – easy to fold, easy to manoeuvre, accessible equipment that can help you manoeuvre a little bit easier with the baby as well. So testing out lots of products before you buy them, seeing can you fold them, can you lift them, can you do all that by yourself? And again, practical things around using supportive cushions when you’re feeding; being mindful of your own position when you’re sitting down; adopting a more relaxed posture when you’re sitting down, so you’re easing muscle tension and muscle soreness. An occupational therapist can help you in managing and learning new techniques, and practical techniques to help you with your everyday activities.