Everyday when I log into my Facebook profile, I see at least one article warning of the spread of the Zika virus. Everyday, I keep scrolling on past. My knowledge of the Zika virus is very limited; I only know what I have picked up in the headlines of these articles. I know it is a virus, I think it is spread by mosquitoes, and I have heard it is being linked to serious birth defects if women contract the virus while pregnant.
That information is more than enough for me. I have no desire to actually open a link and read through the details of the Zika virus or what I need to do to protect myself or my unborn child from the virus. I am a pregnant mom, making me a part of the population being targeted most by the articles and education being shared online. Still, I have spent the last several months in blissful ignorance and I plan to finish out my pregnancy the same way.
Here’s the thing, I know that for most people information is power, but for me information means sleepless nights and high anxiety levels. The more I read about contagious illnesses, birth complications or what I can do to avoid these things, the more helpless I feel in my task of growing and birthing a child.
I know that remaining ignorant to Zika virus may make me seem like a bad mom, like I am burying my head in the sand.
I have prenatal anxiety and it is kind of the worst. During each of my three pregnancies, I have spent the first trimester dealing with anxiety-induced insomnia. When I do sleep, I dream worst-case-scenario dreams about my pregnancy, my child and anything related to my family life. Typically, my anxiety starts to level off during the second trimester. I start sleeping a little better and only experience the occasional, circumstantial anxiety attack. The biggest factor in controlling my anxiety is learning to limit my exposure to information that is a trigger for me.
I’m not alone. Prenatal anxiety is incredibly common. In fact, evidence suggests pregnant women and new moms are actually more likely to deal with anxiety-related mental health disorders than depression. When an expecting mom has prenatal anxiety, she isn’t the only one who suffers. Repeated research has shown that the babies of mothers struggling with anxiety-related mood disorders during pregnancy also suffer. These babies are more likely to deal with health problems or mood disorders of their own later on in their life.
So, I know that remaining ignorant to Zika virus or avoiding accidental toxic exposure during pregnancy may make me seem like a bad mom, like I am burying my head in the sand. I know that each of these articles probably outline exactly what I need to do to avoid Zika or the possible birth defects that could follow. You may think it doesn’t make sense to avoid this vital information simply because I feel afraid when I read it, but I know the same articles probably outline all of the potentially disastrous consequences my child could face if I can’t perfectly control the circumstances of our life in order to protect my child. This type of information does more harm than good for me as a mom with prenatal anxiety.
The way I see it, I can stay up on all the current information about Zika and maybe protect my child from a very slim chance of exposure. Or, I can remain blissfully unaware. I can keep my anxiety in check and protect my child from the real threat of experiencing the consequences of my anxiety later on in his life.