Cupids Health

Does your anxiety comes from your in-utero experience?


I recently stumbled on a past trauma that proved to be the key to a lot of the anxieties I’ve wrestled with as an adult.

As someone who hunts down head trash – especially my own – this is a HUGE win for me. When something isn’t shifting, I dig and dig until I can figure it out and get rid of it. Recently I had some personal stuff that just wasn’t shifting and I needed to figure out why.

Was there a trauma creating my anxiety?

I decided that there must be a traumatic experience feeding it and keeping it alive in me, despite my best attempts to get rid of it. Trauma does that, it’s feeder of fear and anxiety. In my experience, if fear or anxiety isn’t shifting easily then there’s a trauma anchoring it in place and making it worse.

Sometimes, we don’t even have a conscious recollection of the experience. This was the case for me. I had no conscious memory of the trauma I was about to clear.

What followed was a brutal hour of clearance work. Tears, snot and more tears. It just kept coming. By the end of it I was spent. Spent, but alive and vibrant! And light… OMG, how I felt light!

It proved to be one of the most significant clearances I have ever done.

The traumatic event I worked on proved to be The Key to a huge number of the patterns that were running for me. Emotional patterns that were sabotaging me and holding me back. It was also the the root event of my eczema, which had recently come back with a vengeance like I have never known.

Once I was done, I wanted to know what the event was. I was curious.

What the hell was it that had embedded so much crap for me?

Childhood trauma is the root of anxiety for many

So I asked how old I was to try and figure it out. Childhood trauma is usually the culprit, so I started there.

Was I under 5? Yes.
Was I under 4? Yes.

I got a hunch.

Was I in utero? Yes.

And then I knew EXACTLY what it was.

When my mother was pregnant with me she was worried about losing her job if they found out. So she tried to keep me a secret from her employers in case they found out and fired her. Talk about stressful.

Apparently her bump was really small and you could hardly tell she was pregnant.
I arrived early. Quelle surprise!

I can only imagine the thoughts she would have been having;

I’ve got to hide this.
I must keep this a secret.
I want my bump to be small.
My baby can’t be visible.
If I get found out, I’ll lose my job.

She was the breadwinner, so this would have been a big deal. Being found out meant loss of security.

Oh hello Lex’s head trash!

This is all the shit I’ve been wrestling with FOR AGES that wasn’t budging. Some of it is only obvious to me now that I understand and can see where it came from. I had lightbulbs going off all over the place!

I’m totally fine being visible, thinking big and doing things that make me stand out. That bit is ME: Lex.

And yet, I’ve not been able to sustain it or go ALL IN with it. I was getting pulled back into hiding and playing small. That bit was HER.

I was running my mother’s pregnancy fears and making them my own. No wonder I was struggling with this stuff.

As part of my work in birth and pregnancy, I know that the in-utero experience is a precious one, and one to be protected and nurtured. When I interviewed the father of prenatal psychology, Thomas Verny, on my podcast he talked about all this. It’s a fascinating chat and worth listening to if this stuff interests you.

There’s a lot of evidence that supports this so I’m not being all woo here. The in-utero experience and the birth create emotional imprints in the baby that they will carry though into adulthood. Anna Verwaal also talks a lot about this.

This is why I’m so vocal about wanting expectant mothers to clear their fear, stress and anxiety while they’re pregnant.

It matters.

Expectant mothers clearing their fears and anxieties matters

Not only does it help them to have a better birth experience – which is a bloody good reason on its own – but it’s also good for the baby and its future adult self. I expand on all this in my book, Fearless Birthing.

If they’re not positive emotional patterns, then these imprints can be the root cause of anxiety and phobias as adults. I see this time and time again in my work helping women overcome tokophobia (extreme fear of birth).

Some people have accused me of fear-mongering or making women feel guilty for their thoughts and feelings during pregnancy. Pregnancy is already such a challenging time for some, physically, mentally and emotionally. The last thing they want is the guilt that comes from thinking that their negative thoughts are damaging in some way.

Fear of guilt shouldn’t keep us quiet

I’m afraid I can’t do anything about that. That we know already. It’s already happening. Surely, it’s best for women to know this so that they can do something about it. I’m simply the messenger.

People can choose whether they do anything about it or not. But being informed is crucial in making that decision.

We know that eating meat, fatty foods, drinking alcohol and smoking is bad. And yet people still do it. That’s their choice. Perhaps they feel guilty with every cigarette or burger. Perhaps they don’t. It doesn’t mean we’re going to keep quiet about it just in case some people feel guilty.

The same goes for this. Women NEED to know about this.

Whether we like it or not, our bodies and minds are potent creators of future generations. Perhaps the mental health crisis we’re seeing today has its roots in crappy pregnancies and births of the past. It would make sense.

Intellectually I knew the importance of the in-utero experience from my work in pregnancy and birth. But now I truly KNOW.

The in-utero experience matters

I would urge all pregnant women to keep diaries of how they’re feeling throughout their pregnancy. It could be the best gift to your child on their 18th birthday as they wrestle with figuring out who they are. It would probably save a ton of time in therapy too. A lot of our focus as parents is in providing for our children – schooling, opportunity etc – but perhaps we ned to shift the focus to mental health. Taking steps to improve the chances of our children having positive mental health should be the priority.

Emotionally resilient and happy people usually do pretty well, no matter what.

As expectant parents, what can we do to support the future mental health of our children. Because isn’t that what will help them not just to survive, but to thrive.

Alexia Leachman
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