Your life is already busy without the added responsibilities of being pregnant. Coping with stress can be tricky. But the reality is that certain parts of your life can’t go on hold just because you’re having a baby. And it’s impossible for any of us to feel calm all the time. Some stress is actually a good thing.
Short periods of stress during pregnancy are normal and perfectly safe to you and your baby. They’re also unavoidable. However, if you start to feel increasingly stressed for longer periods of time it’s important to start looking for ways to relieve your worries.
Prolonged periods of stress and pregnancy have been linked to negative health consequences for pregnant mothers and their growing babies.
The effects of stress on your body
When you get stressed, your body releases a burst of cortisol and other stress hormones. These hormones pump adrenaline to your muscles and make your heart beat faster. They create the “flight or fright” response.
Some studies have revealed that in pregnancy, stress hormones in the mother’s bloodstream can pass onto their unborn baby. In small, infrequent doses, these hormones won’t harm the growing baby, but high levels over a long period of time can be dangerous.
The problem with stress and pregnancy
When you deal with your stress and move on, your stress hormones will reduce to normal levels and your body will go back into balance. However, when your stress levels don’t subside, you and your baby could be at risk.
High blood pressure, heart problems, depression as well as a weakened immune system are just some of the health issues that severe, prolonged stress can cause at any time in life.
During pregnancy, severe stress can contribute to the risk of preeclampsia and premature labor. There is also an added risk of the baby having a low birth weight. Some studies have also found correlations between sustained, high levels of stress in pregnancy and disobedience and hyperactivity in toddlers.
While stress isn’t usually a problem for most women, if you are feeling especially stressed or are finding it difficult to cope you need to speak with your maternity care provider. It may also be helpful for you to chat with a counsellor who has special training in stress management.
Remedies for stress during pregnancy
If you are struggling to manage the pressures of pregnancy it’s important to face your feelings as they arise. Ignoring stress or hoping it will just go away are not effective stress management strategies.
You deserve to enjoy your pregnancy. It’s a special time for mothers and if stress is stopping you from creating happy memories, there are some simple ways you can turn things around.
Here are six simple and quick ways to reduce unhealthy stress during pregnancy:
- Do some gentle exercise to help alleviate some of the discomforts of pregnancy and increase the level of endorphins or “happy hormones” in your body
- Treat yourself to a relaxing pregnancy massage to help relieve any tension and make you less susceptible to stress
- Book into an antenatal class for the opportunity to chat to other pregnant women going through the same experiences that you are as you
- Sing, hum or listen to music – this may help to control your stress hormone levels
- Take a warm (not hot) bath or curl up on the couch with a good book and enjoy some relaxation time
- Learn to recognize what situations make you feel stressed and avoid them if possible.
Finding ways to reduce unhealthy stress in your life is important. However, remember not to feel guilty about feeling stressed and just try to control it as much as you can.