Stress is so much part of our lives and if not dealt with properly it can have detrimental effects. However, while pregnant it is especially important to watch out for stress as it not only affects the mother to be but also the growing baby. Decreasing the amount of stress while pregnant is advised, not only for the developing fetus but because it is just so unpleasant. Stress leaves one with a slight sense of feeling overwhelmed and can even culminate in severe depression. It is worth remembering that stress is the cause of depression.
When a mother-to-be is stressed, the stress hormones increase leading to an increased likelihood of intrauterine infection. The fetus develops in a high-stress environment and is at a greater risk once its born.
A study in the British Medical Journal (1979, 2, 411-413) has shown that high levels of psycho-social stress can precipitate premature labor in some women. A premature baby has its own set of complications. Learn to deal with stress to avoid extra problems. Low birth weight is also a recognized effect of maternal stress while pregnant.
- Have at least one friend who is a good listener.
- A pre-natal support group, is a fantastic place to get to know other mums-to-be and learn about your shared concerns.
- Share what is happening to you with your partner, so you work as a team.
- Put yourself first and slow down! Check out all your commitments and see where you are able to cut back. Being pregnant has given you a wonderful extra commitment, but you might need to cut back on other areas as a result. Ask others for help. Besides helping you, look at it this way: you’re actually doing the other person a favor as you’re giving them an opportunity to feel needed!
- If you’re a workaholic, cut back on your chores. Put your feet up and take a nap during the day. Reading about pregnancy gives you knowledge and knowledge is power. However also have some light reading to distract you and chill out a bit – you’ve got every excuse needed! Listen to relaxing music on your iPod.
- Regular exercise such as walking, yoga or swimming are all good for you and are good stress relievers. Exercise produces dopamine which is the happy brain chemical.
- A well balanced diet is necessary for both you and your growing baby.
- Get a good nights sleep.
- Writing is also a wonderful way of getting rid of stress. The speed of writing is far slower than any anxious thoughts so it slows down the ‘runaway-train’ of thinking. Also you are able to return to what you have written and see if there really are realistic concerns that need to be attended to. It’s easier to deal with any concerns written on a piece of paper than when they remain in your head. Write a diary of the journey of your pregnancy.
- Watch your thoughts! It is usually our thoughts that cause us stress, not any outside event. For example perfectionists and approval seekers are very prone to stress and depression. The stress is caused by the way they think. For a perfectionist anything less than perfect is a total disaster. This type of thinking is really out of touch with reality and could lead to postpartum depression as well.