“Stop worrying, it’s not good for the baby”. If you are pregnant and have a tendency to worry, there is a good chance that you have heard these words before. And no matter whose mouth they came from, they probably made you frown just a little bit. There probably meant it as a completely benevolent and innocent piece of advice. But let’s be honest… it’s easier said than done! Instead, being told to “just relax” can cause even more stress, if not some frustration. But there are things you can do to reduce your daily stress. Because although annoying, your relatives have a point when they recommend to lower your stress level. Let’s learn why stress during pregnancy can easily become your enemy and how to kick it away from your life. Lifeline is here to bring you support.
Different Kinds of Stress
The stress you feel can originate from an array of different factors.
- First, there is “psychosocial stress”. Stressors are everywhere, and they don’t spare anyone, pregnant or not. Therefore, you may experience stress due to life circumstances such as relational or financial issues, pressure at work, daily hassles and so on.
- On the other hand, you may also feel “pregnancy-specific distress”. You might be anticipating future prenatal screenings, dreading complications, or the subsequent challenges associated with motherhood. “Will I be a good mom?” or “will my child be in good health?” are both questions you might be asking right now.
Rest assured that stress and anxiety during pregnancy are normal. The Journal of Women’s Health estimates that about 8 to 10 percent of pregnant women experience perinatal anxiety. However, both kinds of stress can be harmful when they last for a longer period of time. Prolonged stress could potentially be dangerous when it occurs early in pregnancy.
How Stress Affects Your Pregnancy
A lot of things happen during pregnancy. In order to sustain a healthy pregnancy, your body has to go through a series of adaptations that involve your hormones, your immune and nervous systems. Unfortunately, some of the hormonal changes you experience can make it more difficult for you to handle stress…
Which is bad news, because prolonged stress during pregnancy has been found to disrupt these necessary physiological adaptations. Prolonged stress can affect your baby’s health and development via both direct and indirect pathways:
- Indirectly, it increases the risk of a preterm birth or a low birth rate. And both complications are linked to potential short (breathing issues, low body temperature…) and long-term complications (cerebral palsy, hearing of vision problems…).
- Directly, it raises the amount of stress hormone in the amniotic fluid, resulting in growth acceleration for the baby. And “an excessive acceleration of growth may occur at the expense of the proper maturation of the organs,”. A high concentration of stress hormones in the amniotic fluid can also alter the development of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
But none of these things have to happen! According to scientists, potential negative outcomes of stress can be neutralized by the secure bond between mother and child. And even during pregnancy, you can reduce stress and find solace.
How to Kiss Stress Goodbye
Finding relief from stress while pregnant is definitely possible. Here are some suggestions you may want to try to implement in your daily life:
- Talk to someone and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes, being able to express your feelings to someone you trust can help make the pressure on your shoulders go away. At Lifeline, we offer confidential counseling sessions with a professional counselor. Don’t forget that you are also allowed to ask friends or relatives for help when it comes to planning for the baby’s arrival or anything else you need assistance with.
- Take some alone time to rest your mind. Spend a few minutes doing something that relaxes you, such as listening to music (it lowers cortisol levels!), reading inspirational writings and meditating on it, journaling, etc.
- Try to stay healthy by having a good diet, quality sleep and the right amount of exercise. You don’t have to overdo it, especially in the later trimesters. Instead you can just go for a walk.
- If you are worried about labor and infant care, try to learn as much as you can about it. Knowing what to expect can help demystify the process and thus reduce your stress. Don’t have the necessary resources? No worries! Our program “Earn While You Learn” allows you to gain knowledge on many different subjects for free, as well as benefit from our baby boutique.
- Talk to your doctor if your stress gets out of control. He or she could prescribe you some medications that are safe to take in order to help you cope with stress.
No matter what you are going through, remember that you are not alone. Lifeline is here to support you during your pregnancy. Find out more about our free services here, and book an appointment with us!