Pregnancy brings many changes to your life and to the life of your loved ones. Your body, your emotions and the life of those around you, especially your family are changing. As welcome as these changes are, they could bring some unwelcomed guests too- such as stress.
Feeling stressed is quite common during pregnancy. But too much stress could have lasting effects on you. Stress can make you have trouble sleeping, gives you headaches, or you could lose your appetite as a result of stress or maybe start to overeat.
High levels of stress that aren’t treated have been associated with health problems like high blood pressure and heart disease. When you’re pregnant, stress can increase the chances of a preterm birth (birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or a low birth weight baby (weighing less than 5½ pounds). Babies born preterm or underweight are more susceptible to ill health and health problems.
Stress and Pregnancy: Effects on Your Baby
What are the causes of stress during pregnancy?
Bringing a new life is a stressful enough job by itself. In this period, you tend to worry about even the little things, such as, “Am I eating right?” or “What if I can’t handle motherhood and my job”, or maybe, “Could my regular exercise schedule harm my baby?”. A little stress over such questions is quite normal. In fact, even when a woman is not pregnant, she has a little bit of stress over something or the other.
However, when stress begins building up or remains constant, you should be worried. Stress can not only harm your health, it could also have harmful and lasting effects on the fetus. Sometimes stress can be caused during pregnancy due to physical reasons such as nausea, constant backache, constipation, or tiredness. During pregnancy, hormone levels could be imbalanced. So, you may be having trouble handling your emotions which may contribute to additional stress.
Stress is not all bad. If you can handle your stress right, it can help you take on new challenges. Normal daily-life stress during pregnancy such as work deadlines or sitting in traffic probably doesn’t add to pregnancy problems. However, serious stress during pregnancy can add to your concerns and harm your chances of having a safe delivery.
Types of stress that could affect you
Negative events such as a divorce, a serious illness of a closed one or death, financial difficulties, losing your job, etc, could cause serious stress. Sometimes catastrophes like hurricanes and earthquakes could strike, leading you to unexpectedly lose a loved one or lose your home- this can cause major stress. Long-lasting stress such as financial problems, being abused, having serious health problems or depression can cause serious stress-related complications in your pregnancy.
Some women feel serious stress about pregnancy. They may be worried about miscarriage, the health of their baby or about how they’ll cope with labor and birth or becoming a parent. All of this can lead to serious and long lasting stress that can have an effect on your pregnancy and the health of your developing child. Some of these effects could potentially last life-long.
Certain stress-related hormones may play a role in causing complications during pregnancy. Serious stress may affect your immune system which protects you from infection. This can increase the chances of getting an infection of the uterus. This type of infection can cause premature birth.
Sometimes women think it fit to deal with stress by smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or taking street drugs, which can lead to serious problems. If you are a pregnant woman, you are putting your and your child’s life in danger.
Some experts are of the view that being stressed during pregnancy could potentially affect your baby’s life not just at birth, but also have long term effects on your baby such as short attention span or poorly developed mental ability. Chronic stress may also contribute to subtle differences in brain development which might in turn lead to behavioral issues as the baby grows.
You can’t control how stressed you feel about certain situations, but you must try to reduce your stress as much as you can. It is essential that you try to make your pregnancy as happy and stress-free as you can, especially for the sake of your baby.
How to reduce stress
Some measures you can take to reduce your stress during pregnancy are
- Figure out with a little self-introspection: what’s really causing your stress. Try to sort it out on your own or even better- consult an expert about it. Do not shy away from psychiatric help if necessary.
- Try alternative stress release therapies like yoga or go for a swim every evening to calm your nerves.
- Eat healthy food and keep fit. Take regular walks an d do some light exercise so that your brain and body get a proper workout as well as rest.
- Listen to music that soothes you and try to sing a little. Singing will calm your nerves and so will listening to soothing music.
- Talk to your husband, family and friends about things and issues that bother you. You will notice that many times, simply talking about something can make you feel better.
- Try this little trick: when you start worrying about something, ask yourself “Is it in my control to change it?” if yes, then stop worrying and start working towards it; if not, then there is no use worrying about it or stressing yourself over it. Take a deep breath and try to let go of things that are out of your control.
- Read and watch movies about pregnancy and try to be as informed as you can about it. This will help you be prepared for whatever comes as a part of your pregnancy and help keep pregnancy related stress away.
There are a lot of physical and mental changes that come as a part of pregnancy. Try not to stress yourself over them and know that things will be back to normal. If you think your stress is chronic and increasing, see a doctor as soon as possible about it. You need to keep yourself as mentally and physically fit as you can so that your baby is delivered healthy and free of risks.