Written by Chandrani Mukherjee
Pregnancy is both delightful and difficult. Along with happiness and anticipation, it brings stress that is common; and not always unavoidable. Stress during pregnancy includes a spectrum of emotional, physical, and environmental factors that challenges maternal mental well being very easily. From the feelings of sweetness of having a little one in the baby bump, mothers also tend to worry about finances, add-on responsibilities, and much more.
It’s crucial to understand the complex interplay of various stressors that pregnancy brings along. In this way, appropriate measures should be taken to mitigate its impact and bring overall good health to the mother and her unborn baby.
In This Article
During pregnancy, you’ll feel many different emotions. Sometimes you’ll feel happy and excited, and other times you might worry about handling everything at once. As your family life evolves and body undergo changes, stress becomes inevitable. While some changes are welcoming; others are not. Your overwhelming anxiety and mental restlessness can lead to higher blood pressure, preterm delivery and a host of other problems.
Research studies (1) have confirmed that maternal stress increases the risk for preterm births in 60% cases as compared to women who had low stress levels. For some mothers, even the thought of motherhood can cause mild to moderate stress. The stress stem from physical changes, antenatal tests, and a previous negative experience related to pregnancy.
Clinical studies (2) have shown that that daily stressors (bereavement and natural calamities) of pregnant mothers can increase the chances of neuro-development problems in their children after being born.
There exists a variety of stress symptoms that may manifest during pregnancy. However, it’s important to note that not all mothers experience these symptoms simultaneously. There are individual variations in both the intensity and duration of these symptoms.
There are different types of stress that can make your pregnancy journey all the more difficult and challenging.
Physical changes during pregnancy – In the form of morning sickness, fatigue, backache, weight increase and constipation, can make you feel anxious; causing stress
A womb is a very busy place. Where earlier doctors used to think that stress has very little or no impact on the development of a fetus, research now has enough proof to claim that babies born to mothers who have been stressed during their pregnancy have been preterm and with low birth weight (3).
This claim is supported by the fact that when stressed, your body releases the stress hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones contracts the blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the developing fetus, thus causing low birth weight and premature delivery.
Increased levels of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) are also produced due to high levels of stress and anxiety. CRH regulates the tenure of the pregnancy, and as such can cause premature birth.Studies (4) have shown that several psychosocial factors of stress such as lack of support system, depression, and pregnancy-related anxiousness can lead to preterm deliveries in women.
Stress during the first trimester of pregnancy is also known to cause miscarriages and an increased risk of motor disorders. Neural problems may develop if the mother is under stress when the baby’s brain is developing, sometime around second trimester (5) in the pregnancy journey. Study findings (6) revealed that daily stressors such as financial crunch, death in family, divorce can increase the chances of a miscarriage. About 20% pregnancy end before 24 weeks of gestation and the figures.
This is a condition where blood pressure of the mother consistently remains high; even leading to seizures and organ failure. Research reports (7) show that chronic hypertension and stress can increase the chances of preeclampsia to a significant extent.
Apart from getting regular checkups and monitoring the baby’s growth and heartbeat, it is important that you are leading a stress-free life. Now, if this seems unlikely, make sure that you deal with all that life is throwing at you at this time effectively for your overall good mental health.
Discuss your worries and stress with your partner. Be more expressive and let your close ones know about your likes and dislikes. Bottling feelings will only make the matters worse. Accepting help from your partner, other family members, friends, and colleagues is one of the first things you should do when you are pregnant.
Ensure doing things that can relax you. Try to involve in activities that give you happiness and make you forget all the stress. Read books, watch TV, listen to soothing songs, or talk to your family and friends. You can also pursue an old hobby that took a backseat due to excessive work-load. Your priority is to check your overthinking tendencies, thereby reducing anxiousness.Pamper yourself as much as you can. Go for a manicure, pedicure, body massage, hair spa, or any such activity that makes you relaxed and beautiful.
Sleep properly, as your body needs lots of rest as it is working overtime to nourish the unborn baby. Use pillows to get a comfortable position and body massage before sleeping. Make sure you get undisturbed sleep. Do not take too much work stress. If you are a working woman then take short breaks after frequent intervals and rest. Do not assign yourself to any new projects and neither commits yourself to a performance-packed year.
After consulting your doctor, you can try light exercises or yoga as it can help you in releasing your stress. Walking and swimming (under supervision only) can be continued till the last trimester unless advised by the doctor. Additionally, breathing exercises can calm down your mental restless.
When you are in stress, meditation and a pristine ambience can create a relaxing atmosphere. Antenatal classes also help as they can help you get in touch with other mothers who are in the same stage.
Unhealthy food cravings are a common occurrence in pregnancy. You may get it too. However, be aware that junk diet lack nutrition and may not provide you with the balanced proportion that you and your unborn baby needs at this time. Thus, eat healthily and stay hydrated. Studies (8) have revealed that weight issues may result in eating foods that are unhealthy; leading to pregnancy related complications as well. Eat healthily and avoid alcohol or any product that is harmful to you and your baby.
Grant yourself the freedom to ease the pressure. Take things easy and never mind if you’re unable to finish everything on time. While the desire to accomplish everything is strong, you can always remove a couple of tasks from your checklist or delegate them to others.
Fight away your stress for your baby’s wellbeing and enjoy every moment of this wonderful journey of pregnancy. Have a positive approach towards life and remove all the negative thoughts that scare you. Always stay happy and keep yourself engaged in things that give you immense joy and delight.
Read Also: Depression During Pregnancy: What Is It?
Yes, babies can sense their mother’s test to a certain extent.A study headed by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco found that infants not only sense their mothers’ anxiety, but also exhibit corresponding physiological changes.
While stress during pregnancy is not directly linked to causing birth defects, high levels of stress can have adverse effects on both the mother and the developing baby. Chronic stress may increase the risk of complications such as preterm birth, low birth weight, and developmental issues.
Stress is too much when it is persistent and out of control. It is also considered excessive when it starts to interfere with the mother’s everyday life, impacting physical nad mental wellbeing badly. Persistent stress impacts overall feel good factor and usually requires some form of treatment.
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