Pregnancy is a time when your body goes through many changes. You will experience hormonal changes, delivery anxiety, as well as added pressure to prepare for your new baby. While stress in terms of feeling anxious is a normal part of pregnancy, chronic stress could harm you and your baby.
Read on about how you can identify the different symptoms of stress, how it affects your body, and what you can do to reduce it.
Symptoms of Stress
Some of the telltale signs that indicate that your body is stressed are listed below:
- Increased heart rate or palpitations
- Headaches or back pain
- Tummy upset
- Excessive fatigue
- A sense of frustration, anger, sadness, or worry
- Feeling scared to be alone
- Not wanting to be around others
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increase in cortisol, norepinephrine, or epinephrine levels
What Causes Stress During Pregnancy?
There are various reasons why your stress levels could be higher during pregnancy apart from the hormones. Many moms get stressed if they have an unplanned pregnancy, or are pregnant again after a single or several miscarriages. The death of a previous child may also cause anxiety.
Other reasons are teenage pregnancies, having to raise a family as a single parent, or anxiety throughout a complicated pregnancy. You may also experience stress if you have financial difficulties, are moving house, are affected by natural disasters, have a history of depression or mental illness, have drug and alcohol issues, or are dealing with a death in the family.
Stress can also happen if you are very worried about labor, and thoughts about how to care for your baby once your little one is born.
How Stress Affects You and Your Baby
Regular stress that almost all moms face will not affect your baby. For instance, you may be worried about gathering all the necessary items required for your baby before delivery, or you may have argued with your best friend. These situations, though stressful, will not have any adverse negative impacts.
What you need to be worried about is extreme stress. In very stressful situations the following may occur:
- Miscarriage- Research shows that prenatal stress leads to an increased risk of miscarriage. Stress, especially in the first six weeks increases the chances of miscarriage.
- Low birth weight- Stress can lead to babies with a low birth weight which is less than 5.5 pounds.
- Preterm labor- Preterm labor is when a baby is born before 37 weeks which is the full pregnancy term. Preterm babies generally have issues like developmental delays, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
How to Reduce Stress During Pregnancy
Being pregnant is not easy for all moms. Here are some ways you can minimize stress during pregnancy.
Find ways to relax
Yoga, walking, listening to music, getting a prenatal massage, or meditation are some helpful ways to redirect your stress. Try simple and safe exercises during your pregnancy to improve your mood. Exercise helps to reduce stress by releasing endorphins or “happy hormones” in the brain.
During your everyday routine, indulge in activities and hobbies that make you feel better, whether it is going for a prenatal massage or reading books. Pay attention to your work schedule, or other factors that are causes of stress and find ways to alleviate it.
Talk to your friends, family, and other expectant or new moms for support. If this is your first time being pregnant, it is natural to feel stressed out. Speaking to others and talking about your anxieties and fears can help you feel less stressed out. It is also important to speak to your doctor regarding concerns that you may have and to clear any doubts or misconceptions.
Get good rest
A good night’s sleep and getting enough rest are essential for stress reduction. Lack of sleep causes increased stress levels and will add to the stress that you already have. Take a short nap during the day or retire to bed early to ensure that you have enough rest.
Remember to stay hydrated and eat well to ensure that you have good energy levels. Indulge in healthy snacks like apples, yogurt, cheese, and hummus. Eating high-fiber foods ensures that you stay full for longer periods.
Keep in mind that the everyday and regular stress that you feel is normal because most moms feel that way. However, if you feel like you can’t relax and are overly stressed no matter what you try, speak to your OB/GYN or midwife about it. They will surely help you through the process and help you to treat it.