If you are experiencing pregnancy stress, do not fret as it is a very common problem among pregnant women. Pregnancy, as joyous and exciting as it is, can be very overwhelming, especially for first-time mothers. With hormonal changes, mood swings, nausea, and back pain, it is completely normal to feel anxious and stressed out. Even though mental health plays a huge factor in ensuring a healthy pregnancy, it is often turned a blind eye upon. In this blog, let us understand the various causes of stress, effects of stress on pregnancy, and how to reduce stress during pregnancy.
Causes of pregnancy stress:
Pregnant women can experience stress for several reasons. According to a study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, these stressors can be broadly divided into three categories:
- Pregnancy-related stress: This stress revolves around the concept of pregnancy itself. This includes the fear/anxiety of pregnancy loss, fear of difficult labor or delivery, anxiety due to hormonal changes in the body, or fear of the responsibility of taking care of the baby. Bodily stressors include hormonal fluctuations, discomfort, fatigue, etc.
- Chronic stressors: This includes the anxiety of providing financially for the baby, the fear of passing on ailments to the baby, depression etc.
- Family & community stressors: This could be abusive marriages, lack of support in the family, death in the family, feeling unsafe in the neighborhood due to crime, natural disasters, or unstable political situations, etc.
It must be noted that a pregnant woman can experience one or more of the above stressors. The intensity of the feeling and cause of stress/anxiety might vary from person to person.
Effects of stress during pregnancy on infant and mother:
Sudden bouts of stress are not likely to harm your baby. However, if you’re experiencing chronic untreated stress, then there could be some negative effects on the fetus. Here are some complications that may arise if the cause of stress is left unattended:
1. Preeclampsia: Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that arises due to high blood pressure. A family history of high blood pressure, age factors, obesity issues can all cause preeclampsia. However, one of the main reasons can also be chronic hypertension. The possibility of the occurrence of preeclampsia in pregnant women is 7 times higher in developing countries than in developed countries. Preeclampsia can lead to the early delivery of your baby, that is before 37 weeks.
Stress and anxiety can lead to an unfortunate miscarriage of the fetus. This is especially true for women who are affected mentally through some kind of traumatic incident. Sometimes, strenuous and hectic work-life can also cause pregnancy stress. This is often the reason why doctors recommend requesting maternity leave for women.
3. Preterm birth and lower weight
Pregnancy stress can cause preterm birth, meaning delivery of the baby before the completion of 37 weeks. There is also a link between preterm birth and the baby being born low-weight (normal weight is considered as 2.5kgs-4.5kgs). Preterm babies can also have developmental issues and learning disabilities. However, it’s important to note that many preterm babies are born healthy.
4. Issues post-birth
The consequences of a stressful pregnancy sometimes show up only once the child is older. There is a connection between ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and stress during pregnancy. Studies also show a possible link between stressful pregnancy and depression in teen years.
How to reduce stress during pregnancy?
There are many simple methods to reduce stress during pregnancy. Here are a few ways to combat stress.
1. Talk to a family member or friend: Sharing your feelings and experiences can go a long way in combating pregnancy stress. Talk to somebody who will not judge you, but will stand by your side.
2. Seeking professional help: This includes visiting a doctor or psychologist. Seeking a professional can reduce the negative effects of stress during pregnancy. They can offer you rational solutions and help you feel empowered to combat your stressors.
3. Keeping fit: Mild exercises like walking, swimming, and yoga can release endorphins and reduce the body’s stress hormones like adrenaline. The release of endorphins can help you lift your spirits. Yoga helps you relax, stretch and several instructors teach pregnancy-specific poses.
4. Being kind to yourself: Pregnancy is a beautiful feeling, but feeling stress during pregnancy is normal. Do not push yourself to be perfect all the time. Take the day off to eat ice cream, shop, or take a long shower. Pamper yourself, watch a movie, and if it calls for it, cry it out. Your fear is valid.
5. Watching your diet: Pregnancy cravings are something every pregnant woman goes through. Stress eating can make you feel good at the moment but then can affect your weight and health, which makes many women feel stressed. Watch your diet and try to make it as healthy as possible.
6. Planning and practicing: Many women take birthing classes and nursing classes too. Some women go to these classes with their partners which not only brings quality time between the couple but also reduces pregnancy stress. These classes help you meet and talk to other parents as well.
7. Being mindful: This is to constantly watch yourself whenever your stress levels get high. You can work on it using your coping mechanisms to calm yourself down during pregnancy stress.
Now that you have all that you need to know about stress during pregnancy and how to combat it, try to incorporate these habits into your daily life. Pregnancy is one of the most wonderful feelings and being watchful of stressors can help you have a great gestation period.
There are also stressors while achieving pregnancy. If you are trying to achieve pregnancy with your partner, then you can learn more in these blogs like The connection between age and fertility, When to consider infertility treatment options, Reproductive tract infections that can affect fertility, and more such blogs for a successful pregnancy. There are several ways to reduce pregnancy stress, try out different methods to find out what’s best for you.
For more information on infertility causes and treatments:
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