It’s no secret that pregnancy is supposed to be a happy time, but for many women, it can be anything but. Between the nausea, fatigue, and all-around discomfort of carrying a child inside you for months on end, it’s no wonder that so many pregnant women suffer from stress.
However, it really is important to keep stress in check during this time. Stress can have negative effects on your health and even the health of your baby if it gets too high.
So, take a deep breath and relax, because here you’ll find everything you need to know about pregnancy stress and the best ways to manage it.
What Causes Stress During Pregnancy?
It’s important to know that pretty much everyone has stress during pregnancy. It’s normal to feel nervous and worried. Every woman is different, and what causes stress for one woman may not be a big deal for another, but;
Here are some common causes of Pregnancy Stress:
- The physical and emotional discomforts of pregnancy, like nausea, constipation, mood swings, being tired, or having a backache.
- Worrying about what to expect during labour and birth
- Fear of miscarriage or pregnancy loss
- Anxieties around caring for a new born baby
- Concerns about whether you will be able to breastfeed successfully (or at all)
- Health complications (such as gestational diabetes)
- Concerns about balancing work responsibilities with caring for a new baby
- Concerns about your ability to provide for your family
- Concerns about the impact of stress on your pregnancy
- Relationship problems with partner or family members
Dangerous levels of Pregnancy Stress
Stress can be a positive force in your life when it helps you to focus on something that you’re passionate about or challenges you to grow. These common causes of stress are normally not harmful to you or your baby. But when stress becomes overwhelming in pregnancy, it can lead to issues that are harmful to both you and your child.
So if you are experiencing severe stress or anxiety that is preventing you from functioning normally at home or work, it may be time to seek help from a healthcare professional.
Dangerous levels of stress during pregnancy could be triggered by:
- Negative life events such as; divorce, serious illness or death in the family, or losing a job or home.
- Chronic stress; which can result from financial problems, physical or emotional abuse, serious health problems, depression, and having no means of support
- Experiencing a catastrophic event such as; earthquakes, hurricanes, or terrorist attacks
- The experience of racism and other difficulties faced by individuals in minority groups
- Pregnancy-related stress of a large, overwhelming level; concerning things like labour, the health of the baby, and caring for baby.
- PTSD: As many as 1 in 5 women will experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives. About 20 percent of those women will develop PTSD, which is characterised by three main symptoms. Reliving the event through flashbacks or nightmares; avoiding reminders of the trauma; and experiencing negative changes in mood and behaviour.
- Common causes of PTSD during pregnancy include: Being in a traumatic situation—such as being involved in a car crash or witnessing a violent crime; having experienced childhood abuse; having experienced rape before getting pregnant; being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder before becoming pregnant; and having experienced trauma in the past year.
Whether you’re planning for a baby, waiting for one to arrive, or already pregnant, stress is a part of life—and it’s not going away anytime soon. It would be very rare for any pregnancy to be completely smooth sailing.
On the bright side, while the causes of stress during pregnancy are many and varied, they can be managed. So, don’t fret, we’re going to give you all the tools you need to do just that, right here
But first, let’s look at the signs of stress to look out for and the risks of leaving it unchecked.
How To Spot Pregnancy Stress
Some of the top symptoms that indicate stress might be getting the better of you during pregnancy include:
- Feeling constantly worried
- Having trouble falling or staying asleep
- Feeling physically exhausted
- Experiencing mood swings or emotional ups and downs
- Experiencing a lack of motivation and energy
- Headaches, body aches, or muscle tension
- Nausea and vomiting
As you can probably tell, pregnant women are already experiencing many of the symptoms of stress due to morning sickness and other discomforts that come with growing a baby. So, it’s easy to miss them!
That’s why it’s important to pay attention to both your mental and physical health and let your midwife know if you feel stressed, as too much of it can have potentially dangerous side effects during pregnancy.
How Does Stress Affect Pregnancy?
As a parent-to-be, you’re probably already aware that chronic stress can have a significant impact on your health. But how does it affect pregnancy?—and what issues can it lead to—they might be more serious than you might think.
Pregnant women who experience dangerously high-stress levels may be at risk for
Stress can lead to miscarriage for a variety of reasons. Some of these include:
- A lack of sleep and rest, which is especially important during the first trimester
- Increased blood pressure, which can cause the placenta to detach from the uterus
- Increased cortisol levels in the body, which can lead to changes in blood flow and other issues related to foetal development.
Stress is one of the leading causes of premature birth or preterm labour. Preterm birth, or childbirth prior to 37 weeks gestation, is a significant health concern because babies born early face higher risks of health problems and death.
It can lead to premature birth in several ways. For starters, stress can make it harder for a woman’s body to regulate cortisol levels, this stress hormone can cause contractions and lead to preterm labour. Cortisol can also inhibit progesterone production in the body, resulting in a shorter pregnancy period.
Low Birth Weight
The connection between stress and low birth weight? Cortisol is to blame again.
Research has shown that an increase in the production of cortisol during pregnancy can also cause problems for foetal development, resulting in smaller birth weight and length.
It is also possible that stress during pregnancy can affect the placenta, which is responsible for carrying oxygen and nutrients to the baby. This can in turn affect the baby’s birth weight.
Greater Risk of Infection
Stress during pregnancy can lead to a greater chance of infection.
The body releases chemicals during stressful situations, which in turn can cause the immune system to become compromised. This means that even if you’re exposed to a virus or bacteria, your body may not be able to fight it off as well as it would under normal circumstances.
This is important for pregnant women because their immune systems are already weakened due to hormones released during pregnancy. If you add stress into the mix, you’re more likely to get sick than usual.
Increased Risks of Problems After Birth
Although stress affects all aspects of pregnancy, the effects of prenatal stress may not show up until much later in life–sometimes even decades after birth.
The most common effect is an increased risk of mental health disorders. Babies who were exposed to stress during gestation are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Researchers have also found that women who reported higher levels of stress during pregnancy were more likely to have children with behavioural issues like ADHD and autism. As well as psychiatric conditions, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
In addition to psychological issues, babies born under the influence of prenatal stress may
also have physical consequences. These include heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and other respiratory problems.
Although these are some potentially serious conditions, extreme stress is only likely to cause problems in rare circumstances.
Now, let’s get to the good news. There are many ways to manage stress during pregnancy, and we’ve got the best here for you now!
How To Manage Pregnancy Stress
1. Get Moving!
Exercise is good for you, and it’s even better for you when you’re pregnant.
Mums-to-be who exercise during pregnancy can reduce their stress levels, improve their mood, boost their energy, and even make it easier to sleep.
Exercise reduces the amount of cortisol in your body and releases endorphins in your brain, making you feel happier and less stressed.
In addition, exercise increases blood flow throughout your body, including to the placenta (the organ that nourishes your baby), which helps reduce stress on both you and the baby.
There are lots of ways to get your workout on without stressing out your little bundle of joy such as:
Walking: Walking is a great way to get moving while pregnant because it’s easy on your joints. It doesn’t put too much pressure on your body, so you can do it right up until your due date.
Yoga: Yoga exercises are often gentle enough for pregnant women who are just starting out with exercise or haven’t done much of it before getting pregnant. They’re also easy on joints which can become more sensitive during pregnancy due to hormone changes.
Pilates: Pilates can be another great option for staying fit during pregnancy. The focus on breathing and stretching will help relax both body and mind. This may help ease some of those pregnancy symptoms like nausea and back pain that come along with carrying around so much extra weight!
Swimming: It’s low impact, helps relieve stress, and also helps develop muscle tone and strength, which are important for supporting your growing belly. As your belly gets bigger, swimming will help keep you from feeling too heavy or sluggish when you move around. Plus, it’s fun!
2. Get In Your 5 a day
Eating healthy and staying hydrated can help you reduce stress and maintain a positive outlook while pregnant so that you can enjoy this special time in your life a lot more.
We recommend eating foods that are rich in nutrients, like fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans to help you stay calm and relaxed during pregnancy. Foods high in protein are also a good choice because they can help build muscle tissue, which helps support the baby’s growth throughout the pregnancy.
Drinking at least 8 glasses of water per day is another way to reduce stress levels during pregnancy. Water helps flush toxins out of your body so you’ll feel better overall—and it’s essential for keeping your weight gain within healthy limits as well!
3. Master Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a great way to combat stress during pregnancy. It is a practice that involves focusing on the present moment, breathing deeply, and paying attention to your body’s responses. Mindfulness can help you to feel more relaxed, which will help you cope with the physical and emotional changes of pregnancy.
The best way to practice mindfulness is through meditation or yoga. You can also practice it as part of your daily routine by taking a few minutes to breathe deeply and focus on your body’s sensations as you move throughout your day.
In addition to reducing your overall stress levels, mindfulness has been shown to improve sleep quality and lower blood pressure in pregnant women. It also helps reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone) in pregnant women with preterm labour symptoms.
4. Listen To Music
Music is a powerful tool for reducing stress, and it’s especially useful during pregnancy, as listening to music has been shown to reduce the amount of cortisol in your bloodstream.
So if you’re feeling stressed, why not turn on your favourite jams and let yourself get lost in the music? It’s an easy way to take your mind off of whatever is stressing you out, and that’s always a good thing.
Plus, music can help you relax and unwind, which means it can make it easier for you to fall asleep at night—which is a big deal while you’re pregnant!
5. Prioritise You Time
When you’re pregnant and stressed, it can be hard to remember that you need to take care of yourself. It’s not just about the baby—it’s also about you! And we’re here to tell you that self-care doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.
Self-care can be something as simple as taking a bath or having a cup of tea—it doesn’t have to involve expensive spa treatments or anything like that (though those are great too!). The important thing is that you’re taking time out for yourself, whether it’s just five minutes or an hour a day, to do something that makes you feel relaxed and happy to keep stress at bay.
6. Get More Sleep
If you’re not getting enough sleep, your stress levels will skyrocket, and that can be really dangerous for a developing baby.
The problem is that when we’re stressed out about not sleeping well, we stay up even later trying to find ways to get more rest—and then we end up staying awake even longer!
So what’s the fix?
If you have trouble falling asleep, try going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time every morning; creating a soothing routine like taking a bath before bedtime; avoiding caffeine past noon; or playing soft music or white noise while you sleep. You might also consider taking sleep supplements, but only if your doctor recommends them.
7. Complementary Therapies
Complementary therapies can help you reduce the stress of pregnancy, in fact, in some cases, they have been reported to be just as effective at reducing stress during pregnancy as prescription drugs!
Two effective methods that are safe during pregnancy include massage therapy and acupuncture.
Massage therapy is particularly effective at easing anxiety and promoting relaxation in pregnant women. It can also help with circulation and provide much-needed relief from aches and pains.
Acupuncture is another complementary therapy that can help pregnant women relax and cope with their increased stress levels by stimulating the flow of energy through the body. Acupuncture involves placing very thin needles into specific points on the body to promote healing; this process has been used for thousands of years to treat pain and illness and is gaining popularity as an alternative medicine method for relieving stress-related disorders such as depression or anxiety disorders such as postpartum depression (PPD).
If you’re looking for ways to cope with the stress of pregnancy, these methods are deemed safe when provided by a registered specialist trained to deal with pregnant women. But, don’t try any other complementary medicines without asking your midwife or doctor first. The NHS recommends that in general, you should avoid taking any unnecessary medicines when you’re pregnant.
8. Know What’s Coming
Maybe you’re a little stressed about giving birth. That’s understandable! Maybe you feel like you don’t know what to expect, or that there are too many options for how to deliver your child, or that all the advice out there is just too much to handle.
The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to help you feel more in control of your situation – and one of them is going to antenatal classes or birth classes when pregnant.
It’s true! Studies show that women who enrol in these classes are more prepared for what comes next and feel more confident about their ability to handle the challenges of being pregnant and giving birth. And this greater confidence leads them to be more relaxed throughout their pregnancies,
With this knowledge under your belt, you’ll feel much more prepared for the big day and you’ll learn how to deal with anything that comes your way during this exciting time in your life
9. Wear Your Heart On Your Sleeve
Pregnancy is a wild ride, and it’s only natural to feel some stress. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed, one of the simplest ways to cope is to just be open about how you’re feeling.
Let your emotions run free! Pregnancy is a time when many women experience heightened emotions and feelings of anxiety, but letting them all out can actually be a good way to relieve some of that tension.
Talk to your loved ones about how you’re feeling. The more open you are, the easier it will be for them to understand what’s going on with you and help you through it. They might even have some great suggestions for coping mechanisms that can help reduce your stress levels during pregnancy. And having people who care about your health and well-being can help keep your stress levels down too—as you won’t feel like you’re going through it alone!
10. Get Professional Help
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you’re not getting the help you need, don’t wait until you’re at your wit’s end.
Getting professional help isn’t a last resort – it should be your first course of action if you feel that all the stress of pregnancy has become too much.
Doctors and midwives are the perfect support team. They’re not just concerned about the medical aspect of pregnancy: they are also well-trained in providing the emotional support you need.
Now that you know how to manage stress throughout your pregnancy, it’s time to get serious about how to cope after
If you thought that having after giving birth stress was a thing of the past, you are sadly mistaken. In fact, the opposite is true: A new baby can actually cause more stress than ever before. How? Because there’s another person in the mix now! And that person needs your constant attention and care.
But don’t worry!
With these tips, you’ll be able to manage all that stress like a pro.
- First, don’t try to do it all yourself. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the things that need to be done when you’re caring for a new baby, but remember that it’s okay to ask for help. Get friends or family members who want to pitch in to help with babysitting or other tasks around the house.
- Second, make sure everyone gets enough sleep! It might seem like an idealistic idea at first glance — but if someone is tired and cranky, they’re going to be less likely to help out around the house or in taking care of your precious little one. And nobody wants that! Make sure everyone has time each night to recharge their batteries with some good old quality sleep time before tackling another day full of stressors.
- Thirdly, make sure you take care of yourself! You can’t take care of anyone else if your own cup isn’t full. Take some time out every day to do something that makes you happy or relaxes you, even if it’s just five minutes spent reading or playing on your phone. It’ll help keep your sanity! Whatever it means for YOU to feel good in your own body and mind, make sure it happens!
- Finally, don’t compare yourself to other people. This is a big one, and it’s a lot easier said than done. But you know what? If you stop comparing your life to others, you’ll be a whole lot happier. I know that’s easier said than done, but try to focus on what IS working for you, instead of focusing on what isn’t. It’s not about being right—it’s about finding what works best for YOUR family!
Being a parent is the one thing that nobody is perfect at, no one really has it all together, we’re just all doing our best.
As you’ve learned, there are plenty of ways to manage your pregnancy stress. The key is to remember that you’re not alone in this—pregnancy is hard on everyone.
As long as you have some strategies in place and a supportive partner or family member by your side, you’ll be able to handle whatever comes your way!
Thanks for reading!