Written on 14 August 2018
Pregnancy can be a very stressful time for a to-be mother. From the physical discomfort to all the worry about your baby’s health and future, pregnancy is not always a smooth road. Pregnancy also leads to a lot of changes; at work, with your family, and in your close relationships, which can be quite a whirlwind.
However, stressing too much may make things a lot worse for you during this time. Stress can cause headaches, insomnia, loss of appetite or overeating.
What causes stress during pregnancy?
Many women experience extreme physical discomfort with symptoms like backaches, nausea, vomiting, constipation and so on, especially during the first trimester. Managing work and everyday life with these symptoms can become very stressful, especially if you have not yet told people around you about the pregnancy and can’t rely on them for support and understanding.
The rapid changes in your hormone levels can sometimes result in sharp mood swings. These mood swings may make it harder to handle stress.
Work and future related worries
Pregnancy is a tricky time at work as your employer may not always react favorably to the news of your pregnancy. Even if your employer is supportive, it may still be a stressful time as you have to prepare your team and your manager for your time away from work post childbirth.
Causes unrelated to pregnancy
It may so happen that major life events like divorce, bankruptcy, illness or death in the family or job loss may coincide with your pregnancy which can result in a lot of stress.
Can Stress Affect Your Baby
Short-term stress that leaves you in a few hours or a couple of days does not really cause harm to the baby. Long-term or chronic stress, however, is a different issue.
Although there is not enough conclusive research to completely support the hypothesis that stress can cause damage to your unborn child, there are nonetheless a number of studies that have linked stress during pregnancy to different kinds of problems for both mother and child.
Stress hormones can impact the growth of your baby
According to research by the University Hospital Zurich and the Max Planck Institute Munich, the physical stress to the mother can change the metabolism in the placenta and influence the growth of the unborn child. The placenta which supplies nutrients to the baby can release the stress hormone cortisol which thus enters the amniotic fluid. While small quantities of this hormone are important for the proper growth of the baby, an excessive production of cortisol can lead to the baby’s organs not maturing properly.
Stress and the fetal brain
Although research in this area is still limited, high levels of stress are linked to subtle differences in brain development of the fetus which may lead to behavioral issues as the baby grows older.
The indirect impact of stress
Stress can result in chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and heart disease. These diseases can result in problems like premature delivery or a low birth weight baby. This can cause health issues for the newborn baby.
Stress can also lead to the mother reaching for crutches like alcohol, cigarettes or drugs which again are very bad for the health of the baby.
How to Deal with Stress During Pregnancy?
It’s very important to schedule enough downtime during your pregnancy to make sure you can keep the stress and the pregnancy blues at bay.
Make sure you have enough time for relaxation whether it’s yoga, meditation, a good book or a nice warm bath. It’s important to make sure you give time to yourself first and foremost.
Health and fitness
Healthy eating and regular exercise can be great stress busters and are also good for the overall health of your baby.
Reaching out to your partner and your network of close friends and family is crucial at this point. Make it a point to share what you are going through and try not to isolate yourself.
Get professional help if needed
If you feel depressed or are suffering from high levels of stress over a long period, do seek professional help. It's best to go to your healthcare provider or to a therapist and get help.
It’s also important to remember that if you do get stressed out from time to time, you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Short-term stress is but natural, especially when you’re pregnant and doesn’t harm your baby in any way. Feeling guilty about the stress could result in further stress which would only make the situation worse.
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