How Stress Can Impact Your Pregnancy

Maternity Care

Tammy George

a stressed pregnant woman sat at her desk with hand on head

Stress is a normal part of life whether you are pregnant or not. First-time mothers may experience stress at work while subsequent pregnancies have the stress of a toddler or older children. Some stress is inevitable and of no concern but how much stress if too much during pregnancy?   

Cortisol Levels

When we are stressed, our brain releases the stress hormone cortisol. In a pregnant mother, this stress hormone can pass over the placenta. If a mother is constantly under high levels of stress or anxiety, the body is constantly in the 'fight or flight' mode.

A pregnant woman who is under constant stress may feel more tired than usual and be prone to depression and illness. If the level of cortisol in her blood remains high, it can also impact on the baby’s health.  Babies of highly stressed mothers are at risk of being born early and having a low birth weight even if they are born full-term. Subtle differences in a baby’s brain development are also possible in mothers who are under chronic stress.

How to Relieve Stress

There are steps you can take to help with the stress, try the following to find one that works for you.

Rest

If you are feeling rushed or stressed, take some time out to put your feet up or have an afternoon sleep. If you work full-time, make sure you set aside time on the weekend to just relax. After the baby is born, you will wish you had taken some time out while you still could!

Light Exercise

A walk out in the sun can give you a new perspective on a stressful situation and improve your mood if you are feeling anxious or depressed. Swimming is an ideal form of exercise during pregnancy as there is less impact on your joints than other forms of exercise. Enquire about an aqua-natal classes at your local pool. Pregnancy yoga is also popular because it tones and stretches the body while also teaches you breathing and relaxation techniques.      

Complementary Therapies

Use meditation and positive visualisation to relax and concentrate on one thing.

A massage is excellent for taking the stress out of any situation. Make sure the therapist is experienced in pregnancy massage and check that any essential oils are safe during pregnancy.

Talk About It

Ask yourself what is causing you to feel stress. If you are concerned about your finances after the baby is born, talk to your partner or a financial counsellor. Relationship problems can often occur during pregnancy so talk to a family member or counsellor if this is causing you stress. If you are worried about the impending birth or caring for a newborn baby, talk to your midwife, doctor or friend. If you can find the right person to talk to, you may be able to put your concerns aside and start looking forward to the next phase of your life.

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Seek Help

Pregnancy itself causes stress in many mothers-to-be. Changes to your body, concern for your unborn baby and fear of the unknown future can all cause stress. With other pressures, it’s understandable pregnant women can feel stressed.  

If you are continually feeling stressed or anxious, seek medical help from your GP, midwife or obstetrician as they may be able to prescribe medication or refer you to a counsellor, psychologist or support network that can help with your situation.

Tammy George

Please note: Tammy's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic please consult your healthcare professional.

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