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How to Manage Stress During Pregnancy


It is perfectly normal to feel some anxiety during pregnancy. As the weeks go by, it becomes more challenging to keep up with preparations and work or home responsibilities. Perhaps you have heard about the dangers of stress during pregnancy, which effectively gives you one more thing to worry about.

Professionals in obstetrics and gynecology have researched the effects of stress on pregnancy and found there are many documented health benefits for mother and baby when that daily stress level can be lowered. Rather than worrying that your stress levels are too high, consider taking these steps to reduce tension and anxiety in daily life, both to ease your journey to motherhood and to allow your child to develop surrounded by your own relaxed sense of well-being.


How Does Stress Affect Pregnancy?

Stress puts an added hormone load on the body’s systems, in preparation for rapid reaction to what the mind perceives as impending danger. When we worry about things past the point of productivity, this feeling of constant low-level stress generates high levels of cortisol and other hormones, which can have an effect on the baby’s development and may increase the risk of delivering earlier than full-term.1

Some of the effects of stress during pregnancy include:2

  • Nausea and digestive difficulties that extend past the first trimester
  • Fatigue or exhaustion; difficulty sleeping
  • Chronic pain, swelling, or body aches
  • Persistent worrying regarding the baby’s health, the delivery, or parenting
  • Increasing feelings of anxiety about finances or current events
  • Feeling overwhelmed or depressed


Wondering How to Manage Stress During Your Pregnancy?

Those stressful feelings can be defused with lifestyle and mind-set changes, making your well-being and your baby’s development a center point of your routine. Growing a child is a full-time job. Letting other things take a lower priority is not only natural and right, but it is a healthy decision within your control.

First, some things to avoid include withdrawing from people, sleeping excessively, and eating empty calories. Inactivity and self-isolation may be signs of the problem developing. Let’s look at some of the ways that women are finding time and space to focus on relaxation during pregnancy.


Give Yourself a Break

This may be a perfect time to step back from many of the things you have said “yes” to in the past. For the future, you have a new focus in life, and it is time for someone else to take a turn at the above-and-beyond things you may have been doing for your family, job, and community. This is a time to relax so that you can be the parent you strive to be.

Don’t worry about spotlessly cleaning your house or filling up your social schedule. You can politely say no to strenuous volunteering, overtime, or extra shifts. You can ask for help and accept it when it is offered! Giving back right now is giving forward, taking the best care of yourself, and letting go of any guilt you feel about spending time on personal wellness. Give yourself permission to relax.


Talk to Your Baby Bump

It is believed that from about 23 weeks of development, your baby can hear your voice.3 Take time out, when you feel stress or worry, to rub your belly and talk to your child calmly. Singing and reading can help you take a mental break yourself and, as you comfort your child, you can take comfort in a private moment of self-awareness and reflection.


Take Control of the To-Do List

You can sit and practice deep breathing, focusing on your clear intentions of creating a safe and loving environment for your baby. Then make a list of the things you need to do before the birth. Consider who can help with each item and which you must do yourself. That mountain of must-haves is surmountable, and you don’t need to do it alone.


Find Financial Alternatives

Happy pregnant women are talking together at antenatal class

If financial worries are part of the picture, empower yourself with information. Find out what benefits you qualify for at work, and look into new parent groups where you can share resources and information. You may be able to borrow a stroller, crib, or new model car seat from friends, family, or coworkers. Leaning on your community is expected when you are expecting. There may be many agencies and individuals in your local community available to help, depending on what you need.


Expect and Accept Changes in Your Body

Stress in early pregnancy that is not relieved can grow more severe over time. Some women feel full of energy during the second trimester, but many do not. As the weeks go by, your body will change and your physical abilities will change with it. You may feel more emotional than normal as your system responds to varying hormone levels. Listen to your body and take time to relax and rest when needed.

Your appetite may change, and good nutrition is important throughout your pregnancy. Eat small meals throughout the day, and don’t skip breakfast. Staying well-hydrated and full of available nutrients is good for the baby and can even your blood sugar, improve your mood, and help you cope with stress.


Exercise Gently with Doctor Approval

Your doctor of obstetrics and gynecology can guide you to appropriate exercise programs that will not only keep you fit but will relieve physical and mental stress. Each woman’s needs are different and will change as they near delivery. Most often, these exercises are recommended for stress and pregnancy:

  • Stretching and deep breathing for muscle and mind relaxation
  • Prenatal yoga classes that may incorporate mindful meditation
  • Walking, especially outdoors in the sunshine, which improves mood and healthy sleep patterns
  • Swimming or water exercise, which is a calming activity in a weightless environment, easing sore joints and muscles
  • Relaxation massage or other relaxing spa treatments
  • In most cases, 20-30 minutes of gentle approved exercises daily are recommended; as little as 10 minutes of exercise each day will often reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve sleep


Say It Out Loud

When you can’t seem to still those stressful thoughts, it is time to talk to someone. Articulating the things that are making you anxious often stops the repeating cycle of worry. Spoken aloud, you can analyze the causes behind your feelings or simply put them to rest. Communication is a powerful tool for reducing anxiety. Let the people who care about you know what you are feeling, and you will reap the benefits of their thoughts and experience.

Your partner may have worries of their own. Admitting these to each other makes you both feel stronger as you face the future together. Family and friends may have knowledge to share or can put some of your fears to rest with understanding and offers of help. Share that stress, and it often dissolves away, allowing you to move ahead confidently.


Find as Much Help as You Need

Pregnant woman and her friends using digital tablet on park bench

If you feel overwhelmed with stress and worry despite your efforts, you should speak to your doctor about your feelings. Your obstetrician should be well aware of the effects of stress during pregnancy and can guide you to therapy or medication that can help. Symptoms of depression include sadness, excessive guilt, uncontrollable crying, and loss of interest. If you have these feelings every day for two weeks or more, you should reach out for treatment and guidance.

With all of the changes your body is undergoing, there is no need to blame yourself for feeling less than perfect during pregnancy. If you are struggling with stress management or are worried about the health of your developing child, reach out to us at Crystal Run Healthcare.

Our team is committed to women’s health and wellness and can schedule a prenatal visit and lab work to help put your mind at ease. We have high-risk maternal-fetal medicine specialists available to answer all of your questions and help you prepare for a healthy and happy birth experience. Contact us today to gain access to the resources and support you need to truly relax and enjoy this time together.