Everyone knows that when you’re expecting you need to avoid stress and aim for calm, but why is this exactly? And how do you actually know when you’re stressing out?
Here’s the lowdown, plus some tips for how to keep yourself (and your growing bub!) in the chill zone.
Why stress is so bad
First up, it’s completely normal to feel a bit stressed when you’re pregnant. It’s a big responsibility carrying and growing a child, after. Your body is constantly changing, the birth is impending and there are lots of things to organise before your little one arrives.
A little stress is not going to be too much of a drama, but if you’re consistently feeling overwhelmed or experiencing high levels of anxiety every day, then it can create problems.
It’s thought that stress hormones pass from mother to placenta, causing a variety of changes in the growing baby. Some outcomes of consistent, sustained anxiety during pregnancy include:
- An increased risk of premature birth or low-birthweight babies
- Increased behavioural problems throughout childhood
- An increased susceptibility to asthma and allergies during childhood
- Higher rates of hospitalisation for infectious diseases like respiratory illness and gastroenteritis.
That said, it’s important to note that early intervention can head all this off at the pass, and reducing stress to manageable levels results in healthy and happy mums and babies.
Signs you need to stress less
Not sure if you’re tipping the scale in the stress department? Here are some commons signs to look out for when you’re pregnant indicating you should regroup and slow things down:
- You feel constantly on edge, worried or anxious
- You’re having trouble sleeping or eating
- You find it hard to relax or calm down
- You feel overwhelmed by daily tasks and to-do lists
- You feel very low in energy
- You’re in a constant state of frantic busyness
- You’re having panic attacks
- Your muscles are tense
- You have recurring thoughts that won’t go away
Read more about things to avoid in pregnancy:
- Hey mama! 5 foods to cut when pregnant or nursing and what to eat instead
- 5 things to avoid when you’re pregnant
- How to know if you’re doing too much or not enough when pregnant
Tips for a stress-free pregnancy
While every woman and their circumstances are different, here are some simple ways to help reduce stress and anxiety during pregnancy:
- Avoid massive changes – Don’t embark on anything big. Moving house, renovating, changing jobs, adventurous travelling or starting a complicated new diet or exercise regime are best avoided, if possible.
- Cut back on work – Reduce your hours if circumstances allow and don’t work right up until your due date. Try to finish work at least four to six weeks prior to the birth.
- Ask for help – Ask your partner to do more around the house; reach out to family and friends when you need it (particularly if you have other children); and talk to a financial counsellor if you have financial pressures.
- Work on your relationships – Conflict with your partner or a family member can be incredibly stressful. Focus on respectful, clear communication – and seek external help such as counselling if need be.
- Look after yourself – Eat well, drink lots of water, get plenty of sleep and do moderate exercise to keep in optimal condition. Remember to take time out to do things you enjoy – like getting your nails done, spending an afternoon reading in bed or taking time to catch up with friends, too!
- Try natural therapies – Meditation, massage therapy and acupuncture are three proven ways to help you relax.
- Address your baby concerns – Prep the nursery with the basics; read up on birth and parenting a newborn; join online parenting forums; chat to your trusty health professional and/or other mums about life with a baby.
- Boost your zen – For some extra chill vibes try listening to gentle music, sip chamomile tea and rub magnesium oils or creams on your legs before bed.
If you’re experiencing high levels of stress during your pregnancy please speak to your doctor for further advice and support.