It is completely normal to feel some amount of stress during pregnancy, primarily because of the uncertainty that might come into play the first time you become pregnant. But if the stress and anxiety become constant, the effects on you and your baby could be lasting.
When you’re stressed, your body goes into “fight or flight” mode, sending out a burst of cortisol and other stress hormones. These are the same hormones that surge when you are in danger and they prepare you to run by sending a blast of fuel to your muscles and making your heart pump faster. In fact, constant stress could alter your body’s stress management system, causing it to overreact and trigger an inflammatory response. And inflammation, in turn, has been linked to poorer pregnancy health and developmental problems in babies down the road. Chronic stress may also contribute to subtle differences in brain development that might lead to behavioural issues as the baby grows.
Here are a few ways to manage your stress and reduce anxiety at work and at home:
- Practice saying “no”: Being pregnant is as good a time as any to get rid of the notion that you can do it all. Make slowing down a priority, and get used to the idea of asking your friends and loved ones for help.
- Cut back on chores: And use that spare time to rest and relax, both physically and mentally
- Take advantage of sick days or vacation whenever possible: Spending a day — or even an afternoon — resting at home will help you get through a tough week.
- Try deep-breathing exercises, yoga, or stretching: These exercises help in calming the body and in alleviating any negative thoughts that may arise due to stress.
- Get regular exercises such as swimming or walking: Being pregnant does not imply that you have to completely put a halt to any physical activities. Low to moderate intensity of exercise can have a positive effect on you and your fetus.
- Do your best to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet so you have the physical and emotional energy you need: A balanced diet would generally contain 5-6 servings of fruits and vegetables every day, as well as plenty of whole grains and foods that are high in calcium – like milk, calcium-fortified foods, and yogurt – along with a variety of protein sources, such as pulses and legumes, soy products, poultry, and meats and an amount of healthy fats such as nuts and seeds.
- Go to bed early: Your body is working overtime to nourish your growing baby and needs all the sleep it can get.
- Limit “information overload”: Reading about pregnancy and listening to your friends’ pregnancy stories are fine — but don’t delve into all the scary things that might (but probably won’t) happen during your pregnancy. Focus instead on how you’re feeling and what’s happening to you now.
- Join a support group: If you’re coping with a difficult situation, spending time with others in the same boat can ease your burden. Many women create support networks using social media or by joining groups online.
- If you’re under unusual stress or feel like you’re at your breaking point, ask your healthcare provider to refer you to a therapist, who can better assess how strong your anxiety has become and what you may need to do to feel better. Listen openly to what she has to say. Getting help during pregnancy will protect you and your baby from unnecessary risks and reduce your chances of postpartum anxiety and depression.
The Aster Nurture program aims at nurturing, caring and protecting you, the mother, and your newborn baby from the time when you conceives till when your child is 5 years old. After enrolling in this program, you will be entitled to a range of benefits that will ensure that you have a healthy and happy pregnancy. The antenatal care package that you can avail of, contains antenatal group classes that aim to educate the expectant mothers about the various physical and emotional changes that occur during the term of pregnancy. Attending these classes along with other new mothers would give you a sense of support and help eliminate any negative thoughts that you might be harbouring. Furthermore, sharing your pregnancy stories with others will help you understand the nature of your stresses and the steps that you can take to reduce them.
Dr. Sejal Devendra Surti
Aster Hospital, Mankhool