Many pregnant women are under stress. Coping with stress in pregnancy is important to improve pregnancy outcome.
What ill effects does stress have on the health of an unborn child?
Studies have consistently shown an increased risk of pregnancy complications such as miscarriages and preterm births in women with increased stress levels. In addition, studies have shown increased risks to their children such as more allergies and schizophrenia.
Stress during pregnancy can affect pregnancy in different ways. For example, stress has been linked to growth restriction, decreased bonding, and even preterm delivery.
Stress comes in many different forms and women cope with stress in different ways. Stress often prevents women to care for themselves which may mean not eating well or smoking and drinking alcohol. Stress also affects a woman’s immune system and thus the baby’s development.
Some findings have shown that during the first trimester and postpartum, stress is felt more deeply, or at least has a greater effect on physical factors. The second and third trimesters seem to be less affected by stress, although no one knows why this is.
Is there any way to know the effect on a child whose mother was under constant stress while pregnant?
Pregnancy in and by itself is stressful. Stress levels are often difficult to assess because there is no real blood test or other reliable tests to check on a woman’s stress levels. If a woman feels she is under stress, she should let her obstetrician know so it can be discussed and monitored during her pregnancy.
What can I do to safeguard my unborn child during periods of enormous stress?
Many women are normally under some form of stress during pregnancy whether it revolves around the baby’s well-being, personal relationship, job concerns, or other financial concerns. If a woman feels she is under excessive stress in pregnancy, her first step should be to let her obstetrician know. Obstetricians should also incorporate questions about stress as part of their regular evaluations.
Some stress-coping mechanisms include:
- Regular exercise
- Find a hobby (needlepoint, birdwatching)
- Pay attention to what you eat and keep it healthy
- Get a regular whole body massage
- Have your husband give you foot rubs
- Get regular orgasms (unless contraindicated in pregnancy)
- Write a daily journal
- Taking vacations or long weekends
- Take regular naps - God's gift to a stressful life
- Meditation and other relaxation techniques
- Consider making lifestyle and work changes
- Try not to be so controlling about your life
- Read, talk to friends, talk to your husband
- Take walks, swim
- If all is not enough, seek professional help