Everything about stress during pregnancy, its causes, symptoms, how to solve it and how to prevent it.
There’s no doubt we live in a stressful time. Computers, faxes, cell phones, PDAs and pagers have expanded our working hours from 9 to 5 to 24/7. Kids are involved in an increasing number of activities from the time they’re toddlers, and fitting everything into the schedule can be mind-boggling. It would be nice if, during pregnancy, no one was allowed to stress about anything. But, that’s not going to happen. What you can do is find ways to manage the stress during pregnancy before it gets the best of you or begins to cause physical symptoms.
Even women who feel they always have everything under control when they’re not pregnant can find life is not as manageable when they become pregnant. Dr. Betty S., director of obstetrics at a hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y., says manageable stress can become less manageable during pregnancy.
Check this article to learn about stress after pregnancy: Dealing with Postpartum Stress
One thing Dr. Betty has noticed is there seems to be more pregnancy-related stresses that are unique to our modern, media-saturated culture. It’s almost as if we’re moving toward the idea that a woman’s lifestyle, activities and looks shouldn’t really change when she’s pregnant. The result is more body image problems and a great deal of pressure on pregnant women to maintain their pre-pregnant lifestyles in every way. This leads to a lot of resistance to the idea of reducing a workload or other activities, changing the diet to accommodate the increased need for calories or cutting back on intense exercise routines, not to mention guilt when they can’t maintain their previous routine.
“There are major emotional, hormonal and physical changes going on in the body,” says Dr. Betty. “There may be nausea and vomiting and sex may be an issue if there are problems with the pregnancy. It’s important to understand that pregnancy is a time when it’s not the status quo. You’re not the same person you were before you got pregnant.”
Dr. Betty blames the media for some of this, noting many of the models in pregnancy magazines aren’t even pregnant; they’re merely wearing a belly pillow for the photographs. Women see this and when they begin to fill out in places other than just their bellies, they become very distressed and think they’re going to be big forever.
“Common sense is very uncommon,” says Dr. Betty. “Women react unrealistically to changes in their body; they don’t allow themselves to realize that they are pregnant and these changes are supposed to be taking place. Pregnancy is different, your body does change and women do need to take that into account.”
Take a look at our another article to learn about stress before pregnancy: Stress Before Pregnancy: Causes and Solutions
Everything is for Two
One important thing to understand about stress is that everyone reacts to it differently and different things are stressful to different people.
“I think there are stresses that are specific to pregnancy in particular, such as those who have had poor pregnancy outcomes and are stressed by a fear of recurrence,” says Dr. Betty. “There are also stresses that have nothing to do with the pregnancy. The difference is how people react. Some are able to just come home and put on their sweats and forget about it, while others lose sleep at night. It’s very much a personality issue.”
Tracy Neal of Pamona, Calif., credits her naturally easygoing personality for getting her through her third pregnancy, which turned out to be the “pregnancy from hell,” stress-wise. Neal’s second pregnancy had ended in a miscarriage at eight weeks, so she was already dealing with some trepidation. Then, at 20 weeks, just a few hours after her husband left for his last two weeks of basic training, her mother-in-law died and she had to make a long, difficult trip to Las Vegas. While she was there, she began to experience extreme pain and was diagnosed with partial placental abruption and put on bed rest. All this while dealing with a colorful host of in-laws and an ill father.
Neal went on to safely deliver a beautiful, healthy son, but there were several times when she thought the stress might overwhelm her. She was able to deal with it, she says, mostly because she is naturally easygoing but also through simple, but effective, strategies that helped her take a step back and almost put the problems outside herself, as if they were happening to someone else.
“I took lots of baths,” says Neal. “Whenever things got bad I would go up and turn the water on and just soak.” She also wrote, which is what she credits with being able to take the stress outside herself. Her blog became an important outlet for her feelings and helped her look at her stresses with great objectivity.
Sometimes relieving stress can be as simple as a warm bath or keeping a journal. For some people, the stress becomes so overwhelming that Dr. Betty recommends counseling.
Jennifer Louden, author of The Pregnant Woman’s Comfort Book: A Self-Nurturing Guide to Your Emotional Well-Being During Pregnancy and Early Motherhood also suggests the following strategies for coping with stress:
- Awareness. Understand where your stress is coming from and decide you want to change your reaction. Understand you have to let go because you have a larger purpose – your baby.
- Create a pregnancy journal. Use it to explore your intentions as a mother. What kind of a mother do you want to be? What kind of family do you want to build? What kind of rituals do you want to observe? Along with buying diapers and putting up a layette, this is a good time to look deeply into your own soul and decide what direction you’d like motherhood to take.
- Explore your dreams. Pregnant women tend to dream vividly. Examine the ways in which your dreams are related to the new soul inside you.
- Embrace your symptoms. So you’re tired and you need to slow down. Do it, don’t fight it.
- Be creative. Many women bemoan the fact they’re more emotional and sensitive during pregnancy. Instead, explore that sensitivity and use it to bring out your creative side.
- Let go. You don’t have any real control over what is going on in your body, so listen to your body and let it fulfill its natural purpose.
Our articles are prepared to give advice. Always consult your doctor first for any problems and exact information.
The names of the people mentioned in the article have been changed for security reasons.