Managing stress while you are pregnant

Tips to have a more relaxed pregnancy

Tips to have a more relaxed pregnancy

This is supposed to be one of the best times of your life. Yet you are worried. You are worried about how your finances will change when your baby arrives;  about your relationship with your spouse or partner; about managing work and the new baby and about breastfeeding when you go back to work.

You are not the only mom-to-be who feels this way, but you do need to work on getting your stress level under control. According to the March of Dimes, very high levels of stress may contribute to preterm birth or low birth weight in full-term babies, so it's best to reduce your levels.  

Find your stress

Jessica Burckhard, DC is a Rhinebeck-based chiropractor who heads the Holistic Moms Network, a national organization that provides classes and discussions about breastfeeding, prenatal health, and women's health issues. She points out what you probably already know – much of your stress is based on financial issues. “Many new mothers don’t want to work as much as they did prior to their pregnancy, but feel they need to,” she says. “There also are many new moms who aren’t ready to return to work after their maternity leave is completed, but have to, to support their family. Another major concern is breastfeeding and whether the new mom can continue when she returns to work.”

Lori C., who prefers not to give her last name because she has yet to tell her entire family about her impending pregnancy with twins, is worried about her relationship with the babies’ father. “This is something I knew could be possible but I never really thought would happen to me,” she says. “I’m worried about me, them, their dad, and how it will work out after they are born. Right now, I am still working out, though I don’t know for how much longer. It’s something I need to discuss with my obstetrician.”

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Susan Bea, a Hurleyville mom. says she was stressed out during her pregnancy because she was concerned about the need for a second C-section. She planned on having a traditional vaginal birth, but during a prolonged labor, had a C-section after all. But she had other stresses as well. She and her family were moving to a new home, and she was working four days a week in a risk assessment office.

Ask for help

Caren Feldman, psychologist in Central Valley, says even when a mom-to-be knows what is stressing her out, she should seek out help. “It can be as simple as hiring a babysitter more often if she has another child so she can get out with her spouse or partner or just go out on her own,” she says. “It also can be talking with someone about emotional or personal concerns she might have about the pregnancy and what may happen afterwards.

Oftentimes, a doula can be helpful. Unfortunately, many pregnant women look at asking for help as stigmatizing. It’s not.” Feldman also explains that in days past, women often had other members of the family or the community there for them. This isn't always the case now. “If you feel blue and need to talk with someone, make the first step and speak with your health care provider, clergy person, or social services,” she says. “They should be able to direct you to professional help.” “What got me through were early evening walks with a group of women,” says Bea. “The walking and conversation were great.” 

Stress relief asap!

Burckhard believes that you should take 15 to 30 minutes every day to check in on a physical and emotional level. “Usually, pregnant women find that the first thing in the morning and before bed in the evening are good times to assess their physical, mental, and emotional feelings,” she says. She recommends positive affirmations, such as reading an upbeat book, watching a nurturing movie or show, meditating, yoga, and having a great conversation with a loved one. “These all help to lower stress hormones,” she says.  

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Eating right reduces stress

If there ever was a time to eat right, it's now that you are pregnant. “The stress of being pregnant causes overeating in some women and under eating in others, the former because of increased hunger and the latter due to loss of appetite,” says Shoshana Werber, RD, a nutritionist located in metro New York who has clients in the Hudson Valley. “Under-eating, especially during pregnancy, can lead to headaches, fatigue, and poor concentration,” she says. “Overeating during pregnancy can lead to excessive weight gain, which increases a mom’s risk for gestational diabetes, preclampsia, and sometimes, a cesarean section birth.

And never mind the concept, ‘you’re eating for two,’ and doubling up on food. That’s just not smart or healthy.” “During pregnancy,” Werber recommends, “It’s important to take the time to prepare healthy foods and eat a balanced diet. Eating well will help pregnant moms feel better, have more energy, and be better able to manage their stress while nourishing their babies.”

Claudia M. Caruana is a freelance medical and health writer based in the Hudson Valley.