Women who experience chronic mental stress during pregnancy risk health problems not only for themselves, but also for their unborn children. By recognizing the causes of mental stress and how to cope with them effectively, women can relax and enjoy a stress-free pregnancy.
Every mother-to-be has bouts of stress during her pregnancy, and in many cases that stress has no lasting effects on her or her baby. Chronic stress, however, is severe, long term, recurrent anxiety, frustration, or fear that can have detrimental health effects. Instead of a happy time of anticipation, a pregnancy filled with stress becomes a dreadful, nerve-wracking experience.
Causes of Mental Stress During Pregnancy
There are many worries that can cause mental stress during pregnancy. Some of the most common stress triggers for pregnant women include:
- Her health: A woman's body undergoes tremendous physical changes during pregnancy, and every woman reacts to the experience differently. Fears about weight gain, stretch marks, morning sickness, joint pain, and other physical effects of pregnancy can lead to excessive mental stress.
- Her baby's health: Every mother wants her baby to be healthy, and women who have had children with poor health or who are at risk for unhealthy infants may have heightened anxiety during pregnancy as they imagine different health difficulties their new babies could face.
- Parenting stress: New parents often stress over the many details of parenting they never considered prior to the pregnancy. Issues such as bonding, caring for an infant, finding a babysitter, the quality of local schools, and their own readiness to be parents can easily cause chronic mental stress during pregnancy.
- Financial concerns: Having a baby is much more expensive than many new parents realize. As the bills mount for prenatal care, baby supplies, and other long term financial concerns such as saving for the child's college education, monetary pressure can create significant stress. This can be exacerbated by job-loss stress or unhappiness with a work environment, especially when paying the bills depends on that job.
- Peer Pressure: New parents are often bombarded with advice, tips, and even horror stories ranging from baby names to potty training, breastfeeding, discipline, labor, and other issues involved with pregnancy and child rearing. Without a way to effectively deal with the sometimes conflicting tips from well meaning friends and relatives, this type of helpfulness can lead to extreme stress.
- Single Parenthood: A woman who chooses to be a single mother deals with additional mental stress while she is pregnant, particularly since she does not have a partner who can help share some of the mental burden of becoming a parent. In addition to other mental stress triggers, she will have to be prepared for anxieties that stem from raising the child herself.
Effects of Chronic Mental Stress During Pregnancy
With so much to worry about during pregnancy, it is no surprise that many women are stressed during these anxious nine months. While some stress is natural and has no ill effects on the baby, chronic pregnancy stress can lead to severe health concerns. As a woman's stress levels increase, she produces higher amounts of hormones such as cortisol. These hormones can be transferred to the fetus and may restrict blood flow to the uterus, which can inhibit the baby's development. Women who experience chronic stress during pregnancy are at greater risk of:
- Premature births and low birth weight babies
- Children developing mental disorders such as ADD and autism
- Birth defects such as cleft palates and spinal bifida
- More severe maternal health consequences
Fortunately, these consequences of high stress during pregnancy are rare, but women who recognize their stress triggers and can effectively manage their stress can have a healthier, easier pregnancy.
Coping with Pregnancy Stress
Chronic mental stress does not have to take over a woman's life during her pregnancy. By practicing different stress management techniques, she can easily control her anxieties to relax both herself and her developing child.
- Communication: It is normal to feel anxious when pregnant, and women who communicate with others and share their fears soon learn they aren't alone. Talk over your fears and anxieties with your partner, your mother, a close friend, or a prenatal support group.
- Ask for help: Many women strive to be independent, but you shouldn't be afraid to ask for help during pregnancy. Delegate chores and tasks to close friends, relatives, coworkers, or anyone else in a position to be helpful. If necessary, consider hiring a housekeeping service or other professionals for some tasks to relieve mundane burdens.
- Plan carefully: Women who are more knowledgeable about pregnancy are less apt to have unfounded fears and anxieties about their condition. Read pregnancy books and magazines, ask your obstetrician detailed questions, and do other research so you know as much as possible about what to expect. At the same time, prepare a budget for baby supplies and make other plans to ease your pregnancy fears.
- Stay healthy: A healthy body copes with stress more easily. Eat a diet rich in the appropriate vitamins, minerals, and nutrients for your growing baby, drink plenty of water, and engage in moderate exercise to stay fit and energetic throughout your pregnancy.
- Relax: Take time to relax. Read a book, enjoy a warm bath, indulge in a maternity massage, pamper yourself with scented candles, and find other ways to step back from the stress of pregnancy to just enjoy the experience.
- Relieve stress instantly: When fears do surface, try quick stress relievers to keep your body from overreacting to the moment. Know what natural stress relievers work best for you, and practice those techniques regularly.
Chronic mental stress during pregnancy is not an unusual condition, but it can have detrimental effects on both the mother and the baby if it is not handled appropriately.For more information about pregnancy, visit LoveToKnow Pregnancy.