You already know that pregnancy is not for the faint of heart. While the excitement and expectation of having a baby can be wonderful, there are plenty of challenges that go hand-in-hand with pregnancy. Among the physical changes, the hormonal changes, the financial changes and everything in between, a lot of things can happen during a relatively short period of time.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that pregnancy can result in a significant amount of stress. However, stress is dangerous, not only for your own health, but for your baby’s as well. How can you avoid it? Fortunately, there are some ways to combat stress during pregnancy and stay healthy, even when changes come your way. Here are six ways to reduce stress while pregnant.
This sounds simple enough, but sleep plays a crucial role in your stress levels. As Keith Eddleman, MD, director of obstetrics at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, states, “Sleeping allows your brain to restore neurotransmitters that can become depleted during wake times.” As you become more and more exhausted, your emotions can quickly turn negative and stress turn overwhelming. When you feel this coming on, be sure to take time away and get a good night’s rest.
You know what they say: “Laughter is the best medicine.” When it comes to pregnancy stress, they definitely have a point! Laughter releases chemicals in your brain which improve your mood and make you feel better. As you go through pregnancy, seek out things that make you laugh. For instance, rent a comedy movie one night and watch with your loved one. Or, search for funny animal videos online. Or, go out on the town to a comedy show. However you find things that make you laugh, you will reduce stress.
When you feel stress bottling up, don’t let it just sit there. The more you keep your stress, fears or nerves inside, the more they will overwhelm you. Instead, surround yourself with people you can talk to. Talk with your partner about your experiences, a midwife about your concerns or even a moms-to-be support group. (Hint: check out our blog here for what to look for in a support group.) As you open up to others, you might discover that your fears are completely normal, and definitely not worth the stress.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking with others—or aren’t sure who to talk to—start with yourself. Talk about your stress through journaling. Many women find it fun and helpful to keep a journal throughout their pregnancy. Record your thoughts, feelings, concerns and fears. Be gentle with yourself. When you have time to write, pick up the journal. If you don’t feel like writing for the day, then wait until inspiration strikes. In the future, you could even consider sharing your journal with your child.
Even if it’s the last thing on your mind, exercising can release any pent-up stress you feel. When you exercise, your brain produces endorphins, which pick up your spirits and reduce the stress hormone cortisol. There are also plenty of pregnant-friendly exercises. Activities like yoga, swimming and walking can get your heartrate up, but are still low-impact for your body. If you’re not sure where to start, talk with your healthcare provider and see what exercises you can do that will reduce stress.
It might not be easy to eat well if you’re not feeling well emotionally or physically. However, eating healthy foods during pregnancy actually plays a huge role in decreasing stress. Eating well is great for your brain, body and baby, so be careful in the foods you choose, to ensure you get enough vitamins and minerals. Eat regular meals to keep your blood sugar up and drink plenty of water throughout the day. Even with small changes to your eating habits, you can feel better both physically and mentally.
Stress is an inevitable part of change, and pregnancy includes a lot of change. Fortunately, there are ways you can combat stress and maintain the health of you and your baby. As you prepare for the birth of your little one, keep these ideas in mind to avoid stress and have a healthy, happy pregnancy.