Stress and pregnancy

Advice on the influence of stress during pregnancy with information on the causes and symptoms of stress as well as stress management and relief.
Stress is a subjective phenomenon and can be defined as an individual's physical and psychological response to a situation where they feel that the demands placed on them exceed their ability to cope.

Pregnancy is a time of great change and many women do feel stressed at some point. This is completely natural and not at all surprising seeing as you have to cope with the responsibilities that filled your life before you fell pregnant as well as prepare yourself, psychologically and physically for a new arrival. While short term stress is not detrimental to the health of you or your baby and can actually be beneficial in certain circumstances (as it can increase alertness and performance), prolonged periods of stress have been linked to negative health consequences.

The physical symptoms associated with stress (such as increased heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension) are actually part of our fight or flight response - a biological survival mechanism that helped physically prepare our ancestors to escape from danger. However, the stressors that we now have to deal with on a day to day basis are very different to those our ancestors had to face in prehistoric times. This means that in a situation where a simple cognitive or emotional response would suffice, our bodies are still stimulated to produce a physical response. If we remain in a highly stressed state for a long time, the hormonal and chemical responses that help in the short term begin to exert a negative response on the body. Prolonged periods of severe stress have been linked to high blood pressure, heart problems, anxiety and depression as well as an increased susceptibility to cold and flu type infections.

The results of research investigating the effect of stress during pregnancy aren't particularly conclusive. However, the general consensus is that while short term stress doesn't influence baby's development, sustained periods of severe stress may increase the risk of preterm labour, low birthweights and complications such as preeclampsia. While this shouldn't be a problem for the vast majority of women, if you are feeling especially stressed or are finding it difficult to cope then you should visit your midwife.

As stress is a highly subjective experience we all differ in terms of the experiences that we find stressful, our responses to stressors and the way in which we deal with them. It is believed that many of the adverse associations between stress and health are actually a consequence of external reactions to stress rather than a direct result of stress itself. For instance, common reactions to stress include smoking, drinking (alcohol and coffee), skipping meals or eating junk food, not taking enough physical exercise or getting enough sleep. These behaviours actually exacerbate the negative feelings associated with stress and are particularly dangerous in pregnancy when good health practices are of the utmost importance for mother and baby.

If you are finding it particularly difficult to cope with all of the demands placed on you it is important that you address these feelings - pregnancy is a wonderful time and you should have the opportunity to enjoy it. Try to eat regularly and healthily as your body needs the nourishment to feed your growing baby. Take some gentle exercise, this will not only help to alleviate some of the uncomfortable symptoms of pregnancy (such as water retention, constipation, back ache, nausea and insomnia) but will also help to relieve tension and increase the level of 'happy hormones' (endorphins) in your body. Relaxation methods such as yoga, meditation and massage will also help you to be less susceptible to stress.

A large source of stress for many pregnant women involves concerns about labour, the health of their baby and how they will cope once the baby arrives - talking to your partner and friends will help to alleviate these concerns and enable you to feel positive about this experience. Antenatal classes are also a good idea as you get to share your experiences with women going through the same things as you - friends made now can be a great source of support throughout your pregnancy and once your baby is born.

If you are feeling overly stressed then you should visit your health care provider - they will be able to reassure you of both your own and your baby's health and discuss effective methods of stress relief with you.

Life is never stress free (especially when there are children involved!), but by taking things in your stride and dealing with stressful feelings as they arise you should be able to enjoy a healthy pregnancy without any stressful complications.

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stress is bad for your health and if when you are pregnant it is more dangerous to reduce this you have to do yoga and meditation.. these are very helpful to reduce the stress. Thanks ..
by hannahthompson 20th Jun 2013, 2:48pm
I'm almost 14 wks pregnant and I'm suffering terribly from stress right now. My dad's been ill for the past year and we've just been told its liver cancer which has spread so I'm trying to see him & my mum every day. Earlier this year we lost a much wanted baby son and had to go through the pain of a cremation so its worrying us that this baby may have the same health problems. I'm also getting panicky because my 4 year old daughter is starting school in Sept. Just thinking about her going upsets me. I'm not a person who gets stressed easily but I've been feeling faint and poorly most days
by Zoe2 1st Sep 2010, 10:02am
my husband work abroad during my pregnancy, its very difficult for me to cope up with everyday dilemma of conception specially during the 1st trimester.i feel so alone and no one takes care of me.having a daily communication with my husband on the net like chatting and video calls makes it a little lighter. because he always check if I'm OK, ask about my latest check up, and giving me assurance that he loves me so much.that helps a lot until now I'm 23rd weeks pregnant.
by mhel 12th Aug 2010, 9:07am
Yoga is a great way to relax during pregnancy and also helps prepare for birth to find out how to start visit
by lizzie505 14th May 2010, 5:06pm
My husband and I planned for our pregnancy. The stress if for sure not as high with us. I still have to work full time however I am on light duty so I don't have to lift anything heavy. Sometimes I do get stressed out, especially because we are trying to buy a house and have it ready before the baby comes. What I like to do is to either take a warm bath or lay in bed with the lights off, light a few candles and listen to my favorite music. It helps a lot! One other thing that works the best for me is Prenatal Yoga. It completely take the stress away and it's a great way to stay toned while pregnant. I got mine a walmart for like $9. Give it a try, you wont regret it. But please do something because stressing is not good for the baby.
by katebug1585 14th May 2010, 5:00pm
I'm 6 weeks pregnant and am completely freaking out! I was really excited to start with, now its starting to dawn on me exactly how life-altering this is....we decided on kids together, but i've only just come around to the idea and got pregnant quicker than I expected! I'm so tearful and angry at the same time. I'm stressed becasue I'm still trying to hold down a full-time job, and its a very stressful my friends are worried that my stress levels could be dangerous this early in the pregnancy..I want to be a good, stable, happy Mum..but I'm really worried I'm just not cut out for this.. Arrrrrrgggggggghhhhhhh
by Bettybaba 26th Nov 2009, 10:00am
hi am 14 weeks and i get so stress out am always crying am always getting upset with my partner and he can't take it and he just leaves and go his way and that just makes me cry more
by osania 14th Oct 2009, 10:22am
hi i'm 11 weeks pregnant with my 3rd child and i feel like a bomb waiting to explode, i am looking after 2 children aged 4 and 2 and they drive me crazy. i just wish they could do a few more things for themselves i know it seems so selfish but i am so tired and suffering from terrible morning sickness i just want to curl up most of the time, i need some me time but it just seems impossible i just end up screaming most of the time as they dont seem to do anything they are told and i fel like i am banging my head against a brick wall and worst of all i don't know how i will cope when this baby arrives!
by kelly76 1st May 2009, 9:12am
Hiya, I'm 18 years old and 28 weeks pregnant with my partner's baby. I personally don't think I get too stressed about things, but my partner (sitting next to me at the moment) is saying that I get stressed about EVERYTHING!!! The rest is written by him...... :)

Hello, stress is playing a HUGE part of my partner's pregnancy! She is getting annoyed and frustrated at absolutely everything, and regularly takes it out on me for no reason!! I know she doesn't mean to, and doesn't even realise that she's doing it, so I just smile and say "Ok baby" which generally goes down well, haha!

I hope this helps - somehow!
by emdete 27th Apr 2009, 9:36am
Ok so I'm 8 weeks pregnant and very happy about that however I started stressing about stuff that is out of my control such as the babys health or anything that I could have done that will effect their health or birth defects. I'm being silly because nothing runs in our families but I watch too much discovery Chanel. Then I find out that my dad is really sick in he hospital and. I'm an emotional wreck. Please help me I hope I'm not crazy.
by Bittersweet 15th Apr 2009, 10:16am
where do i start,,,,, well im 19 weeks pregnant and have a daughter who has just turned 2yrs old and is driving me mad its really stressing me out i feel like the past few days she has got worse and iv also just 2 weeks ago started potty training and its going fantastic so thats not a problem,.

i just find it hard to cope at the moment and want to know how to deal with it all.
its not like i can sit back with a bottle of wine or something when 2yr old goes to bed,lol.
by mrsmungai 13th Mar 2009, 9:22am
i am so much more emotional than i was pre pregnancy. I cry and get aggitated so easily. my poor kids andhusband dont know what to do for the best. my husband has even said that he prefers me when im suffering from pmt as it doesnt last so long
by pixychick 18th Jul 2008, 10:03am
I keep crying for no reason, is this normal?
by Cherise 28th Apr 2008, 5:26pm
why are men so thick why dont they understand what iys like to be pregnant wish my boyfriend could swap with me jus for a day and have my backache my morning sickness and my big belly.
by cook86 15th Jan 2008, 2:37pm