Q: Is stress during pregnancy harmful to the developing baby?
A: The short answer is yes, but we’re talking about the kind of stress that makes it difficult to get through the day, pregnant or not. When stress is that intense, the risk of pregnancy complications such as premature birth, low birth weight, and poor fetal growth and development increases. Your baby’s risk of developing type 2
diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), coronary artery disease, end-stage disease, and depression later in life can also be affected.
If you are concerned about your stress levels, it’s important to reach out for support and to take the best possible care of yourself and your baby. Here are three simple but important stress-reducing strategies that can make a huge difference
- Put your support team in place. You’re going to need them after you have your baby, so why not start reaching out to them right now? Make sure you recruit the right types of supporters—people who will roll up their sleeves and lend a helping hand while offering plenty of encouragement and positive support—and delegate whatever tasks you can so that you can focus on relaxing and taking care of yourself and your baby.
- Master some relaxation techniques. Figure out which techniques work best in bringing—and keeping—your stress levels down. Some techniques that have worked for other pregnant women include relaxation breathing, pregnancy massage, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, guided mental imagery, mindful meditation, biofeedback, and yoga.
- Get the facts about pregnancy and birth. Fear of the unknown can be a major source of stress. Obtaining answers to your pregnancy and birth-related questions may ease your stress level considerably. Keep a running list of questions for your doctor or midwife. Sign up for childbirth classes. And read books and blogs about pregnancy and birth.
Ann Douglas is the author of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books (Second Edition, Wiley, July 2011