5 Ways to Keep Stress in Check During Your Pregnancy
Pregnancy can be a stressful time, to say the least. You still have to juggle all the regular stressors of everyday life — work or perhaps caring for other children, plus more family and home duties — on top of dealing with pregnancy hormones taking over your body and the fact that you’re bringing an actual person into the world (NBD). Not that you need another thing to worry about during these nine months, but new research published in the journal Biological Psychiatry states that high levels of stress during pregnancy can negatively affect your child (especially girls), potentially causing anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders in children from as early as age two. However, there are ways you can cope with all the anxieties of being an expectant mother and prevent them from being inherited by your future child. We asked a few experts to explain how to keep stress at bay throughout your pregnancy, as well as in the postpartum stage afterward.
1. Practice mindfulness. Whether this means a full-on meditation practice or simply checking in with your breathing or your feelings about being a new mother every day, mindfulness is a positive way to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol and stay zen for you and your baby, and it can be done no matter where you are, says Atlanta-based clinical psychologist Lori Whatley. “Mindfulness can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression by reducing rumination (repeatedly going over a problem in our mind) and improving our ability to manage our emotions,” Whatley explains.
Try a meditation app or journal to record your thoughts each day, like imagining your unborn child and who he or she will turn out to be. After you give birth, mindfulness is a great form of self-care for you, Whatley says, and can eventually be a way to bond with your child and teach him or her positive mental health habits too. “Healthy learned behaviors can help children avoid or reduce anxiety,” she notes. “Teaching children early how to have a non-judgmental thought process is a wonderful gift from parent to child.”
2. Accept help from others. One of the classic behaviors, especially of third-trimester pregnant women, is nesting, the act of (usually frantically) preparing your home and the nursery, and racing against the clock to get everything ready for your baby’s arrival. Scientists have confirmed that it is an instinctive behavior in both humans and animals, so you’re likely to experience this and it may cause you to feel anxious. “Having control over the environment is a key feature of preparing for childbirth, including decisions about where the birth will take place and who will be welcome [there],” the study report said.
To counteract this stress, consider taking a babymoon with your S.O. to calm your nerves and get in a bit of much-needed relaxation. Upon your return, relinquish control of your “nest” and let your partner, family members, or circle of friends help you prepare for the birth. “This is one of the hardest things for women and when pregnant, women often try to do more than they would normally with hopes of ‘getting it done before the baby comes,’” says holistic fertility specialist Aumatma Shah. “Stop trying to do it all on your own! It’s a shift in mindset: Realize that it’s not because you ‘can’t’ do it, but rather because it’s just better for you to be supported,” she says.
3. Consult a doula. Before you object, listen to this: Studies have shown mothers who use doulas before, during, and after the birth process to have fewer complications during birth, higher birth weights in their babies, and more success in breastfeeding. A doula is not meant to replace your romantic partner during pregnancy, labor, and delivery; they’re there to put you at ease by answering your questions about childbirth, helping you plan the delivery how you’d like it to happen, and supporting you during the birth in terms of breathing, staying focused, and managing pain. If you choose to continue working with your doula after the birth, they can help with easing your anxiety postpartum, encouraging healthy eating and sleeping habits to avoid postpartum depression, and assisting you with nursing or feeding, which can often be stressful for the mother and baby. Having the support of a doula can help relieve the stress of this inherently stressful time, especially if you’re a first-time mom and don’t know what to expect.
4. Take up prenatal yoga. Regardless of whether you began practicing yoga before getting pregnant or are new it, the health benefits of prenatal yoga can’t be ignored. A gentle yoga practice that’s specifically geared toward pregnant women, or a normal practice with the necessary modifications for your body, can serve as your workout and a self-care session all rolled into one. One study found that pregnant women who practiced prenatal yoga twice a week had lower levels of cortisol (our favorite stress hormone!) as well as enhanced immune function, which can only help the baby too. More research has found significant mental health benefits of doing yoga during pregnancy, such as reduced symptoms of depression.
5. Do something that brings you joy each day. Growing a human being inside of you can obviously be exhausting, so it’s important to regularly set aside time to replenish. “Find one activity that you can do every day that nourishes your soul,” Shah advises. This can be in the form of taking your favorite workout class, prepping healthy meals for the week, or even shopping online for cute maternity clothes. “Once the baby comes, it’s likely that you will be giving a lot of yourself, which can be depleting,” Shah says. “So make sure you start the practice of making time for one thing daily that nourishes you.”
Want to talk pregnancy and vent about all the added stress that goes along with it? Shout us out @BritandCo.
(Photo via Getty)