Being pregnant can and should be one of the most exciting and fulfilling times of a woman’s life, but unfortunately it can also be one of the most stressful times too. Money worries, raging hormones, concerns about the health of the baby and difficulty sleeping, amongst other anxieties, can all turn what should be a special time into a pressure cooker of emotions.
Stress is your body’s natural response to events that make you feel threatened or upset. In small doses it can be helpful making you feel focused and alert. At some point however it stops being helpful and begins to damage your health, your emotions and your quality of life. Studies have also proved that as early as 17 weeks into a pregnancy stress hormones in the mother are passed into the amniotic fluid; this means that when you are feeling stressed your baby is too.
It’s very important therefore to remain as stress free as possible during pregnancy – eliminating sources of stress, and when this is not possible learning how to cope with it. The first step is learning to recognise the symptoms of stress and this can sometimes be difficult because the signs mirror some of the normal complaints of pregnancy. Symptoms might include: being quick to anger; nail biting; being unable to concentrate; loss of appetite; skin problems; frequent coughs and colds; indigestion; tense muscles; headaches and rapid heartbeat.
If you think you are suffering from stress, talk to someone! This could be your partner, family, friends or your midwife. Sometimes just getting it out into the open can be extremely helpful.
There are many ways to combat stress, here are just a few:
Eat regularly and healthily – both you and your baby will benefit from healthy nutritious food. During times of stress it’s easy to forget to eat or to reach for the junk food, but the food you eat can have a direct affect on your mood. Stress busting foods include bananas, broccoli, avocados, citrus fruits and whole grain breads, pasta and rice. Try to avoid caffeine too.
Take regular, gentle exercise -this helps to get rid of stress hormones such as adrenaline from your body whilst encouraging the production of endorphins, the “feel good” hormones. Swimming and walking are both ideal during pregnancy. Exercise benefits both your physical and mental health but remember to always consult your doctor before starting an exercise programme.
Try relaxation techniques – yoga, meditation and visualisation are all good. Practicing every day will help to calm you, and make you less susceptible to stress.
Listen to relaxation music -This is a quick, cheap and effective way to beat stress. Pick something that you enjoy listening to, preferably with a tempo of around 60 bpm – the ideal rate for a resting heart. Clinical trials in Taiwan showed that mums to be who listened to relaxing music during their pregnancies showed a marked decrease in stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms.
Get enough good quality sleep -try to get into a good bedtime routine – going to bed at roughly the same time each night, having a relaxing bath before bed, and making your bedroom as calming as possible. Try to avoid eating too soon before bedtime as this can increase the chances of heartburn.
Take some time out – call a friend; go for a walk somewhere beautiful; paint your nails; watch a funny film or have a massage – any of these will help you to put your worries into perspective, and pregnancy is the perfect time to pamper yourself.
Nobody can hope to eliminate all the causes of stress in their lives, but by adopting a positive attitude and learning stress management techniques you can have a healthy, happy pregnancy, and if mum is happy then baby is too.
© Gail Pritchard. Gail is a hypnotherapist and life coach, specialising in pregnancy and relaxation. www.relaxmusic.co.uk