Pregnancy can be a stressful time, even for the most relaxed women. After all, bringing a life into this world is a huge responsibility. Such responsibility, is life changing, and for the most part overwhelming even for those who have longed to be pregnant and have been trying to conceive for the longest time.
But can stress really affect a woman’s pregnancy? What are the reasons why a woman would experience stress in an otherwise wonderful journey that is nine months of pregnancy? This article aims to help pregnant women further understand the correlation of stress during pregnancy, the sources of stress, its effect on pre-natal health and the growing fetus, as well as the consequences of being under stress.
Tips on handling stress will likewise be discussed in this article, to hopefully help soon-to-be moms cope with the situation.
Stress and Getting Pregnant
Even while trying to conceive, stress can already have an impact on a woman’s health. In its website, United Kingdom’s National Health Service quoted a study which concluded that elevated stress may delay conception or pregnancy. “The study behind this news followed 274 healthy women who were trying to get pregnant and looked at whether the levels of two stress-related chemicals in their saliva were linked to their chances of getting pregnant. It found that women with higher levels of one of the chemicals, alpha-amylase, did have a slightly lower chance of getting pregnant around the time they released an egg during their first menstrual cycle.” Read the whole article here.
There also have been a lot of studies that are trying to find out the correlation of infertility and stress. And while most are still inconclusive, it all basically says that stress should be avoided nonetheless, and it will only be a matter of time until researchers can discover that critical link that connects infertility and stress levels.
In fact, some doctors have observed that even couples who are already undergoing infertility treatments could end up having an even harder time conceiving simply because the whole procedure they are undergoing is nerve-wracking. The physical, emotional, mental, and for others financial challenges that come with fertility treatment contribute to elevated stress levels, which does not augur well with conceiving, specifically implantation.
And this is the reason why, despite the absence of very conclusive studies, most doctors still advise couples trying to conceive to relax themselves, and let go of the things that stress them out. Stress and getting pregnant may not have a strong solid line that correlates it to each other, but stress definitely contributes a negative impact to the well-being of anyone regardless of her stage and plans about her fertility.
Types of Stress Experienced During Pregnancy:
There are many types of stress that can hound a soon-to-be-mom. Below are some of the stressors that a pregnant woman may experience during her nine month journey.
Pregnancy-induced stress: Stressing about the pregnancy
Pregnancy is often depicted as a wonderful time in a woman’s life, despite of all the physical changes that occur during her nine-month sojourn. But not all women see the bright side. Not all as well experience fairly positive symptoms and may have been suffering a lot during pregnancy.
Having a delicate pregnancy for instance could cause stress to a soon-to-be-mom who would want to prepare for the pregnancy and not get strapped into bed per advice of her obstetrician. The outcome of a delicate pregnancy can also be a mental torture for those who have been trying to conceive for way too long.
Women who may have experienced miscarriage prior to the current pregnancy may also have higher stress levels compared to those who are feeling great about the pregnancy and have always had successful conception stories.
Also experiencing higher stress levels are those who may not be prepared for the pregnancy, emotionally, physically, financially, and mentally. Couples who may already have children, may not be too thrilled about the pregnancy this time given their growing responsibility in their family. Those who may have troubled relationships with their partners or husbands and are facing the future of raising the baby alone are also stressed out too.
All these, plus the normal stressing out about the life changes, financial responsibilities and more are the types of stress a pregnancy can bring. Also, expectations about the baby, and worries about the baby’s health and pre-natal condition can also cause tension on the mom-to-be. Hormonal changes can also affect a mother’s stress levels.
Talking to one’s obstetrician about stressors that cause a pregnant woman anxiety and make her feel tense, is the best course of action to take.
Physical Stress during Pregnancy
Pregnancy can be very taxing given the many changes that the body undergoes during pregnancy. The symptoms for instance can leave a woman feeling nauseous, or sleepy, or both. Vomiting is also common, plus other sensitivities can elevate a pregnant woman’s stress levels.
Strenuous work and activities can also add physical stress to the pregnancy. Those that do sort of manual labor, or even just taking care of children may be feeling physical stress and tiredness day-by-day. Commuting to and from work may also take on another meaning when pregnant as one’s body is no longer as agile, and as light. There is a change in the center of gravity of a pregnant woman, and that it can be uncomfortable to get into trains and buses that are jam-packed especially during the last trimester of pregnancy.
Pregnant women experiencing stress can do something about it by trying to rest more, or if not possible, asking for outside help. For those who are working, talking to their employers for scheduling adjustments may be key to help avoid stresses of heavy traffic and jam-pack commute to and from work.
Emotional Stress during Pregnancy
Emotional Stress during Pregnancy may be common given the many problems that a woman can encounter. Unexpected pregnancies for one may be a cause of discord in the family, and bring the woman in a negative light in her social circle.
Problems that do not involve the pregnancy, but happen during the nine months of conception can heighten emotional stress. This include divorce, bereavement, financial crisis, family problems, and work-related problems.
It is important to have someone to open up with, so that the pregnant woman can unburden herself from her plight.
Pregnant and Stressed by Husband
One of the worst kinds of emotional turmoil to go through, but can be considered common is being pregnant and stressed by husband. The stress that can be induced by the pregnant woman’s husband can be so emotionally traumatic and could even cause depression or anxiety on the mom-to-be.
As much as possible, a woman should have a healthy relationship with her spouse especially during the course of her pregnancy – not only to avoid stress, but also to receive the full support one deserves during this delicate phase of her life.
Relationship Stress during Pregnancy
Relationship stress during pregnancy may be common especially for those who may already have been undergoing a relationship turmoil prior to the pregnancy. Infidelity can also take place during pregnancy, and it will not only take a toll on the woman’s emotional health, it will take a toll on their relationship as well.
Having a healthy relationship therefore becomes even more important during pregnancy.
Financial Stress during Pregnancy
Financial stress hits a couple one way or another during pregnancy especially if it is unplanned. The financial stress of spending for the pregnancy itself up to raising the child can be too stressful for the mother-to-be that it may give her sleepless nights.
Add to that, financial stress can also be contributory to physical stress, especially if the woman may need to work double time to finance her pregnancy expenses. Since saving up and planning a pregnancy may be considered water under the bridge once a baby is conceived, seeking help and finding ways to earn without tiring oneself out too much can be a good work around solution to fight the stress.
Stress Pregnancy Symptoms
The symptoms of stress during pregnancy are almost the same as that when a woman is not pregnant. The only difference though is that there are additional stress indicators that may happen to any mom-to-be.
For instance Braxton-Hicks Contractions or tightening of the uterus due to practice labor can sometimes occur for relatively longer periods when a woman has undergone physically stressful activities. At the same breath, some women also experience spotting after a physically strenuous activities.
Apart from those, the stress symptoms are all the same with ladies who are not pregnant. These include:
- Loss of appetite
- Sleeplessness or insomnia, or on a lighter scale having trouble sleeping
- Low self-esteem
- Persistent head aches
Stress during Pregnancy Third Semester
The first and third trimesters of pregnancy can be the most taxing phases of the nine month journey. The stress that usually occurs during the first trimester is usually due to the adjustment of the body and mind to the pregnancy. As for the Stress during pregnancy third semester, can usually be attributed to the physical condition of the mom-to-be, the anxiety over the baby’s condition, the excitement and anticipation of the whole birthing process, and the prospect of the life ahead.
Stress during the last semester of pregnancy should be avoided so as to prevent possible complications, and anxiety that will not be healthy for both the mother and the child.
Will Stress Affect the Fetus or unborn child?
There are a lot of studies that aim to answer whether stress can affect the fetus or the unborn child. Health website WEB MD quoted a study that details the possible impact of high stress levels to the unborn baby. “Constant stress could alter your body’s stress management system, causing it to overreact and trigger an inflammatory response. Inflammation, in turn, has been linked to poorer pregnancy health and developmental problems in babies down the road.” Read their whole post here.
What other pregnant women do not know as well is that stressing during pregnancy can also affect the child’s brain development, and eventually have a negative impact on the child’s behavior. It is therefore important to try to control reactions on problems that may be hounding you during your pregnancy so that the effects of stress can be countered, or if not minimized.
Stress and Miscarriage
This is one of the greatest fears of any pregnant woman, that stress could take the biggest toll on their pregnancy. There are conflicting studies though relating to this.
The Mayo Clinic for instance quoted a study that shows that although stress is being seen a possible culprit of early miscarriages, there is no strong link yet that will prove such theory. In one of its published articles, the Mayo Clinic explained, “Stress has long been suspected as a possible cause of early miscarriage, but there’s little evidence to support the theory. Up to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Typically, early miscarriage is caused by a fetal chromosomal abnormality or another problem in the development of the embryo.” Read the rest of the explanation here.
The Daily Mail also quoted yet another study similar to that which was published by the Mayo Clinic, and added a survey which revealed that most Americans are misinformed about the causes of miscarriages. “The majority of those surveyed wrongly believed stressful events or chronic stress are major causes of miscarriage – a common misconception that has never been proved true. In reality, 60 to 80per cent of miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities, the most common cause by far.”
But contrary to these reports, British media firm The Telegraph warned its readers that stress can be a factor in miscarriages during the first three months of pregnancy. “Researchers from the University of Michigan, led by Pablo Nepomnaschy of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in America, measured cortisol levels – a stress-induced hormone – three times weekly for a year in 61 women. The study is the first to link increases in cortisol levels to very early-stage pregnancy loss…Researchers found that 90 per cent of women, whose ages ranged from 18 to 34, with elevated levels of the stress-induced hormone miscarried during the first three weeks of pregnancy, compared with 33 per cent of those with normal levels.” Read the whole article here.
Whichever a pregnant woman decides to believe in, it is in her best interest to avoid stressful situations during pregnancy. This is because whether a person is pregnant or not, stress is never beneficial to the human body.
What can be done to protect oneself and the unborn baby from the effects of stress during pregnancy?
There is no sure-fire way to protect oneself against stress during pregnancy, because like all things in life, stress can be inevitable. It is then the person’s reaction to a stimuli which will determine how the body will react to certain stressors.
There are many ways to manage stress, and avoid it during pregnancy. Here are some tips:
- Ask for help. Especially for tasks that will require physical exertion, a pregnant woman, will need assistance from another person. Same goes with any other burden like chores, family responsibilities, work roles, as well as other physical activities. Always remember, pregnancy is never permanent, and that there is no shame in asking real friends and well-meaning family problems for a helping hand.
- Meditate. Regardless of your religious practices, allotting time to meditate and reflect on one’s day, as well as one’s current concerns, will help you thresh out the good and the bad that has happened to you. It will also help you look objectively look at things that concern you, why these came about, and what you can do about the situation. Of course if you believe in a higher being, then praying about things that are beyond your control could help alleviate anxiety.
- Communicate. Have someone to talk to. Express your feelings, good or bad to someone else like your significant other or a friend. “Talk Therapy” greatly helps someone overcome any stressful situation in life, in fact it could even stop a potential stressor in its tracks. At the end of the day, sharing your thoughts with someone, and listening to a different point of view can greatly help in easing anxiety. Usually, when we communicate, other people can help us see the bigger picture in a situation, which is most often than not very helpful in avoiding stress.
- Sweat it out. If you are not on bed rest, then having a regular exercise routine – even if it is just waling for 15-20 minutes a day can help ease stress symptoms. By having an exercise routine, one’s mind can be taken off stressful things and the hormones released during exercise also helps beat stress. Even leisurely walks outside the home to get a dose of sunshine or fresh air can greatly help in easing anxiety and stress. This is because by plainly removing yourself from the monotony of being at work almost the whole day, or being at home 24/7 can help you take your mind off stressful things. Other relaxing activities like pre-natal yoga can also help.
- Take time for yourself. Have that manipedi, go to the salon, or have that pre-natal massage. Pregnancy is a great excuse to pamper oneself, and when one is too stressed, or close to being such, taking time off can greatly help ease symptoms. Sometimes, just by doing the things that you love, even for just thirty minutes a day, can help alleviate stress symptoms that may affect your well-being.