When you’re trying to conceive and when you become pregnant, your health takes center stage. The food that you eat and the exercises you participate in are all put under the “is it safe for the baby?” microscope. But, what about your emotional and mental health? How does your well-being outside of the physical affect your fertility and pregnancy? Your emotions can play a key role in reproduction, namely stress.
Stress is a perfectly normal part of being a human. This feeling of tension can be seen as a positive when we’re in potentially dangerous situations or rushing to meet a deadline. However, chronic stress can wreak havoc.
Does Stress Affect Conceiving?
Stress alone is unlikely to stop a woman from falling pregnant. But, that doesn’t mean it can’t make the journey more difficult. As Mayo Clinic points out, “Research has shown that women with a history of depression are twice as likely to experience infertility. Anxiety also can prolong the time needed to achieve pregnancy. Studies on women undergoing in vitro fertilization showed that stress decreases the pregnancy rate.”
When it comes to getting pregnant faster, WebMD advises couples to get as relaxed as possible through different de-stressing methods.
Letting go of stress isn’t only important when you’re trying to conceive, but also when you are pregnant.
How Much Stress Is Too Much When Pregnant?
As we stated above, stress is a normal part of life, so regular, day-to-day stress isn’t harmful to your baby.
While there are no set guidelines regarding exactly how much stress creates a dangerous environment for your growing little one, there are certain types of stress that are risky for pregnant mamas. March of Dimes points out that chronic stress from an unstable environment, negative life events like divorce or death, pregnancy-related stress (worrying about labor, looking after a newborn, etc.), as well as depression and anxiety are all forms of stress that can cause pregnancy issues.
If you’re experiencing any of the above, speak to a healthcare provider and get the support you need.
How Does Stress Affect An Unborn Baby?
The hormone cortisol is released in your body when you feel stressed. This hormone can get into your baby’s system, affecting their microbiome and sleep after birth.
Parents explains that, during the first trimester of pregnancy, stress can affect the microbes in the woman’s vagina. The newborn then comes into contact with these microbes when delivered, impacting their brain development, immune system, and metabolism.
Stress during pregnancy can also have a long-term effect on a baby’s sleep-wake cycles after birth. This is likely due to the overflow of cortisol they experienced.
Chronic, prolonged stress can also affect your health during pregnancy and your labor experience. According to Medical News Today, “High stress levels in pregnancy may cause high blood pressure, which increases the chance of preterm labor or having a baby with low birth weight.” Also, stress can exacerbate certain issues including preeclampsia and eclampsia (preeclampsia-related seizures).
How Do I Deal With Stress at Work While Pregnant?
Juggling a demanding job during pregnancy can be a challenge.
First off, it’s important to know your rights, especially if you work in a dangerous industry. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) wrote the Occupational Safety and Health Act. This requires employers to create a workplace that’s hazard-free and complies with health and safety guidelines. “If you’re still not sure you’re safe, ask OSHA for a copy of their Safety Data Sheet that details potential hazards, including chemicals, to share with your doctor. She can determine if it’s safe to continue your job, or whether you need a transfer or an early maternity leave,” advises What To Expect. Operating heavy or dangerous machinery or being in a job that requires you to lift heavy things or be on your feet all day may also mean you need to change positions while you’re expecting.
Even if you work an office job, it’s important to take regular breaks to manage stress.
Pregnancy Stress Relief
Here are a few things you can do to fend off stress while pregnant:
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is an essential part of a healthy pregnancy. However, it can be difficult to get with your changing body and hormonal ups and downs! Avoid screens and electronics before bed, practice a relaxing night routine, and plan your next day ahead of time with to-do lists.
Join A Support Group
You may be the only one in your friendship group and family experiencing pregnancy. If you are, it’s likely that feelings of loneliness can creep in leaving you feeling more alone and stressed. Join a prenatal moms group (like Her Hive Society’s Mom-Mesters in South Carolina) so that you can benefit from a supportive group of fellow soon-to-be mamas who know what you’re going through.
Exercise And Eat Well
Yes, you can exercise while pregnant – in fact, it’s recommended because of the endorphins physical activity releases. Prenatal yoga, swimming, and walking are all fantastic ways to work out for pregnant women. Eating well and staying hydrated are also important ways to look after yourself, which can help keep stress at bay.
Take An Online Prenatal Class
Sometimes pregnancy stress can be triggered by apprehension surrounding delivery and welcoming a newborn baby into your home. This is where taking the time to prepare comes in. The free Baby Settler Essential Truths: a Guide to Birth, Babies, & Breastfeeding will give you the answers and advice you need to help you in your parenting journey, backed by evidence.
If stress is getting to you, it’s time to lighten your load, mama. Make a list of everything that you do in a day and week, and see what you can delegate. Get your groceries delivered instead of going to the store, ask your partner to handle more of the housework, and ask another family member or friend to host any upcoming events.
Address Anxiety And Depression With A Professional
Anxiety and depression should never be ignored. Speak to your healthcare provider about your feelings so that they can put you in touch with a mental health professional.
Stress isn’t usually something that we can avoid 100%. But, there are ways pregnant women and women who want to conceive can address chronic stress to have a healthier fertility, pregnancy, and labor journey.