Reducing stress in pregnancy

Pregnant mothers’ stress during pregnancy can disadvantage their babies, but it’s not inevitable. This article discusses flood related stress though the lessons on how to relieve stress are relevant to all pregnancies, though. Here’s what we can do.

There are two main types of stress. Objective stress is what happens to you.  Subjective stress is your emotional reaction: shock, distress, anger, anxiety, depression.

In this study, mothers who experienced more objective stress reported more immediate subjective stress, which led to longer-term depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress.

This prenatal stress also affected children. Babies of stressed mothers were more likely to have a difficult temperament and lower social and problem-solving skills.

It seems strange to think that what a pregnant mother feels could affect her baby, but stress feelings are underpinned by stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones can change the way the placenta works.

They can also cross the placenta and disrupt the unborn baby’s developing stress regulation system, which affects their reactions to stressful events and situations after they’re born. What happens during pregnancy lays the foundation for health and development across the life course, which is why the consequences of prenatal stress can last for so long.

This all sounds very serious, but negative consequences aren’t inevitable.

What can you do about it?

  • Continuity of maternity care during pregnancy matters.
  • Midwifery group care, where the same midwife cares for you throughout pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
  • Pregnant mothers to keep their diet consistent and healthy.
  • Choosing the right coping strategy for the situation can also help.
  • Limit your exposure to distressing stories and images if they start affecting your mental health.
  • Seek help if your anxiety increases.