Mac 18, 2010

The Effects of Stress during Pregnancy

Relaxed Mind = Relaxed Body

The effects of stress during pregnancy are inconsistent and inconclusive. There are some evidence suggesting that stress during pregnancy can cause lower birth-weight babies and children developing behavioral problems. On the flip side contrary views suggest that since the human productive system appears to be remarkably resilient in its ability to endure the vagaries of human emotions, no amount of stress can harm the fetus. In general premature births and low birth weight because of stress effects is extremely minimal in incidence, if at all. Since there is no conclusive evidence indicating possible harm to the baby, you still need to manage stress during pregnancy for your own well being.

• Stress is very much a part of most people's lives.
• Stress can be encountered in everyday hassles like bills to pay, long queues or traffic or poor time management.
Stress during pregnancy can be chronic as in situations of domestic abuse.
• Stress during pregnancy can be acute as in the death of a loved one.
• Stress during pregnancy can lead to harmful tendencies such as drinking.
• Stress during pregnancy can be constructive - you feel exhilaration and positively challenged.
• Too much stress during pregnancy though leads to mental and physical ailments. You will no longer feel charged but bogged down instead.
• Stressed out people often get angry quickly and fall sick easily

Often we can't tell if we are suffering from stress. The way you live and your reactions to everyday situations can affect your stress level. Do you sleep well or do you worry about your work and family, health, money and other everyday concerns. If yes you could be stressed.

The signs

• Reduced concentration or focus
• Irritation or feeling hassled easily
• Disturbed eating patterns i.e. loss of appetite or binging
• Insomnia and fatigue
• Feeling anxious all the time
• Withdrawal
• Body aches and headaches
• Inability to relax
• High blood pressure

Stress lowers the libido in both sexes and may affect infertility. A woman who is highly stressed may ovulate irregularly while in some men there is a decline in sperm production when unduly stressed. Stress can cause a cycle - not conceiving when you want to can stress out the couple and in turn make conception more tedious. Research has likened infertility related stress to life threatening illnesses such as heart disease and cancer!

Stress Busters

Today, managing your life means managing the stress that comes with it. During pregnancy it helps if you are relaxed. You will have to deal with fewer aches and ailments, get to sleep better and feel less tired, be less dependent on artificial stimulants and generally be more alert and efficient. Most importantly, you will enjoy your pregnancy more.

• If you feel stressed and find relief when you receive help or support, then by all means accept the help that is coming your way. Grab the offers from friends, family and colleagues and lessen your work load whether at home or at work. Delegate or eliminate some of your work responsibilities. List the number of tasks for the day and cross each task off your list as you finish it.

Take time out. Spend time away from pressure and activity without feeling guilty. Steal moments and relax in a tub or under a shower, guilt-free. Devote some planned time to music or a book or magazine, TV or any other activity you enjoy.

Share your worries with someone: your partner, a friend or a professional counselor. Talking helps; talk about how you feel. Talking with your doctor for instance will also help monitor your general well being.

Exercising helps. Go for brisk walks in the fresh air. Exercise helps the body release endorphins, the natural 'feel good' chemicals, which also energizes you. You basically get a chance to unwind and reflect.

Get a massage from your partner or arrange a masseur to come home. Massage helps to remove the knots from tensed muscles, especially those around the neck, shoulders, back and head. A good massage meant for pregnant women combined with aromatherapy if that can be arranged will help. (Check on aromatherapy oils which are safe during pregnancy first.)

• Finally don't ignore your diet. What you eat has an effect on how you feel. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid snacking on high energy foods such as biscuits and sweets. They are quick energy fixers, relieving you for 10 mins or so but when your sugar levels take a dip afterwards you are left feeling no better off, lethargic even. Energy levels that go yo-yoing worsen the mood swings you are more prone to now. It helps to have several small healthy meals to maintain your blood-sugar at steady levels. Eating smaller meals instead of three larger ones will also help control pregnancy sickness.

• If you are still working make it a practice to put some time aside for yourself. By doing this you will be able to cope with work, your partner and your daily routine without feeling hassled. If work situation gets stressful that you find it hard to handle, talk to your employer about part-time schedules or maternity options.

The Relax Technique

Once a day for 10 minutes or more, focus on relaxation. Lie back in a chair or on your side on the bed with pillows supporting your neck and shoulders. Take slow deep breaths.

Think about something pleasant with your eyes shut. Block out your surroundings, the world at large and just focus on pleasantries or your baby. Contract and relax every part of your body.

Focus on how your body feels. Start with your toes first; squeeze your toes and then let go. Feel the tension seep out of your body. Do the same with your calves, thighs, pelvic floor, buttocks and so on until you reach your forehead. Stay in this state, ensuring all your muscles are relaxed and at the same time stay focused on your imagined thought. The aim is to prevent worrying thoughts from entering your mind. Surrender yourself to tranquility.

• It may not come easily but learning to relax is beneficial and it is something that requires practice and dedication. Make it a habit to spend quiet time away from everything else.

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