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What can I do to lower stress during pregnancy?

Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing Specialist

A certain amount of stress is normal during pregnancy as your body and emotions go through so many changes. You begin to worry about finances, your job, if you will be a good parent, how you will cope with labor just to mention a few. Emotional support during this time cannot be overestimated. Making sure you do not feel isolated or alone. Pregnancy centering which offers a group approach to prenatal care may connect you to other women with the same feelings and allow you to share your concerns in a safe, nurturing, empowering environment. This model of care promotes an atmosphere of shared learning that will help you learn about all the common concerns pregnant women face and great strategies for coping with stress throughout your pregnancy, birth, parenting and throughout your lifetime. Ask your midwife or ob/gyn if they offer pregnancy centering as an option for your prenatal care.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

There are many ways to occupy your brain and body productively so that you don't let anxiety or negative thoughts overwhelm you. Activities that give you a sense of control or help you preparing for your baby's arrival can be helpful. Here are few suggestions:

  • Take a class on baby basics.
  • Keep regular play dates with other moms-to-be—for yourself.
  • Get the nursery ready; stock the shelves with diapers.
  • Plan for child care.
  • Cook some meals and stick them in the freezer. A well-prepared life tends to be a less stressful one. If you have a friend or co-worker who's throwing you a shower, drop the hint that perhaps a good idea for gifts would be for your colleagues to make dinners for you and your family after the child is born.
  • Meet with HR at work to discuss maternity leave policy and formulate a plan.
  • Sign up for birthing, baby care, breastfeeding, and (if necessary) sibling classes and encourage your partner to come along.
  • Spend time with your partner—go on dates or just relax together; remember to keep romance in your relationship—it's a sure way to stay connected during a distracting time.
  • Keep plenty of water on hand so your reflex response to irritation become sipping something that is good for you.
YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

More About this Book

YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

Can I get a cavity filled while pregnant? Will avoiding spicy foods make my kid a picky eater? Can I really increase my baby's IQ while she's in utero? Whether you're pregnant for the first time, are trying to start your family, or already have enough children to start your own basketball team, you're bound to have questions about what it means to be pregnant -- and how you can increase your odds of having a healthy and happy pregnancy. But no matter how much you've read, watched, studied, or talked about this amazing biological journey, you have never read anything like this. In this groundbreaking book, Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz act as mythbusters for the hundreds of questions surrounding pregnancy in the same scientific, informative, and entertaining ways that have made them America's Doctors. In these pages, you'll learn everything you need to know about the miracles of fetal development, your health throughout the pregnancy, and providing the best possible environment for your growing child. Pregnancy is a complicated balancing act, but it doesn't have to be frightening. The doctors will help you de-stress as they describe accurately and rationally what happens during a thrilling nine months of life. While every pregnant body is different, odds are you'll experience some of the cravings, crying, and discomfort that almost all women go through. Your best tactic? Learn why these things are happening -- and what you should do about them. YOU: Having a Baby will teach you everything you need to know about what to eat (should I be eating for two?), how much to exercise, and what guilty pleasures will actually make pregnancy easier on you (and the loved ones who get to be around you for the whole thing). Each phase of pregnancy has different challenges, but the right information will prepare you for what's ahead. The interactive week-by-week calendar inside provides an even more detailed guideline for how and what you should feel through every step of the process. Exciting, cutting-edge scientific research in the fi eld of epigenetics has changed the way the medical profession looks at pregnancy, and now it can change your perspective, too. Epigenetics explores what makes us develop in certain ways -- why some people thrive at math while others are prone to chronic diseases. It turns out that there are easy things you can do that will not just help your baby's development in utero but will actually improve his or her chances of living a healthy, fulfi lling adult life. Filled with recipes for nutritious, satisfying snacks and meals even Pop can cook (yes, he can!), safe exercises for staying fit, and tons of YOU tips that will help you stay comfortable, YOU: Having a Baby is the ultimate guidebook for what to do from the moment of conception to the weeks after your child has arrived home. From morning sickness and food cravings to choosing a doctor and changing a diaper, YOU: Having a Baby will give you the real scoop about what's in store for you during this amazing time in your life.

Some recommendations:

  • It's a perfect time to try meditation and deep breathing.
  • Find a surrogate worrier—someone who can sweat the small stuff. This is a great task for a husband, friend, or a mom who insists on helping with something.
  • Find a buddy who's been through it all before. Her experience (and assurances) will help take the edge off during some of your more worrisome moments.
  • Choose a doctor or midwife whose values and reputation matches what you are looking for; ask acquaintances for recommendations, or call the labor and delivery floor and ask nurses or staff who they would see if having a baby.
  • Aim for at least seven hours of sleep nightly: TiVO your favorite late-night shows and watch them in the early evening, and get to bed early; catch a nap during the day.
  • Enlist your partner to help with housework and pet care (especially with the cat litter, even though if you thoroughly cleanse your hands after changing the litter box, you have no increased risk of contracting toxoplasmosis), or treat yourself to some household help if you can afford it.
YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

More About this Book

YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

Can I get a cavity filled while pregnant? Will avoiding spicy foods make my kid a picky eater? Can I really increase my baby's IQ while she's in utero? Whether you're pregnant for the first time, are trying to start your family, or already have enough children to start your own basketball team, you're bound to have questions about what it means to be pregnant -- and how you can increase your odds of having a healthy and happy pregnancy. But no matter how much you've read, watched, studied, or talked about this amazing biological journey, you have never read anything like this. In this groundbreaking book, Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz act as mythbusters for the hundreds of questions surrounding pregnancy in the same scientific, informative, and entertaining ways that have made them America's Doctors. In these pages, you'll learn everything you need to know about the miracles of fetal development, your health throughout the pregnancy, and providing the best possible environment for your growing child. Pregnancy is a complicated balancing act, but it doesn't have to be frightening. The doctors will help you de-stress as they describe accurately and rationally what happens during a thrilling nine months of life. While every pregnant body is different, odds are you'll experience some of the cravings, crying, and discomfort that almost all women go through. Your best tactic? Learn why these things are happening -- and what you should do about them. YOU: Having a Baby will teach you everything you need to know about what to eat (should I be eating for two?), how much to exercise, and what guilty pleasures will actually make pregnancy easier on you (and the loved ones who get to be around you for the whole thing). Each phase of pregnancy has different challenges, but the right information will prepare you for what's ahead. The interactive week-by-week calendar inside provides an even more detailed guideline for how and what you should feel through every step of the process. Exciting, cutting-edge scientific research in the fi eld of epigenetics has changed the way the medical profession looks at pregnancy, and now it can change your perspective, too. Epigenetics explores what makes us develop in certain ways -- why some people thrive at math while others are prone to chronic diseases. It turns out that there are easy things you can do that will not just help your baby's development in utero but will actually improve his or her chances of living a healthy, fulfi lling adult life. Filled with recipes for nutritious, satisfying snacks and meals even Pop can cook (yes, he can!), safe exercises for staying fit, and tons of YOU tips that will help you stay comfortable, YOU: Having a Baby is the ultimate guidebook for what to do from the moment of conception to the weeks after your child has arrived home. From morning sickness and food cravings to choosing a doctor and changing a diaper, YOU: Having a Baby will give you the real scoop about what's in store for you during this amazing time in your life.
Boston Women's Health Book Collective
Administration Specialist

Some women use specific techniques to help manage the stress of our everyday lives. Meditation, prayer, deep breathing, yoga, tai chi, and a variety of other techniques, such as mindfulness, imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation, may help us relax. Some of us also use them as part of our spiritual practice. Many of these techniques have two components in common: the focusing of attention through repetition of a word, prayer, phrase, or physical activity; and the disregard of everyday thoughts when they occur. Specific techniques can be learned through classes, books, and videos. Many of us find that small relaxation breaks throughout the day - taking a few deep breaths, or creating a soothing image to focus on (like swimming in a cool pool), or doing gentle stretches—help us relieve tension.

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth

More About this Book

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth

ALL THE INFORMATION YOU NEED TO MAKE WISE DECISIONS ABOUT YOUR PREGNANCY AND THE BIRTH OF YOUR CHILD -- FROM THE EDITORS OF THE CLASSIC "BIBLE OF WOMEN'S HEALTH" Pregnancy and birth are as ordinary...
Dr. Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine Specialist
  • Assess your lifestyle: Take a piece of paper and write down all your current time obligations: work activities, home and family responsibilities, other obligations (church, community activities, clubs and organizations to which you belong). Include “your time” in the list - exercise, down time, socializing etc. Once you have done this, be honest with yourself as you ask the following: Is this schedule achievable? More importantly, will this level of activity be sustainable and satisfying? If not, accept the reality that you have to change the schedule.
  • You're not super women: Accept the fact that even if you currently can thrive on your busy and demanding lifestyle, you probably won’t be able to sustain it as your pregnancy progresses and makes more physical demands on you. You will need to cut back on what you're doing to allow more time for rest and relaxation. You will need to sleep more. Remember, though, that you will feel better if you allow time to engage in a reasonable exercise program. Finally you will need to allow yourself some "mental growth" time. This is time for reading, thinking, and planning for the new, incredibly important role of motherhood you will soon assume.
  • The dreaded symptoms: Many things about pregnancy are not in your control – accept this. Morning sickness, overwhelming fatigue, possible pregnancy complications etc. are all things which may affect your ability to do things. If you are mentally prepared to accept this, you won’t be as stressed out if/when it happens.
  • Know how you feel: Remember that you, and not your husband/mother/boss, should determine how you feel about your pregnancy and how you cope with it. Other than your medical care providers, you are the best person to determine what your needs are, how hard you should work, how much you should rest and all other aspects of your behavior during pregnancy. 
  • Communicate: Talk openly and honestly with those you love, especially your partner. These people -- unless they are pregnant themselves - will not know exactly what you are experiencing and cannot anticipate what your wants and needs will be. Let them know -- tell them how you are feeling and how they can help.
  • Relax: Give yourself permission to relax. Make time specifically for relaxation, or doing whatever makes you feel good. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.