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Everyone experiences stress, even pregnant women. What is not clear, however, is whether stress can have harmful effects on pregnancy.*
Are there things pregnant women can do to reduce the stress they have and to change how it makes them feel? The answer is yes. Below are several techniques that you may find useful:
Gaining Control of Your Life:
Take a close look at your lifestyle. Do this on paper. Look at your work activities, home and family responsibilities, and other obligations (church, community activities, clubs and organizations to which you belong). Then look to see how "doable" it all is. Make sure you include in your calculations time for activities such as exercise, downtime and socializing. Once you have done this, be honest with yourself as you ask the following: Is this schedule achievable? Sustainable? Satisfying? If not, accept the reality that you have to change the schedule.
Accept the fact that even if you can currently thrive on your busy and demanding lifestyle, you likely will not be able to sustain it as pregnancy progresses and makes more physical demands on you. Therefore, prepare yourself to cut back on what you're doing and to allow yourself more time for rest and relaxation. You will need to sleep more. You will need to change the time you eat your meals to make sure that you are able to eat a balanced diet. 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 mother that you will soon assume.
Be prepared to give up some control over the lifestyle you have worked so hard to attain. Many things about pregnancy are not in your control. You may experience severe morning sickness. You may have overwhelming fatigue. You may develop a pregnancy complication requiring hospitalization or home bed rest. For many women, especially those who have demanding jobs, the thought that biology might interfere with their responsibilities borders on the intolerable. But it happens. Be prepared to accept this.
*For years, obstetricians have looked to see whether an increase in stressful events can cause miscarriage, result in preterm delivery or in some other way harm a fetus. Up until recently the consensus had been that while excessive physical work can bring on preterm labor, emotional stress does not seem to have negative effects on pregnancy outcomes. This conclusion, however, has recently been challenged. There is now information to indicate that stress can cause the body to produce certain hormones that can perhaps cause miscarriage and that very likely can bring on preterm labor. Additionally, even if doctors have no "smoking gun" linking stress with negative pregnancy outcomes, pregnant women would want to decrease the amount of stress they have to contend with just because of how unpleasant it makes them feel. These emotional consequences of stress can range from a mild sense of being overwhelmed to severe episodes of depression. They can eventually lead to pregnant women feeling withdrawn and being unable to function.