Authored by Dr. N Sapna Lulla, Lead Consultant – Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Aster CMI Hospital
It is common for the expectant mother to feel stress about pregnancy, especially those who are pregnant for the first time (new mother). It can bring up a range of emotions and anxieties. Being concerned about having a healthy pregnancy is not a bad thing, because it can push people to take action in the face of new challenges. However, when the stress becomes too overwhelming it could lead to health problems for the mother and the baby. Hence, it is necessary to consult with your doctor for a smooth and risk-free pregnancy.
Understanding the common causes of stress during pregnancy
Finding out that they are pregnant can be a stressful experience in itself for some women. Stress arises mostly in unplanned pregnancy. Other factors such as fear of pregnancy loss, fear of labour and delivery, financial problems, uncomfortable physical changes, like nausea, tiredness, mood swings, and backache, miscarriage and fear of taking care of the baby when the baby is born could lead to stress among pregnant women.
It’s important for mothers to keep herself stress free
Maternal stress or anxiety during pregnancy can affect the fetus causing possible long-term consequences for infant and child development. Chronic stress can affect the mother’s health and can cause headaches, problems sleeping, fast breathing and a racing pulse. Also, it could lead to preeclampsia, miscarriage, premature and low birth rate. Thus, it is important to look after mental wellbeing and take care of physical health of the mother during pregnancy.
Risks of stress to your baby and pregnancy are;
· Preeclampsia: Research shows that if you already have high blood pressure, you’re at greater risk of getting preeclampsia during pregnancy. Preeclampsia is a potentially dangerous pregnancy complication characterised by high blood pressure. It usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in a woman whose blood pressure had been normal. It can lead to complications for both mother and baby.
· Miscarriage: Also known as spontaneous abortion, it can be both physically and emotionally painful. Research shows that women who had major negative life events or psychological stress exposure were twice as likely to have early miscarriages. The stressors of pregnancy can trigger depression in some people. To cope up, people use harmful substances like alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. These can increase the risk of certain pregnancy complications, including miscarriage.
· Preterm birth and low birth rate: Studies show that mothers who experience more stress are more likely to go into labour early. Stress can increase the chances of having a premature baby (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or a low-birthweight baby (who weigh less than 5½ lb (2½ kg or 2500 g) at birth). Chronic stress can lead to long-term changes in the body’s vascular system, hormone levels, and the ability to fight infection. All these can potentially influence labour to start before the baby is full-term.
Some studies show that high levels of stress during pregnancy could lead to a higher chance of the child developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Stress also may affect the baby’s brain development or immune system.
Tips to manage stress during pregnancy
Here are some ways to help you reduce stress:
· Remember all the discomforts you experience during pregnancy are temporary. Learn how to manage and deal with the discomforts. One can talk to someone who knows about pregnancy or your doctor
· Eat healthy, take enough rest, sleep and exercise
· To help manage the stress, one can try relaxation activities, like prenatal yoga or meditation
· Read a lot about pregnancy so you know what to expect during pregnancy and when your baby arrives.
· Plan ahead and don’t miss any appointments