Everyone experiences stress – even when you are pregnant.
“A full range of human emotions is expected during pregnancy,” says Elizabeth Werner, PhD, a researcher and assistant professor of behavioral medicine in obstetrics, gynecology, and psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. “This is normal and healthy, and what we should do.”
Don’t worry that everyday stresses, such as working and caring for other children, will hurt your baby or your pregnancy, she says.
“There is no expectation that anyone will live a stress-free life,” Werner says. “It’s not possible. Some stress in our lives, which we all feel, is perfectly to be expected, and we are not concerned that it could be seriously harmful to the environment of the fetus.”
Stress can describe many things, from everyday worries to traumatic events like floods and earthquakes, or the complex impact of living in poverty, says Kristin Dunkel Sheeter, PhD, researcher and professor of psychology and psychiatry at UCLA. Different types of stress will have different effects.
“When you get stressed in this context, there is no one answer,” Dunkel Schetter says. “There is ample evidence that some forms of stress are dangerous for the mother, the baby, and the birth itself.”
What does the research say?
Studies have shown that anxiety during pregnancy is a risk factor for preterm birth. A 2022 study led by Dunkel Schetter found that pregnant women who said they were worried about their pregnancy, baby, and delivery were more likely to have a shorter pregnancy. She says these findings show that anxiety is physiologically important and can affect the time of birth.
Other studies have found that parents who are very anxious during pregnancy can increase the risk of problems for the baby later – such as delayed growthemotional reaction or behavior problems.
Bottom line: It’s important to get help to reduce anxiety, says Dunkel Sheeter.
“What I want is [pregnant people] To consider in early pregnancy whether they are anxious, at risk, or concerned about this particular pregnancy, and if any of those are correct, seek advice from your provider and look for resources online.”
Discrimination and racism cause great stress for people of color. This stress can affect pregnancy – A 2008 study found that pregnant African American women who experienced more racism in their lives and the lives of their families were more likely to have low birth weight babies.
Serious emotional distress and its impact on your lifestyle – such as nutrition and Sleeps It can change the environment in the womb, says Werner. These changes are complex and are still being studied, but distress can alter the way the placenta works, and affect your stress-responsive hormones.
“We’re seeing hints, but we still have a long way to go to mechanistically understand the complex relationship with how all of these things happen, considering also that the postnatal environment is very important, and the brain is hugely plastic, especially infant Werner says.
Even if the baby’s father was under severe stress during pregnancy, subsequent problems are not inevitable. “You may be more at risk, but a really healthy and nurturing postpartum environment can change that,” Werner says.
When do you get help for stress
Taking care of your mental health during pregnancy is a positive step for you and your future baby.
“If you really suffer from anxiety or with mood disorder“It really is a great time to get involved in therapy,” Werner says. “Maybe you get really overwhelmed by it, or it’s something you avoid. Sometimes, it can be a great period when you feel motivated in a new way.”
Although anxiety is normal, if you feel it is preventing you from living a full life, consider getting treatment, she says.
“The degree to which it affects your ability to do other things is probably a good indicator,” Werner says. “If you’re so caught up in worrying all the time that it’s really getting in the way of other things, this is probably a really good time to reach out and get help.”
Many obstetrics and gynecology offices screen all pregnant patients for anxiety and depression with a questionnaire about how you feel; Ask your doctor to be examined if you have not had one.
If your anxiety makes it difficult for you to leave the house, or if you feel unable to get out of bed, seek help. Pay attention to changes in your eating and mood, says Werner. Friends, family, or your partner may also notice changes in your mental health.
“There are many ways that anxiety and depression manifest themselves, both in the way we think and behave,” Werner says. “Sometimes we think it’s just a part of life, that level of suffering, but sometimes there are ways mental health professionals can help reduce that and live a less painful life.”
How do you find help?
talk therapy It can be very useful for cut the way and anxiety during pregnancy, says Werner. Ask your obstetrician and gynecologist if they can recommend it Psychological health professionals in your area. You can also check with your insurance company to find services.
Finding a therapist can take work, Werner says, so keep looking if you’re having problems finding someone who is available and affordable.
Dunkel Schetter says cognitive behavioral therapy, which teaches anxiety management techniques, can be effective in dealing with prenatal anxiety. She says mindfulness meditation can also help you live in the present and let go of painful feelings.
Everyday ways to take care of yourself can relieve some stress, too. Get social support from friends and family, says Dunkel Sheeter. Playing sports In moderation, as your doctor recommends, and eat nutritious foods.
“All of these things are part of a healthy pregnancy and can help manage stress,” she says.