Oh pregnancy. I have a love- hate relationship with pregnancy. My first pregnancy was fun, new things left and right, and with every new experience I found joy in it. Then my second pregnancy wasn’t as fun, and my third was not fun at all. It was more whomp whomp than anything. Every little thing worried me; every little aspect was reason for stress. My lack of control of my body image, the unknown with baby, the unknown with the future and all the things in between caused anxiety and stress. Sometimes the panic attacks would send me into a whirl of fear and I couldn’t breathe. When I would try to tell my husband about the fears I had, he just couldn’t understand. Men. In his own little ways he would try to console me but it just wasn’t enough.
Have you ever felt this way? Stress and anxiety during pregnancy occurs in 78% of women according to a study done by UCLA, with 6% experienced high levels. According to this study common stressors for women around the globe are:
- Low material resources
- Unfavorable employment conditions
- Heavy family & household responsibilities
- Strain in intimate relationships
- Pregnancy complications
Stress and Anxiety play big roles in the health of our babies and ourselves. Two major complications of stress are; preterm birth and low birth weight. So your mental health is just as important as your physical health during pregnancy.
So let’s do a check up!
- Feeling depressed most of the day for 2 or more weeks?
- Do you feel guilt or a sense of worthlessness?
- Have you had any change in your appetite?
- Have you lost interest in things you once liked or not as interested in life in general?
- Do you feel tired and have poor concentration?
- Has your sleep been affected
- Thoughts of suicide?
If you answered yes to any of these you may have depression; seek help immediately from your doctor
Are you feeling:
- Feel extra tired (which is also a common thing for your first trimester)
- Lack of concentration
- Can’t sleep
- Panic attacks
- Get easily irritated
- Always worrying
- Headaches and body aches
If you answer yes to multiple of these then you may be facing anxiety during pregnancy.
So what can I do naturally to help with anxiety and stress? Here are 7 ways to reduce stress in pregnancy naturally:
Increases energy, get a better night sleep, improves your mood, helps prepare for child birth, and helps you reach a healthy pregnancy weight.
During all my pregnancies I focused on exercise. I got a trainer so I could monitor myself throughout and found great results. Although I wasn’t working out to lose weight I was doing it for my mental health and health of the baby. Researchers at the University of Auckland in New Zealand found that mothers who regularly exercise during pregnancy reduce the risk of diabetes for that baby, reduce complications, often don’t require C-sections, and have a healthy birth weight with their babies.
With exercise, I felt a sense of control; where in pregnancy -control is a luxury you just don’t get a lot of. It was one thing I could do that could help me and the baby. It is also thought that recovery time after birth is faster for mothers who exercised prenatal. Before starting consult doctor & don’t overdo it!
2.) B-complex vitamins & Omega 3 fatty acid
Nom Nom! Improves mood and mental health
The B vitamins include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, biotin and pantothenic acid. B-vitamins have many great mood elevating qualities! Food with high levels of B- vitamins:
- Thiamin: cereal & nuts (pecans & almonds)
- Riboflavin: asparagus & chicken
- Niacin: chicken, turkey, & salmon
- Folic acid: Spinach & other leafy greens
- B-6: bananas & potatoes
- B-12: is eggs, cheese & milk
- Biotin & Pantothenic Acid: egg yolks & avocados
Man- just writing this lists makes me drool. That looks like beautiful meal ingredients to me.
Omega 3 is another nutritional source that provides lots of protection against depression. Omega 3’s are shown to improve your mood and restore structural integrity to your brain cells; which is important to your brain health and function. Omega 3 can be found in salmon and walnuts.
These both can be taken in supplement form. **But be sure to clear all supplements with your OB first. Don’t wait to go in for your appointment. Just call your OB and get a nurse to talk to you about it. They will consult the doctor and you didn’t have to pay any co-pay for her advice.
3.) Talk about it
Reduces anxiety & fear
Get your concerns out. Talk to you OB; she can tell you if your concerns are justified. Talk to your partner, your mom, your good friends. Tell them your fears, your excitement. Even get on some forums to just talk. Babycenter.com has great forums for moms. It is a great way to find support and have your own little community.
4.) Be educated, but don’t indulge in horror stories
Oh geez, how many times have I googled, “ What will happen if I ____ during pregnancy” just to see. Ugh, I freak myself out more than needed. If you are concerned consult your doctor. But just freaking yourself out is not necessary.
5.) Sleep– turn off your brain
Oh man, I have to pay the bills, I wonder if my mom got her car fixed, is my baby going to be born a vampire?!
Nighttime for many of us is the time our brains start to whirl with a million problems. This is a sure sign of anxiety. When you can’t turn off the “mind chatter” then one thing leads to another. Luckily, to put your mind at ease being born a vampire is very rare- if not impossible. A great way to reduce mind chatter is to mediate. It helps to turn off your brain, helping you get to sleep faster too. Focus on areas of your body, first your feet. Tense up your muscles and slowly release. Focus on that area with your mind and make your way up. As you make your way up your body take deep breathes in through the mouth and out through the nose. This is a great calming trick that can decrease stress and anxiety.
6.) Realize you can’t do everything
This is a hard one. As women we are primary care givers to many people in our lives. We may have a career, may be in school, we control the household and hold down the fort. We have to do it all- but we don’t have to do it all right this minute. Learn to say no. When we feel overwhelmed it okay to say no. Sorry babe, not doing dishes tonight!
This is also true for when the baby is born. I remember when I had my second baby. The two were 18 months apart and at one point both the babies needed me, I held both of them realizing I couldn’t meet both their needs and we all just sat there and cried. I had to seriously breathe and realize that I can’t do it all and it’s ok to focus on one thing at a time, even though one baby might be crying, they can definitely wait. Many things can wait.
Relaxes, prepares you for birth, can heal past fears, and reduce pain during childbirth
This is something I haven’t tried but my friend who is a mid wife totally says helps a ton. For those who a.) Are afraid of birth or b.) Want a great experience with less pain; this is a great option for you. It trains you to work through the pain and overcome your fear. It takes months to get to that point but the effort you put forth can be very rewarding. If you look at the app store on your phone you can find some self-guided hypnobirthing tools such as “Innervision” Hypnosis for Childbirth. You can also google your area and find groups to help you.
I hope this helps you find your peace during this time. It is both exciting and stressful. You are not alone in how you feel and we are all here to help you. Just like it takes a village to raise a child it takes a village to help a mama.