Now Is Not The Time To Stress!

Daily pressures of family and work can be tough for anyone, but for mothers-to-be, increased stress during pregnancy can be downright overwhelming. At the same time, doctors emphasize the need to reduce tension for the well being of mother and baby.
Margarette Burnette

"Reducing stress during pregnancy is a very important part of modern obstetrical care," says Dr Kenneth Johnson, OB/GYN and director of the Nova Southeastern University's Women's Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. So how does an expectant mom find the right balance?

Take a walk
When you feel so stressed that you are tempted to tell someone to "take a hike," follow your own advice and go for a walk instead. "Exercise is the best and the cheapest medicine there is at any point in life," says Dr Elizabeth Taghechian, a Marietta, Georgia OB/GYN. "It decreases the risk of gestational diabetes," she says, and "decreases chances of depression during pregnancy." She also explains that illnesses like these can be a major cause of prenatal anxiety, so exercise both decreases the risk of illness and the risk of stress.

Skip "story" time
Allison Duncanson of Decatur, Georgia, recently shared the news with her family that she and her husband are expecting. Little did she know that the family would also start sharing news with her: what she should eat, what type of shoes she should wear and stories about the types of complications that could occur.

They have "their own stresses of pregnancy (that) they channel toward me," bemoans Duncanson. She knows that her family loves her and wants the best for her, and she appreciates their concern. However, listening to a lot of "horror stories" makes her feel stressed. "Everyone has a story to top the next story," she says.

This is a familiar scenario for Dr Johnson. "There are many untrue myths that family and friends will tell a pregnant couple," he says, and he cautions that it "is very important not to believe everything."

Duncanson has started dealing with these situations by avoiding them. "I have tried to stay away from big family gatherings," she confides. When these events are unavoidable, she engages in conversation until it drifts toward her pregnancy. Then she excuses herself to go to another room to rest. Allison does not shut everyone out, however. She credits her husband Philip with helping her avoid uncomfortable topics when speaking with family and friends. What is his advice for couples who may be in a similar predicament? Talk about it. Couples must "really communicate with each other," he says. Once he knew that all the attention his wife was getting made her feel uncomfortable, he was able to step in and help her avoid pressure situations.

Write this way
When songwriter Tiffany Deonna Martin found out that she was expecting, she knew exactly how she would remember her experiences -- she would write about them. The Atlanta, Georgia area mother of one felt that writing during her pregnancy was a great way to relax. "It was one of the best things I could do," she says. Martin carried a notebook everywhere she went and wrote down thoughts and experiences whenever they came to mind.

Though not every mother-to-be has plans to become a songwriter, carrying a diary is a good idea for anyone. Another option is to join an online pregnancy discussion board, or write about your experiences on a web blog or diary. Not only can this help relieve present day tension, but being able to read passages about life during pregnancy can also help enhance future bonding experiences with your child.

A diary is also useful to write concerns that you would like to discuss at your next prenatal appointment. "Take a list of questions to your provider. Be sure that you ask them one by one," advises Dr Marcos Pupkin, OB/GYN and the retiring chairman of the Department of Ob/Gyn at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. He has found that with "more interaction between the doctor and the patient, there should be a lot less stress."

Focus on the finish
Lisa Lockley, a mother in Edgewood, Maryland, did not worry much during her two pregnancies. "I never really felt very stressed. There were times when I was excited," she remembers, "but not stressed out." Her secret? She always kept in mind the miracle of giving birth. Focusing on the joy of her new addition outweighed any problem on any particular day. She encourages other mothers-to-be to do the same.

In fact, all of these tips help expectant moms minimize tension and maximize their own joyful experiences. Today Lockley has only fond memories of each of her pregnancies. That is something every mother deserves.


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