Everyday stress and its impact
Have you found yourself feeling more stressed-out since becoming pregnant? Those little annoyances seem like huge ordeals now? Things that never would have bothered you before now feel like fingernails screeching across a chalkboard? You are not alone. Studies rank pregnancy as the twelfth most stressful life event, following other such traumatic events as the death of a spouse (#1), divorce (#2), and the loss of a job (#8). Of course, if you add these other events to pregnancy, the stress level just multiplies.
Even though it's normal to be more stressed-out during this time, that doesn't mean that it's healthy. Research shows that your stress, like a drug, can cross the placenta and affect your child's health. From low birth weight to gastric disorders (like colic) to reading and behavioral problems later on life, stress can cause a number of difficulties for your child. It has also been implicated as a contributing factor in preterm labor. Stress is nothing to mess with!
Here's what some moms in your situation have done to help ease their stress:
"My best and healthiest way to beat stress was walking a couple of miles each day," says Leanne Ely, of Rutherfordton, North Carolina. "There were times in the last trimester I felt like going behind a tree to squat and give birth, but for the most part, it did the trick and helped me handle the stress and keep my weight down. I gained exactly half of what I gained in my first pregnancy and had the same size baby!"
When Wendy, mother of one, became pregnant, she quit smoking and turned to little Granny Smith apples for her "fix." "They were a great pick-me-up. I think I managed to eat a couple of orchards during the whole gestation and through breastfeeding. Now I'm an apple addict!"
Pregnant with twins and depressed because she became too big to fit into restaurant booths, Kendeyl Johansen of Park City, Utah, made an appointment for a massage. "My massage therapist was very experienced with massage for pregnant women, and I treated myself by visiting her whenever I could afford it. I walked away pampered, relaxed, and smelling of scented oils."
Work, work, work
For many women, the major source of their stress is work. When Brette Sember, a then-practicing attorney in Clarence, NY, found out she was pregnant, she cut down on her caseload and moved her practice to her home. "But I found that even that was not enough," recounts Sember. "I developed an eye tic and started having contractions. So I finally just left my practice....and sat in a big, comfy chair with my feet up for the last two months. It helped! Both my contractions and the eye tic went away once I left my job."
Sometimes, stress relief can be as simple as shutting off the TV -- or at least turning the channel for a little comic relief. "When I was pregnant," remembers Carol Preflatish of English, Indiana, "the one thing that really bothered me was that it seemed like the only thing on TV were shows, movies, and even news about mother's having medical problems -- horrible deliveries and things like that."
The big picture
Throughout both of Susan Chyczewski's pregnancies, she had an unfinished graduate school dissertation looming over her head. "Luckily for me," says Chyczewski, "I had a very understanding advisor. She constantly gave me positive feedback saying that a dissertation is only a "paper," and that I should work on it steadily without letting the paper dominate my life." Chyczewski's moto for beating stress? "Look at the forest and not the trees." Good advice for us all!