Let’s get one thing out of the way first – feeling stressed during pregnancy is 100% normal. Your body is changing, your hormones are all over the place and some pretty seismic life shifts are about to happen. It would be hard not to feel anxious, so if you’re reading this at the point of overload, you’re definitely not alone.
Traditionally, medical professionals have focused on smoking, drinking, taking folic acid, and avoiding certain foods when it comes to taking care of your health during pregnancy. These things are still key, but there’s also evidence to suggest that managing your stress levels can lower the risk of future health problems in your baby.
Whilst babies aren’t ‘consciously’ feeling the effects of stress before about 24 weeks (that’s when they have their first conscious sensory connections), the pregnancy itself and the developing foetus can be affected. Excessive stress during the first trimester can dictate whether a mum may have a premature birth or not and the developing brain at any stage can be affected. In addition, once a baby is having conscious sensory connections they can also feel the effects of stress or stressful situations and relationships.
If we’re under pressure, the body produces the stress hormone, cortisol. A certain amount of cortisol is actually important for helping us deal with stressful situations, but as with everything in life (and especially when it comes to hormones) it’s all about making sure there’s a balance. Here are five simple but effective things you can do to help keep those hormones in check when you’re expecting…
Take a breath
With affirmations infiltrating your Instagram feed, a new app launching seemingly every 5 minutes, not to mention hundreds of classes you can attend, it’s hard to escape the mindfulness trend at the moment. However, when you’re already feeling busy and pressured, being mindful can just become another thing on your already too long to do list.
Meditation can be as easy as breathing, though. When you feel stress rising, just take a moment to fill your lungs for a count of five and then release the breath for a count of five. It really helps to re-centre and re-balance.
Reach for the oils
It’s important to make sure you are using an oil blend that has developed specifically for pregnancy (such as the range from Babyopathy), but aromatherapy can help you to achieve calm in stressful situations. Add a few drops to a vaporiser or carry a bottle of lemon essential oil in your bag on your commute. Waft the scent under your nose to give you an instant mood and energy boost and combat the dreaded morning sickness.
Rest and recharge
The most important thing during pregnancy is to listen to your body. If you’re tired, take a break. Naps are the best (if you can get one!), and make sure you’re getting to bed early.
It can be hard to get a good night’s sleep during pregnancy, but it’s imperative for mental health and it also supports a healthy pregnancy. Start a bedtime ritual to help you drift off, with a few drops of essential oil (we love Babyopathy’s Routine in the Womb Pure Essential Oil), a good book, and a warm drink.
If you’re already a mama, getting five minutes to yourself can be hard. But making time for yourself is so important. Ask your partner, family or friends to take care of your kid(s) whilst you relax (and no, that doesn’t mean catch up on housework!
Take inspiration from one of this year’s biggest wellness trends, forest bathing, and get outside in nature. The practice is inspired by the Japanese therapy ‘shinrin-yoku’: a form of meditation in the natural world based on the biophilia hypothesis. Just a short walk along the river, through some trees or in the park can have a huge impact on your wellbeing and reduce stress levels.
Build a support network
Talking about what is worrying you can help to put things into perspective. Meet other mamas at the same stage of pregnancy as you at an antenatal or exercise class. We can guarantee that some of them will be feeling the same things.
If your stress levels have risen to the point where you feel overwhelmed though, speak to your midwife or GP. Even if it seems like you’re being silly, they would rather hear the tiniest of worries than for you to have to suffer in silence.
It’s so important to make sure you get the help you need before the birth, so that you can get the right coping strategies for when your baby arrives.