One of the biggest questions that mums-to-be want to know the answer to is related to stress. Is stress during pregnancy bad for the baby?
Pregnancy and motherhood are times full of change. It’s easy to wonder if stress during pregnancy is bad for the baby, especially when bringing a new life into the world.
Whilst new research has shown a correlation between maternal stress and foetal development, you should be reassured that the odd stressful day here or there won’t affect your baby and if you have a more serious longer term problem help is at hand..
However, it’s always good to understand medical opinion on this matter, so we thought we’d bring a recent study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences to your attention. This survey has identified the types of physical and psychological stresses that may matter most.
Professor Catherine Monk and her team examined 27 indicators of stress in pregnant women ranging in ages 18-45.
The results showed 17% of women were psychologically stressed with clinical levels of depression and anxiety. 16% were physically stressed with relatively high blood pressures or caloric intake. However, a majority (67%) were healthy.
The mums who were physically stressed were more likely to have premature births than those who were unstressed. Their babies also had a reduced heart rate.
Psychologically stressed mothers were more likely to have birth complications.
Surprisingly, the study also suggested that physically and psychologically stressed mothers were less likely to give birth to a boy.
Monk addressed this by saying: “This stress in women is likely of long-standing nature; studies have shown that males are more vulnerable to adverse prenatal environments, suggesting that highly stressed women may be less likely to give birth to a male due to the loss of prior male pregnancies, often without even knowing they were pregnant.”
However, there is some hope for the future. Things like mental health and post-partum depression are widely discussed topics now. Screening for depression and anxiety is starting to become a normal part of the prenatal process.
Overall, Monk had this conclusion: “Stress can also affect the mother’s immune system, leading to changes that affect neurological and behavioural development in the foetus. What’s clear from our study is that maternal mental health matters, not only for the mother but also for her future child.”
So, to answer the question ‘is stress during pregnancy bad for the baby’, it’s pretty clear that while stress isn’t necessarily bad for the baby, it does increase the likelihood of prenatal complications.
How to reduce stress
But don’t let this study scare you. There are many things that can be done to reduce the level of stress in expecting mothers.
The main thing is social support. Researchers found that the biggest difference between stressed and unstressed mothers was their support network.
So if you’re feeling stressed, let your friends and family know. They’re there to help you on this journey, so don’t feel like you need to go through this alone.
Another thing that may help is setting up a routine. Consistency is key - especially when your body and circumstances are changing so much.
Set aside some time in the morning or evening to do the same few things - be it skincare routine, some reading, or even watching the same show. This will hopefully keep your mind at ease and allow you some special time to unwind and relax. One of our favourite things is to apply our night-time stretch mark prevention cream as this allows some special bonding time with your baby each day.
Similarly, bonding with your baby is good for your mental health. Sing them songs, read them books, or just take a few minutes every day to talk with them. This is a great thing for your partner and you to do together.
While it may seem like a lot to deal with, being open and honest about your feelings will help you ease the stress.
We always recommend that if you’re feeling overwhelmed or exhibiting the signs of anxiety and depression, then consult your GP, as it may be more than just pregnancy-related stress.
If you’re asking yourself ‘is stress during pregnancy bad for the baby’, remember that staying relaxed and calm is what’s best for your bundle of joy. While a few stressful moments here and there are to be expected, surrounding yourself with a wonderful support network and making time for yourself to relax and unwind are key to a healthy baby.
You can find more information on mental health in pregnancy on the NHS website at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/mental-health-problems-pregnant/