It’s stress awareness month again and so a time when health care professionals and health promotion experts join forces to increase public awareness about the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic.
Everyone feels stressed from time to time. If left unchecked, it tends to be a real joy-killer and can reek havoc on your health and wellbeing.
We thought we’d take advantage of the focus on stress this month to look at how it can affect your
Will your stress levels affect your baby?
The impact of a pregnant women’s stress on an unborn baby is debatable. Some experts believe that prolonged bouts of severe stress can cause complications like low birth weight or sleep issues with babies, whilst other studies have shown that the effects of chronic stress are minimal and in fact, it is mums-to-be who suffer much more than their babies.
Whichever side of the fence you fall on, we all know avoiding stress during your pregnancy has got to be better for you and your developing baby.
Here are five tips to help you to de-stress throughout the coming months:
1. Eat healthily
A well-balanced diet is good for your mind and body. Keep your diet rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids (try to eat oily fish twice a week), vitamins and minerals to lift your mood. And we know that the essential amino acid tryptophan can help alleviate stress by raising levels of brain chemicals melatonin and serotonin too (both have been proven to help you sleep well and boost feelings of well-being). Your body can’t make tryptophan, so the only way to get it is from what you eat. It’s found in fresh chicken and turkey, fish, eggs, yoghurt, honey, bananas and cheese, as well as nuts and seeds, which we think make great snacks to carry around whilst you’re on the move.
Don’t forget to monitor how much water you’re drinking. There’s evidence that dehydration may affect your mood and stress levels too. Try to drink between six to eight glasses (about 1.5 litres) of fluid a day.
2. Get plenty of sleep
Your body is working hard to nourish and grow your baby, so you’ll need all the sleep you can get during pregnancy. If you’re having trouble sleeping invest in a comfy body pillow. Have a relaxing bath before bed and avoid eating in the last hour before you go to sleep to prevent heartburn. Making sure your room is ideal for sleeping helps too – keep it dark, quiet and cool, even if that means using darkening shades, earplugs and a fan!
Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake-up time, even at weekends. This helps to regulate your body's clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
3. Exercise regularly
Gentle exercise is an ideal way to help cope with daily stressors. Swimming and walking are ideal forms of exercise as both keep you fit without putting too much stress on your body. Pregnancy yoga keeps you active and has the added benefit of teaching you breathing and relaxation. Not only will this help to de-stress you now but you’ll find it invaluable during labour.
Head to our series of pregnancy exercises. They’ve been designed for each stage of pregnancy and will keep you fit and stress free throughout each trimester.
4. Try complementary therapies
Massage in pregnancy can help you sleep and improve your mood, as well as relieve physical symptoms such as edema (joint swelling) and nerve pain. There are heaps of spas and beauty salons offering pregnancy massages but why not encourage your partner to give you a massage at home – take a look at this great little video from the BabyCentre website, teaching you head and neck massage techniques. Remember to check the oils you use are safe during pregnancy.
Meditation can help to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It offers some quiet time to think and relax. Try to find a pregnancy meditation class near you. But if you can't join a class, it’s easy to teach yourself to meditate. Grab a pillow and mat, retreat to a quiet place and close your eyes. Then breathe in deeply and slowly through your nose, keeping your shoulders relaxed. Focus on your breathing and start repeating either a word or phrase you find calming, over and over. Try to fit in 20 minutes of meditation, once a day, five days a week, ideally in the morning.
Reflexology activates the healing powers of the body through manipulation of the feet and is a great way to de-stress during pregnancy. It is very safe, enjoyable and effective, but should be performed by a therapist experienced in Maternity Reflexology.
5. Stand up for your rights on your commute to work
Travelling to and from work can cause stress at the best of times, but when you’re heavily pregnant this gets even worse. Make sure you always sit down on public transport – even if you have to ask someone to give up their seat. Most people are willing to move if you ask them to but wearing a Baby-on-Board badge will nudge them in the right direction. Try immersing yourself in a book, film, podcast, music, or crossword to divert your attention from the crush around you. Or take a bus or train back one stop so there’s a better chance of finding a seat.
Remember that your employer has a legal duty to carry out regular risk assessments during your pregnancy so they may well let you travel to work avoiding rush hour.
We hope our tips will help you to de-stress and enjoy your pregnancy. But if you find your stress levels overwhelming make sure you talk to your midwife or doctor to seek further help.
Do you have your own tips to help de-stress and enjoy your pregnancy that we have not mentioned please feel free to leave a comment below