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Stress during pregnancy

Research suggested that in children whose mothers experienced high levels of stress during pregnancy may be more likely to have emotional issues in later life.

Post by on Sunday, September 19, 2021

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Pregnancy is a wonderful and joyous time and also time of many changes like physical, emotional and relationship changes. Even your body, your emotions and the life of your family are changing.
During pregnancy a woman’s body undergoes changes which will affect everything from her sense of smell and her energy levels, to the foods she wants to eat.  Some people accommodate these changes but some may not, which leads to stress.
Although stress is being experienced by many pregnant females and most of them cope well with support of family, colleagues and friends. However, it has been found that about 15% of pregnant women experience stress which they might not be able to cope with, thus resulting in negative effects on the development of the fetus. 
Especially in last one and half year of COVID-19 uncertainty, for many pregnant females, stress exceeded limits and thus resulted in trouble sleeping, headaches, loss of appetite or over eat, excessive worry, irritability, sad mood etc. 
Research suggested that in children whose mothers’ experienced high levels of stress during pregnancy may be more likely to have emotional issues in later life.
Maternal psychiatric disorders during pregnancy and the postpartum period are also associated with numerous adverse outcomes for the offspring, including maladaptive fetal growth and development, poor cognitive development and behavior during childhood and adolescence, and negative nutritional and health effects. It also affects your relationship with your partner as you are worrying for your new role as parents. 
Causes of stress in pregnancy
Symptoms of pregnancy and its complication
Even "normal" pregnancy symptoms often result in increased stress levels like vomiting, pain in abdomen etc. stress levels are more in high-risk pregnancy or history of prior miscarriages.
More Intense Emotions
Changing levels of pregnancy hormones may also lead to high level of emotional stress. We may find pregnant females crying or getting angry at the slightest things. These emotions change instantaneously.
Relationship Issues
If your spouse is not acknowledging the stress and situation, you are going through. If your spouse is not supporting you, it can also lead to stress.
Prior Mental Health Issues
Women who have past history of psychiatric illness are also at risk of developing severe stress during pregnancy.
Besides, financial difficulties, migration from one place to another, worried about the gender of the baby, recent death in family, work overload particularly for working women and family problems also lead to the stress during the pregnancy. 
 
Symptoms of Stress in Pregnancy
The following symptoms are very common in pregnant females, however if they are persistent or frequent and result in distress and disruption of routine day to day activities, then there is a need to seek help from your treating doctor or a mental health professional.
 
Headaches.
Neck and shoulder pain.
Heartburn and indigestion.
High blood pressure.
Tiredness.
Insomnia.
Muscle tension.
Nervousness.
Feeling anxious.
Constant worry and fear.
Inability to concentrate.
Irritability, snapping at people.
Crying a lot.
Overeating or not eating enough.
 
How to cope up with stress in pregnancy
It is very important to look after your mental wellbeing during pregnancy in order to cope up with the stress.
Be prepared
It is very important to be prepared for the pregnancy and its issues. Being prepared will provide you strength.
Eat well
Eating well is good for your brain, your body and your baby. Eat balanced diet. Take plenty of fluids, fruits, vegetables and proteins.
Engage in Light Exercise at Least Three Times per Week (With Your Doctor’s Approval)
Exercising can boost your wellbeing any time. It’s perfectly safe to do many types of exercise during pregnancy. You could also try some pregnancy meditation or yoga. Get up and walk around as often as you can.
Get enough rest and sleep
Sleep is important for everyone’s mental health and it also supports a healthy pregnancy. You do deserve time to yourself, take a proper rest.
Treat yourself nicely 
Pregnancy is also the perfect time to treat yourself.  Do whatever works for you. Be nice to yourself because you deserve it.
Practice relaxation techniques 
This can help you better cope with everyday stress and stress during pregnancy.Relaxation techniques include deep breathing, meditation, etc.
Practise mindfulness
Mindfulness helps you connect with the world around you, moment to moment, so you don't get lost in negative thoughts. Devote time for prayers, recitation of holy books. 
Talk about your mental health
Don’t be afraid to admit how you're truly feeling. If you are honest, you are more likely to get the support you need. 
Learn what to expect during labour
Knowing what to expect especially from your family members and friends who have gone through this phase of life and understanding all your options may help you feel more confident.
Take a deep breath and focus on your baby
It’s good for you and your baby if you can relax, so don’t feel guilty about taking some time for yourself.
Talk to your specialist
If you’re taking medication for depression or another mental health problem, it’s important not to stop suddenly. Speak to your doctor about the balance of risks and benefits for you and your baby.
Keep in mind that communication is key
It is essential that you keep the doors of communication wide open. To deal with relationship stress during pregnancy, it is crucial that youcommunicate, tell your partner how you are feeling and what you want from your partner.
Besides this, try to reduce your stress levels on your daily commute and also sort out money worries.
 
How to be a caring life partner during pregnancy
The best ways to cope with her moods are to be patient, loving, thoughtful and supportive.
Be patient, always
Always be patient to mood swings of your spouse. Whenever you feel frustrated take a deep breath, count to ten or go do something else for a while. You will probably find that whatever was making her moody will subside as quickly as it arose.
Love her growing body
Feeling that she is no longer attractive may be causing some of her mood swings. She may not like the protruding tummy, or the fact that she doesn’t fit into her favorite clothes. The important thing is to let her know (frequently) you still find her attractive and love her regardless of the changes her body may go through.
Accept appetite changes
Pregnant women can get very particular about what they eat. Do not touch her food! In order to avoid her going ballistic it’s best if you just accept that all food in the house belongs to her
No petty arguments
Sometimes pregnant women have emotional outbursts, they yell, cry, or get annoyed for no apparent reason. If you want to survive this pregnancy peacefully, arguing tit for tat is a habit you’re going to have to shelve and even if for some reason she yells at you; try not to respond in anger.
Take her out
She may be feeling tired, uncomfortable and unattractive but one way to lift her mood is to take her out.
You shall not forget
If she asks you to buy something on your way from work, you better not forget.  If she’s has mentioned something pregnancy related such as the next appointment with the gynecologist, a test date or antenatal class don’t forget it!
Create bonding time
It’s really important to spend quality time together and it’s a great way to cope with and soothe any moodiness. The closer she feels to you the less her moods will negatively affect the relationship.
Prepare food for her
It is very important that you cook for her. It should be of her choice.
Recharge yourself
You’ll probably find yourself under a lot of pressure during pregnancy. So, make sure you give yourself time to kick back, recharge and relieve stress. It’ll help you cope with everything you have going on and be a better support to your partner.
The challenges of pregnancy are many and to make matters worse, they change month after month. But it's a great adventure, even if it has its share of stress and anxiety remember that you are not alone and a few simple actions like kneading a stress ball can have a big impact. If the stress becomes unmanageable and has started impairing your day-to-day life significantly, don’t hesitate to discuss it with your treating doctor or seek help from a mental health professional like counselor, clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. 
 
About writers 
By: Dr. Abdul Majid
HOD Psychiatry 
SKIMS Medical College Srinagar
 
Dr. Aijaz Ahmad
Senior Resident 
 

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