How to Manage Stress During Pregnancy
While stress during pregnancy is natural your Hinterland Chiropractic doctor recommends keeping stress levels as low as possible as stress can have a lifelong impact on a foetus. To keep your pregnancy as stress-free as possible, your doctor shares with you the following stress-busting techniques.
The best way to treat stress is to avoid it. This is doubly true of pregnancy – minimising stress before pregnancy is the best way to deal with it. However, even late in term, small decreases in stress can make an enormous difference.
The Dangers Of Stress During Pregnancy
Asthma and Allergies – Research shows that children born to highly stressed mothers have an increased likelihood of developing asthma and allergies. Scientists followed 387 mother and children. The scientists discovered that mothers with high stress levels had infants with higher levels of a kind of antibody responsible for allergic reactions.
Because of this change in antibody level, a child’s immune response at birth may be altered even with lower levels of dust exposure in the home (Amer Thorac Soc 2008;Epub).
Brain Development and Behaviour – Hormone regulation is also affected by stress. In pregnant women, chronic stress negatively affects normal hormone regulation and more cortisol (the so-called “stress hormone”) is produced. This excess cortisol may affect the brain development of a foetus, which could potentially change a baby’s personality, including triggering attention problems.
One report stated, “Excess amounts of CRH [corticotrophin- releasing hormone] and cortisol reaching the human fetal brain during periods of chronic maternal stress could alter personality and predispose to attention deficits and depressive ill- ness through changes in neurotransmitter activity.” (Brain Behav Immun 2005;19:296-308.)
Additional effects are also being researched, including a link between a mother’s level of anxiety while pregnant and her child’s responses to stress, with a recent report linking prenatal stress to behavioural issues including attention and learning deficits, generalized anxiety, and depression.
A journal of neuroscience reports, “Excess circulating maternal stress hormones alter the programming of foetal neurons, and together with genetic factors, the postnatal environment and quality of maternal attention, determine the behaviour of the offspring.” (Neurosci Biobehav Rev 2008;Epub.)
Adolescent Depression – The effects of pre-natal stress may extend beyond infancy. A long-term study that followed babies until they reached adolescence, suggests maternal stress can predispose babies to later depression. Mothers who exhibited high stress during their second trimester had children who exhibited high levels of cortisol in adolescence (Neropsychopharmacology 2008;33:536-45).
Diabetes – Type I Diabetes is a chronic, incurable disease and typically appears in childhood or adolescence. In a Swedish study 20,920 non-diabetic mothers completed psychological questionnaires during pregnancy. When the children were born, their umbilical cord blood was tested for factors related to diabetes.
Elevated levels of chemical markers for Type I diabetes were found in newborns whose mothers were unusually worried or endured a stressful event during pregnancy (Ann N Y Acad Sci 2006;1079:345-9).
Stillbirth – This is a mother’s worst nightmare and stress is a major cause of it. In a 10-year study, researchers from Denmark analysed stress-questionnaires from 19,282 pregnant women. Shockingly, women in the highest stress category had an 80 per cent increased risk of stillbirth compared to those with an intermediate level of stress, regardless of all other factors (BJOG 2008;115:882-5).
Preterm Birth – Severe stress, anxiety and depression all elevate risks for premature birth and low birth weight. Researchers have discovered that women with profiles indicating high stress are at 40 per cent higher risks for low birth weight and preterm deliveries, while birth weight of infants was 51 grams lower (Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand 2006;85:277-85).
Chronic job-stress may cause the most anxiety. “An analysis of available literature confirms a significantly higher PTD [preterm delivery] odds ratio among pregnant women working in adverse psychosocial conditions. Low birth weight (LBW) in newborns of this group of mothers occurs more frequently than in the general population.” (Med Pr 2006;57:281-90.)
Surefire Ways to Reduce Stress During Pregnancy
Continue Chiropractic Care. Regular chiropractic appointments keep spinal alignment in check, slash stress, and increase the chances of optimal spinal and hip alignment for birthing.
Engage in Exercise. Women who exercised in the third trimester reported less state-anxiety in that trimester compared to non-exercisers.”
Meditate. Meditation leads to shorter labours, fewer instrument-assisted births, reduced stress and higher birth weights.
Enrol in a Childbirth Preparation Class. Independent classes are more likely to focus on relaxation techniques and recognise childbirth as a natural, positive event.
Consider Acupuncture. Alleviates stress, relaxes muscles, aids circulation and may reduce pregnancy-related pelvic and back pain.
Don’t Be an Ostrich. Studies show that avoiding reality predicts anxiety and pregnancy-specific distress. So learn and know!
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