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For many people, stress during pregnancy is simply unavoidable. This is completely natural. After all:
This is another life which you are responsible for. Plus, stress is a normal response to any serious change in someone's personal circumstances...
And pregnancy certainly fits the bill there.
But how does stress affect pregnancy?
In this article, we'll find out...
Stress is your body's natural reaction at times when you perceive yourself to be in danger. It sometimes goes by the name of the “fight or flight” response.
The stress response involves the production of certain hormones which begin to elevate your heart rate, blood pressure and reaction times.
This can give you the little added extra boost you need to get away from that tiger, react fast enough to avoid that other car – or escape unscathed from untold other situations.
However, the presence of these hormones for a prolonged period – if you are suffering from chronic stress, for example – can have untoward effects on your body.
It's not healthy to live in a heightened state like this for a long period. Which is why, when you are suffering from stress, you can suffer all kinds of physical health problems in addition to mental health ones.
The effects of short-term stress during pregnancy
The presence of these stress hormones for a short period does not seem to have any negative effects on a baby or foetus's development.
There was a major study conducted by a team in Zurich which showed that even during sharp periods of acute stress, as long as they are short in duration, the baby is protected.
This was indicated by the fact that there were no stress hormones in the amniotic fluid of those pregnant women who were tested.
The effects of longer-term stress in pregnancy
However, if stress hormones are present in the longer-term, actual effects are possible. These can include:
Interactions between stress and pregnancy currently haven't properly been studied until week 17, well into the second trimester.
The only general observation which can be made is that if you are pregnant, you deserve to get proper support at what is, after all, a potentially stressful time.
Feeling stressed is, again, both normal and common during pregnancy. Even if you are experiencing a “healthy” amount of stress though, you might want to consider taking steps to reduce it.
At the very least, this should cut down on the headaches, changes in appetite and difficulty sleeping which you might be experiencing.
These are common side-effects of stress in addition to sometimes being side-effects of pregnancy.
The journal Clinical Endocrinology recently published a study which showed that as early as 17 weeks into a pregnancy, a pregnant woman's stress levels can potentially start to affect the baby's development.
This follows a number of other studies – in both animals and people – which show high-stress levels for mum are not healthy for baby.
The exact mechanisms through which this happens are not yet clearly understood.
As it's after 17 weeks into a pregnancy, it's thought that stress can have similar effects on pregnancy during both the second and third trimester if it occurs for an extended time.
Can stress cause miscarriage?
It is currently thought that stress is not a direct cause of miscarriage.
Around 10-20% of pregnancies result in a miscarriage (possibly more because many miscarriages actually occur before the pregnancy is identified) for many different reasons – even in cases where every indication shows that the mother did absolutely everything right.
With the usual proviso that stress is unhealthy and you should try to take whatever steps you need to reduce it, there is usually said to be no link between stress and miscarriages.
During pregnancy, it's smart to look after your mental as well as your physical health.
By taking care of your own health and happiness, you'll find it easier to cope with stress when it does appear. Thus, negating its effect on you and your baby.
You might want to try:
As with all things related to pregnancy, it's worth discussing stress and pregnancy with your doctor or any other medical professional who is your regular point of contact.
They should be able to suggest ways you can help yourself to reduce stress during pregnancy. Even if it's just for your own comfort and wellbeing.
Henry Warren I am a professional writer and health & wellness enthusiast.