When you’re pregnant, there are days when you may cycle through every possible emotion (hello, hormones!). And one of the most common feelings that many expecting mamas tend to experience throughout their pregnancy is stress—stress about your baby, stress about your body, stress about prepping for baby’s arrival, stress about life changes—you name it.
While it’s normal to experience these emotions, periods of prolonged or severe stress during your pregnancy isn’t good for you—OR your baby. In fact, high levels of constant stress can even make pregnancy symptoms worse (like trouble sleeping, body aches, etc.)—or contribute to larger issues like depression, problems with weight (gaining too much, or not enough) or even high blood pressure. Finding ways to manage stress is important for any mama-to-be—here are a few stress-reducing tips to try.
Focus on Your Breath
Deep breaths help us get extra oxygen into our bodies, which in turn helps our muscles, bodies and brains feel relaxed. But how often do we truly focus on our breathing? Meditation is a great thing to try (there are several apps available that can teach you how), or simply sit calmly and take long, belly-filling breaths in through your nose, then slowly out through your nose or mouth. Bonus points if you can breathe your way through something indulgent like a prenatal massage!
While some pregnant ladies fall asleep at the drop of a hat (especially during first trimester), sleep doesn’t always come as easily as pregnancy progresses. Your body is going through a lot (you know, the whole growing a human thing), and not getting enough rest can elevate levels of stress. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night, and plan for a bedtime that helps you hit that goal. A calming bedtime ritual might help you quiet your mind before you go to sleep—some suggest a warm (not hot!) bath, a cup of herbal caffeine-free tea, calming music, and little to no screen time. If you’re struggling with getting enough sleep, speak to your provider about additional suggestions.
Move Your Body
Not only is incorporating some movement into your day good for your body—it’s good for your mind, too. Exercise releases chemicals in the body called endorphins, which can improve your mood and even relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. And don’t let the idea of “working out” intimidate or limit you—just heading outside for a walk is a great way to get your heart rate up. The fresh air and movement can help ease your mind and boost those endorphins - win, win!
Eating right is all about balance! Growing a human is a lot of work (and pregnancy cravings are so real, mama), so ensuring you get a good mix of healthy foods (and plenty of water) is one of the best forms of self care. Don't be afraid to treat yourself once in a while—but remember that fueling your body with healthy choices will ensure you and baby are getting the nutrients you need to feel good and strong, physically and mentally. And don't forget to take your prenatal vitamin!
Let. It. Out.
Sometimes just sharing your feelings or worries with someone else can take some of the weight off of your shoulders. Talk to other pregnant or new mamas—they’ll be able to relate, and might even offer advice about what worked to relieve stress during their own pregnancies. You can also try writing out your thoughts—keeping a journal, making a list of the things you’re grateful for, or writing to-do lists if there’s simply too much on your plate can all help calm your mind and lower your stress levels.
If your stress feels unmanageable, or you’re worried about your own or your baby’s health, speak to your provider. Losing sleep, lack of appetite or unhealthy behaviors means it’s time to get some help managing your stress.