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What Can Stress Cause During Pregnancy

How Does Stress Cause Pregnancy Problems

Dealing with Stress in Pregnancy

We dont completely understand the effects of stress on pregnancy. But certain stress-related hormones may play a role in causing certain pregnancy complications. Serious or long-lasting stress may affect your immune system, which protects you from infection. This can increase the chances of getting an infection of the uterus. This type of infection can cause premature birth.

Other ways stress can cause pregnancy problems include:

  • Normal pregnancy discomforts, like trouble sleeping, body aches and morning sickness may feel even worse with stress
  • You may have problems eating, like not eating enough or eating too much. This can make you underweight or cause you to gain too much weight during pregnancy. It also may increase your risk of having gestational diabetes and preterm labor.
  • Stress may lead to high blood pressure during pregnancy. This puts you at risk of a serious high blood pressure condition called preeclampsia, premature birth and having a low-birthweight infant.
  • Stress also may affect how you respond to certain situations. Some women deal with stress by smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or taking street drugs, which can lead to serious health problems in you and you baby.

Many women worry that stress may lead to miscarriage, the death of a baby before 20 weeks of pregnancy. While extra stress isn’t good for your overall health, there’s no evidence that stress causes miscarriage.

If Im Depressed Will It Affect My Children

Depression is treatable. But if it is not treated, it will affect your children.

Moms who are depressed may have trouble caring for their children. They may be loving one minute and withdrawn the next. They may respond to their child in a negative way or not respond at all. Your feelings and your behaviour will affect your ability to care for your children.

Depression can also affect attachment, which is important for your childs development. Attachment is a deep emotional bond that a baby forms with the person who provides most of his care. A secure attachment develops quite naturally. A mother responds to her crying infant, offering whatever she feels her baby needsfeeding, a diaper change, cuddling. Secure attachment helps protect against stress and is an important part of a babys long-term emotional health. It makes a baby feel safe and secure, and helps him learn to trust others.

If youre depressed, you may have trouble being loving and caring with your baby all the time. This can lead to an insecure attachment, which can cause problems later in childhood.

How a mothers depression affects her child depends on the childs age.

Babies who dont develop a secure attachment may:

  • have trouble interacting with their mother ,
  • have problems sleeping,
  • may be delayed in their development,
  • have more colic,

Concentrate On Your Breathing

Stress can have a major effect on your breathing. It can cause you to take shorter, shallower breaths which decrease the oxygen in your body. This shallow breathing, in turn, can cause your stress levels to rise as your body reacts to the lack of oxygen. Yes, its a vicious cycle, but you can take control by focusing on your breathing and meditating.When you feel yourself getting stressed, sit or lie down, close your eyes, and take at least five deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth while paying attention to the rise and fall of your chest. As you breathe, try to relax and let your stress slip away.

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Too Much Stress For The Mother Affects The Baby Through Amniotic Fluid

University of Zurich
If the mother is stressed over a longer period of time during pregnancy, the concentration of stress hormones in amniotic fluid rises, as proven by an interdisciplinary team of researchers. Short-term stress situations, however, do not seem to have an unfavorable effect on the development of the fetus.

If the mother is stressed over a longer period of time during pregnancy, the concentration of stress hormones in amniotic fluid rises, as proven by an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Zurich. Short-term stress situations, however, do not seem to have an unfavorable effect on the development of the fetus.

The feeling of constantly being on edge, always having to take care of everything, not being able to find a balance: If an expectant mother is strongly stressed over a longer period of time, the risk of the unborn child developing a mental or physical illness later in life — such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or cardiovascular disease — increases. The precise mechanism of how stress affects the baby in the womb is not yet been completely clarified. In cooperation with the University Hospital Zurich and the Max Planck Institute Munich, researchers of the University of Zurich have discovered that physical stress to the mother can change the metabolism in the placenta and influence the growth of the unborn child.

Stress hormone affects the growth of the fetus

Short-term stress — no effect

Can Stress Cause Birth Defects During Pregnancy

Managing stress during pregnancy

Sudden stressful events which may take place in early pregnancy, such as the death of a child, might place certain women at risk of giving birth to a child with birth defects. When traumatic situation happen, the body`s levels of stress hormone rise. According to various studies performed on animals, high stress hormone levels, especially cortisone, has been related to birth defects.

Experts report in the September. 9 issue of The Lancet that women who suffer serious traumatic stress in early pregnancy, like the death of an older child, are more prone than women who don`t experience that particular sort of stress to give birth to a child with congenital abnormalities of a specific type, especially cleft palate or heart defects. Women exposed to unanticipated death of an older child were more prone to give birth to children with malformations that also involved other organs.

These specialists claim that findings indicate that serious stress can affect tissues and organs in a direct manner at an essential time in the development of the future baby. The baby`s organs are developing in the first 3 months of pregnancy.

Also Check: How Is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Diagnosed

If I Am Taking Antidepressants Can I Breastfeed My Baby

Breastfeeding provides many health benefits for babies. It also helps mothers and babies bond. If you are taking antidepressants, small amounts will come out through your breast milk. But studies have shown that children exposed to these drugs through breast milk have not had problems.

Even if you are taking antidepressants, you can breastfeed your baby for as long as you wish. Stopping an antidepressant during breastfeeding may cause the depression to return.

Is There Anything Else I Should Do

If you are feeling any of the symptoms listed above, it is very important to tell someone. The early days of taking care of a new baby can be hard. Youre probably not sleeping much as you try to meet your babys needs around the clock. Find a friend, family member or someone else you trust who can look after your baby for short periods while you get a break. If people offer help, accept it.

There are many support programs for new mothers. Talk to your doctor, nurse, midwife, or contact your local public health office for a listing of services in your area.

Read Also: Is Stress And Depression The Same Thing

Can Depression Be Cured

With treatment, most people recover from depression. Treatment can include one or more of the following:

  • Social support: Community services or parenting education.
  • Family therapy: With your partner and/or children. This can help when children are older.
  • Individual therapy: Talking one-on-one with a family doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, or other professional.
  • Medication: Drugs used most often to treat depression are SSRIs .

Symptoms Of Stress During Pregnancy

Stressed during pregnancy? Your baby might feel long term effects

Pregnant or not, a body under stress experiences physical and chemical changes. Some of the most common symptoms of stress during pregnancy include the following:

  • An increase in cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine levels, whether youre aware of it or not
  • An increase in heart rate or heart palpitations
  • Headaches
  • A feeling of worry, frustration, anger or sadness
  • Loss of interest in being around other people
  • Excessive need to be around other people, or feeling scared to be alone

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What Are The Symptoms Of Stress During Pregnancy

Chronic stress can cause many physical, emotional, mental, and social symptoms including .

  • Chest pain, breathing difficulties, vision problems, headaches, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fatigue, muscle aches, stomach issues, and increased sweating.
  • Confusion, nightmares, memory loss, changes in sleeping pattern and difficulty focusing.
  • Grief, guilt, anxiety, irritability, fear, denial, worry, loneliness, or frustration
  • Isolation from family and friends, eating less, drug and alcohol abuse.

How To Reduce Stress During Pregnancy

Even if pregnancy is a period when your emotions fluctuate a lot and you are very sensitive to external factors, which make stress to be even more accentuated, there are simple methods that you can use to relax. Don`t forget that a fight in 2 is always easier, so you may want to let your partner know about it so he can be by your side. You should talk to him about the things that concern you, so that you can find a solution together. Here are a few of the things you can do:

Stress during pregnancy presents a lot of risks and that`s why is indicated to try and diminish it as much as possible, even if you won`t be able to get rid of it completely. Learn how to look at things with calm and optimism, and if you feel the need, don`t hesitate to turn to a therapist.

Recommended Reading: How To Deal With Post Traumatic Stress Triggers

Stress And Anxiety During Pregnancy Here Are Some Helpful Tips

Some women do experience both physical and emotional stress during pregnancy. When your hormones are going haywire and when you suffer fever and indigestion problems, no one can tell you to calm down or be cool.

One of the most common problems women go through during pregnancy is stress. Pregnancy is a very exciting phase, especially for the first-time mums. It also gives them an exhilarating feeling. Moving on to the next chapter of their lives and taking care of a young one who will be dependent on them for the next 20 years of their lives is certainly overwhelming.

Does The March Of Dimes Support Research On Stress In Pregnancy

Stress During Pregnancy: How To Manage

Several March of Dimes grantees are studying the connection between stress reactions and preterm birth. Prematurity is a leading cause of infant death and disability. These researchers are seeking to determine how stress-related factors in a pregnant womans environment including home and neighborhood conditions, occupation, income and major life events may contribute to her risk of preterm labor. They also are examining how the body physically responds to stress, including increases in blood pressure, heart rate and levels of various stress-related hormones to better understand how stress may trigger preterm labor. One researcher is exploring the possibility that stress resulting from racism may help explain why African-American mothers are twice as likely as white women to deliver prematurely. A better understanding of the causes of preterm labor may lead to new ways to prevent and treat it.


Glynn, L., et al. When stress happens matters: effects of earthquake timing on stress responsivity in pregnancy. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, volume 184, number 4, March 2001, pages 637-642.

Hobel, C.J., et al. Maternal plasma corticotropin-releasing hormone associated with stress at 20 weeks gestation in pregnancies ending in preterm delivery. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, volume 180, number 1, part 3, January 1999, pages S257-S263.

Stress and Pregnancy, item #09-405-00 6/04© March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, 2003

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Whats The Difference Between Baby Blues And Postpartum Depression

The baby blues is a mild form of postpartum depression that many new moms experience. It usually starts 1 to 3 days after the birth and can last for 10 days to a few weeks. With baby blues, many women have mood swingshappy one minute and crying the next. They may feel anxious, confused, or have trouble eating or sleeping. Up to 80% of new moms have the baby blues. Its common, and it will go away on its own.

About 13% of new mothers experience postpartum depression, which is more serious and lasts longer. You are at a greater risk if you have a family history of depression or have had depression before.

Some of the symptoms include:

  • feeling like you cant care for your baby,
  • extreme anxiety or panic attacks,
  • trouble making decisions,
  • hopelessness, and
  • feeling out of control.

No one knows exactly what causes postpartum depression. If you think you have the symptoms, its important to get help right away. Postpartum depression needs to be treated. Talk to your doctor or call your local public health office.

Does Stress During Pregnancy Affect The Baby

Well known scientists have determined that even since the 6th month of pregnancy, the baby is able to feel the mother`s emotions as well as their effects. They also claim that this isn`t something isolated happening, but that it will most definitely influence the attitude of the baby towards his life.

Although very satisfying and quite beautiful, pregnancy can sometimes throw the mother into depression. This is just as common as postnatal depression and lots of women, unfortunately, confront with it. It`s rumored that expecting mothers who are extremely anxious have higher chances of giving birth to children with a less developed nervous system than normal or to anxious children with colic.

Every woman confronts herself with situations that aren`t pleasant, but when the stress of pregnancy falls, all the effects aren`t just felt by the mother, but by the baby as well. If it`s an isolated episode, there won`t be any effects on long term when it comes to the child. However, if the mother experiences stress or anxiety for longer periods of time, then you can be sure the baby will be affected emotionally.

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Sip On Peppermint Tea

Peppermint leaves contain menthol which acts as a muscle relaxant and sedative. Peppermint also helps remove gas from your stomach and resolve stomach issues like nausea and vomiting. Sipping on peppermint tea is a healthy, all-natural way to relieve stress during pregnancy. Keep some peppermint tea bags in your purse or briefcase so you can fight stress and tummy trouble wherever you are. Peppermint tea is naturally caffeine-free so you can sip on it all day at work or while lounging at home.

How To Reduce Stress In Pregnancy

Stress during pregnancy: does stress affect fetal and child health?

The difficulty with stress is that unlike smoking, alcohol and unpasteurised cheese, we cant just decide to quit when it comes to eliminating stress from our busy lives. But there are many ways to manage and reduce stress. The bonus is, reducing stress in pregnancy can result in a smoother postnatal period as well.

Some ways to reduce stress include utilising social support, either by spending time with friends or accepting help from those around you to relieve the stress of daily activities.

Read more:Take the pressure down pregnancy doesn’t have to be so stressful

Light exercise, yoga, meditation and relaxation can all assist in managing stress. While yoga class might be perceived as inaccessible or elitist, a recent study of pregnant underprivileged urban teens in the US showed that group yoga was an appealing method of reducing stress and addressing worries for this population. Scheduling time to rest and discussing work demands in pregnancy with your employer are other ways to reduce stress.

When stress becomes overwhelming its important to talk to a GP who can refer you to a psychologist or other local service to help address the stress in your life.

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Can Stress Affect Early Pregnancy

Stress during the first trimester is known to affect the microbial population in the mothers vagina. These are then passed onto babies during birth, thereby causing an impact on the metabolism and immune system of the infant. Altered gut microflora is also known to increase the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia and autism .

How To Manage Stress While Youre Pregnant

Too much stress isnt good for you or your baby. During your pregnancy, focus on healthy self-care practices to control your stress. Try to stay away from unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Eating a healthy diet and getting lots of sleep can also help you feel better. Exercising regularly is another great way to reduce stress. Brisk walking, stationary bicycling, prenatal yoga, and swimming are some good activities during pregnancy. Talking about your stress with family or friends can also lighten the load.

Self-medicating with drugs, alcohol, or unhealthy food is never a good way to manage stress, but it should definitely be avoided during pregnancy. These types of coping mechanisms could harm your baby. Talk to your doctor about good ways to break these habits if you have concerns.

Science hasnt yet determined if stress can cause miscarriages. We do know that too much stress isnt healthy, though. As part of a healthy lifestyle, try to control your stress. If youre worried about your stress levels, talk to your doctor.

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How Can Stress Affect My Baby And Me

Chronic stress can affect your own health or wellbeing, and can include experiencing headaches, problems sleeping, fast breathing and a racing pulse.

Some people might also experience:

  • obsessive thoughts
  • eating problems
  • trouble relaxing or winding down

Chronic stress could also cause problems for your baby. These can include effects on your unborn babys growth and the length of gestation . They can also increase the risk of problems in your babys future physical and mental development, as well as behavioural issues in childhood.

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