Being pregnant causes all kinds of physical and emotional changes inside of you, and the thought of an impending labour, not to mention a dramatic life-change, can certainly cause even the most relaxed person at least a little bit of stress. And so you focus on doing things like eating well, exercising, and following the advice of your doctor or midwife. But being able to cope with the stress of it all often lands on just you, and it can be hard to know what to do.
Remember that stress is caused by that lizard-brain reaction to what you perceive as a threat, be it an actual threat or a tiny, innocent, completely safe thing in your belly. Even though you know logically that most of the time things turn out perfectly fine for mom and baby, once that ‘fight or flight response’ kicks in, your adrenaline and cortisol levels rise, leading to a cycle that’s hard to break. But if you can learn some effective ways to cope with the stresses that come at you during pregnancy, you just might be able to get by a little easier, and make the whole process a little more smooth. Sitting down with a psychotherapist for a few sessions can do wonders, for example. Here are some other good ways to alleviate that stress during pregnancy:
1. Get prepared. Channel that energy you’re using about worrying into something productive – the results will make you feel less stressed. It’s normal to be concerned about what labour will be like, in regards to the pain, your partner, and so on. Take some time to join a prenatal class, and be sure to ask lots of questions. Also, draw up a birth plan that includes things like how you want the pain handled and what kind of music (if any) you want to be there. Go overboard, it’s okay. And in terms of preparing for your family life after, try joining a mommie’s group, either online or in person. Again, it’s okay to ask lots of questions, especially to moms who’ve been there. In fact, they’ll be more than happy to help because they went through almost exactly what you’re experiencing!
2. Put your money into perspective. Very few babies make it onto television and become money earners. More than likely, yours will be one of the 99% who cost money, and often a fair bit at that. To ease your stress on this issue, make a list of everything you’re going to need when the baby comes, and then make a list of all the income you can expect. Before you get overwhelmed here, start crossing things off the first list. Those are things you’re going to find second-hand, or get to borrow from friends. Certain things like strollers can’t be used for more than a year or two, and people are often more than happy to pass them along to someone who will use them. Finally, check around on the internet for local services who can give you money-saving tips and might even have some free resources to help with daycare or other costly elements that the little munchkin brings.
3. Talk about it with your loved ones. Everyone has an opinion, and when you’re pregnant you get much more than you’d like, especially from your loved ones, who think that they’re helping. For the loved ones that help a little too much, be prepared to say ‘thanks, I’ve heard you, and I’ll consider what you’ve said’, and then leave it. Be firm if need be – they’ll understand or they won’t. Regardless, because they love you it will all work out in the end. The important thing is that you put up the boundaries you need to. You’re in charge of growing this baby, and that requires that you decide when to yes, and when to say no. And for the rest of your loved ones, keep lines of communication open to them as well. Let everyone know how you’re feeling, even if what you’re feeling is worried. This will help them figure out with you ways that they can help make your life a little easier during this whole process. Bottom line: lean on your loved ones as much as possible – they’ll even be grateful that you did.
4. Spoil yourself a little. It can be tough to treat yourself when you’ve been doing so well – exercising, eating right and doing everything you can think of that’s healthy for your growing baby. But taking a little time to reward/thank/encourage yourself to help you through your pregnancy can only be a good thing – for you and for your baby. So be sure to help keep your stress levels in check by taking the time to have a massage with a Registered Massage Therapist, meet with friends for a movie or coffee, or go and get your nails done (if you’re getting close to the end, you may need some help reaching those little piggies!). And above all, be easy on yourself – you’re only one person. Okay, right now you’re one and a half people, but you know what I mean.
5. Eat well. I know what I just said about treating yourself, but avoiding refined sugar and other junk can really help your stress levels stay in check. A diet high in calories and processed food takes energy to break down, and this extra work can leave you feeling tired and sluggish, which can make you feel more stressed. In addition, a diet lacking in the right nutrients can make it difficult for your brain functioning and hormone regulation to work properly, which as you can imagine, can be frustrating during pregnancy. Be sure to eat at least 6-7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day (a serving is one of your own handfuls), as well as lean meats and whole grains. Get your little bit of extra calories from nuts and seeds, avocados, and higher-fat yogurt. That’s right – I said ‘higher fat’! Fat-free dairy has been shown to supply only a limited amount of calcium to your body, which you probably know you need more of during these times. Apparently it has something to do with the fat helping your body absorb the calcium. So enjoy – just enjoy the right foods.
By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner