Being pregnant can be pretty stressful, even at the best of times.
Pregnancy, birth and the early days of parenting are some of the most transformational times in our adult lives.
Emotionally, hormonally, physically, even our relationships can evolve and transform. It’s no wonder these life-changing moments can trigger anxiety and stress reactions in pregnancy.
Not all stress is bad. We need it to get us out of bed in the morning and help us face danger but the issue is when the scales are tipped out of balance.
Growing a tiny human for the first time can make the most stress-resilient women wobble at the knees.
ALL the things
How are you supposed to manage it ALL?! Give birth to a small person, heal, feed them, take care of them? Most of us are just trying our hardest to keep up with work demands, having a social life, everyday chores and admin as well as juggling all the to do’s of pregnancy.
The midwife appointments, the IKEA trips to get the nursery ready and all the other stuff that we need (or do we?)
At the same time wrapping your head around this avocado/mango/watermelon size human you’re lucky enough to be growing inside of you.
A pilot study published in 2004 in Biological Psychology found that pregnant women who were encouraged to relax more and eliminate stressful circumstances from their lives demonstrated lower stress levels, lower symptoms of depression, and lower levels of cortisol. a hormone which is considered indicative of stress.
No shit Sherlock. Yet why do we feel the need to keep pushing on regardless? the need to do all the things, buy all the stuff and see all of the people, all of the time.
It’s hard for us to slow down at work when We live in fear of being mansplained, missing the promotion or worse not having a job to go back to after maternity leave. Which despite being totally illegal is a huge issue in the UK.
I totally get it, I felt the same. Like I just couldn’t risk dropping the ball.
I wish we lived in a society where pregnancy and motherhood was valued more than it is.
Dealing with stress
How do you find resilience in stressful times?
I am certainly not suggesting that you drop everything and sit in bubble wrap for 40 weeks- no way! There are some small changes that you can make in your routine to help you adjust and balance stress.
Make a conscious decision to implement r+r in your day-to-day life. Perhaps it’s listening to a meditation or mindfulness app on your phone, something that can be done at any time, anywhere. There are loads of apps out there, both free and paid, some I recommend is Headspace if you are totally new to the concept or my personal fave, Insight Timer
Research shows that applying mindfulness techniques in pregnancy can help deal with these experiences that emerge, not only during pregnancy but in the birth process itself as well as post-partum.
By practicing mindfulness techniques we can actively counteract the production of stress hormones in our bodies and the good news is that baby benefits from this too!
Mindfulness skills help everyone involved navigate the transitions of pregnancy, birth and post-partum and are a foundation not only for the uncertainties of the birth itself but also for the new life of parenthood that follows. Regular mindfulness practice is also linked to preventing postpartum depression.
Get your yoga on
Pregnancy yoga can be a great way to help quieten the mind and gain control over both your breath and bring awareness to your changing body.
Benefits are multiple, a great workout strengthening lower back and all the muscle groups used to carry and deliver a baby. And you’ll be grateful later for those pelvic floor exercises! If you can’t make it to a class there are practices of various lengths on YouTube – just roll out the mat.
Carve out the time to just be. Maybe it’s having some me and bump time by taking a relaxing bath in the evening. Try using aromatherapy oils safe for use in pregnancy to deepen the relaxing experience.
A relaxing bath can also help with that contentious issue of sleep in pregnancy. Whether pregnant or not we all need sufficient sleep to function and getting used to napping (if at all possible) will help to keep this up in the early days after baby has arrived when you’ll need every bit of shut-eye you can get. Contained within the apps mentioned above are also practices that help getting to sleep. A practice that has proved useful to many is using a body scan or yoga Nidra which hopefully will end up with zzz…
Even if you don’t sleep when you do a guided relaxation, it worth noting that your body still benefits. A 20 minute guided relaxation is akin to 2/3 hours of sleep when it comes to restoring the body’s nervous system. You can’t go wrong with this!
If you notice signs of stress, Just breathe! such a cliche but it’s TRUE!
There’s lots of breathing techniques out there but honestly, If in doubt, breathe slowly and deeply. Using all of your lungs. It’s as simple as that.
Connecting with other mamas to be can be really helpful in dealing with the stresses of pregnancy, just getting to chat over common issues and struggles and sharing being in the same boat can work wonders for keeping your mind in a sane place. Seek out other mamas to be IRL or online, there are masses of places to connect with likeminded people to get support, even if it is from behind a phone or screen it will be helpful to feel emotionally supported.
Build your village
Accepting additional support can also take the load off. It’s a good idea to start thinking about this during pregnancy because chances are, you will need it more when baby arrives.
You don’t need to do it ALL by yourself. Give yourself permission to ask for help if you need it.
You can still be a strong independent woman and ask for a seat on the tube or let someone carry something heavy for you.
You can still be a feminist and let your partner pays more of the bills when you go on mat leave because this is about your family now.
Make a conscious decision to let yourself be supported by family, friends colleagues and even the wider community.
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