How to Stay Relaxed In Pregnancy and Avoid Unnecessary Stress
It is always important to manage our stress levels, but never more so than in pregnancy. This is because when the mother is feeling stressed, or her stress hormone levels rise, they can be found in the amniotic fluid that surrounds her baby. Furthermore, prolonged stress can impinge upon normal pregnancy hormones, and may prevent a woman from going into labour naturally, or may potentially lead to a more challenging birth experience. Often when asked if she is feeling stressed however, a pregnant woman may answer ‘No, not really’, as we’re not always aware that our bodies are in a state of stress. However, the body registers stress in many ways and unfortunately, it can have many symptoms and sources.
Symptoms of Stress
Symptoms of stress can vary greatly and affect people in many different ways. Some common examples of manifestations of stress in pregnancy are:
- Poor digestion
- Muscle tension
- Lowered immunity
- Mood swings
- Emotional outbursts
- Excess weight gain
Often as well, common pregnancy discomforts can be heightened if a woman is feeling stressed, e.g. swelling and oedema can be worse or stretch marks can be more visible or itchy. Aches and pains may be more troublesome, or indigestion might be more intense.
Therefore whilst a woman may not automatically feel that she is stressed in the traditional sense, her body may be saying different.
Sources of Stress
There are of course many obvious sources of stress, such as
long working hours and deadlines, financial pressure, strained family relations or looking after other children when you’re not really feeling up to it. Other perhaps less obvious sources of stress are chemical exposure, pollution (atmospheric, noise), electro-magnetic fields, daily radiation like wifi, mobile phones, lap-tops, tablets. There is also the area of diet: Processed foods can put undue pressure on your body as it has to break down the artificial preservatives, colours and flavourings, excess sugars and salt, and try and eliminate them from the body - all whilst trying to give proper nutrition to your developing baby. There is also the question of chemical exposure both in food and personal care products. Pesticides and the impact of other harsh, synthetic chemicals can put real stress on mum’s bodily systems as well as those of her baby.
Managing Your Stress
The good news is there are ways to manage your stress that are easy to incorporate into your daily pregnancy life. Some of my favourites are things like joining a yoga or Pilates class, or doing some gentle daily exercise like swimming or walking. Going for reflexology or acupuncture in pregnancy are wonderful ways of lowering stress levels and keeping your hormones balanced. An added advantage to receiving these holistic therapies is that their effects are cumulative, in that going for a number of treatments will allow you to manage your stress levels for longer. Consider an organic diet, or at least one where you are avoiding processed, nutritionally empty foods. We’ve found it beneficial to reduce our screen time, in a realistic way. By adding a little app such as Brain Focus to your phone, you can time tasks to 25mins and then you are reminded to get up and take a break. This means you can get up and move, take a drink of water, have a healthy snack or simply wiggle your ankles around to encourage circulation, whilst breaking the screen exposure along the way. The added advantage is that this type of scheduled break also improves your productivity levels!
It is also a good idea to choose personal care products that use natural, plant ingredients, and are free from artificial fragrances, preservatives or fillers. Be aware of product labels, and know what is beneficial and what you’d rather stay away from. It’s a good idea to start avoiding mineral oil in your cosmetics and personal care products. This is because mineral oil (liquidum paraffinum) can stop your skin from functioning correctly, drying it out by drawing moisture up from the lower levels of the skin and generally putting more stress on your other organs as it stops the skin from eliminating toxins or waste products properly.
I have specifically created the AromaBump Relax Mama range of aromatherapy products for pregnancy to help reduce the feelings of stress, promote better, more restful sleep, and to help ease any aches and pains. Drawing upon the aromatherapy benefits of lavender, frankincense, chamomile and geranium, there is a Relax Mama Balm which can be rubbed in anywhere on your body, and feels and smells wonderful. If you prefer, you might like to apply it directly to areas of tension such as your neck and shoulders, or hips to help promote relaxation.
There is also the Relax Mama Body & Bath Oil which can be used as a body moisturiser, a massage oil, or indeed a wonderfully relaxing addition to your evening bath. This also draws upon the relaxing and soothing properties of lavender, frankincense, chamomile and geranium essential oils
Mindfulness in pregnancy is a topic that is receiving glowing reports, and is a wonderful tool for managing your stress levels. The GentleBirth programme is a superb example of how to do it right. Gentlebirth takes the worry out of your pregnancy and labour and teaches you powerful yet simple techniques allowing for a more positive birthing experience. Look for the GentleBirth app on your preferred app store.
Lastly, sometimes as women we feel we have to be able to do it all - afterall, pregnancy isn’t an illness. However, our bodies are growing and nurturing another human being, and that requires a lot of energy and resources. It’s ok to ask for help, or to say no to taking on extra tasks, or not staying late at work. Your stress levels will stay under control and your body and your baby will thank you for it.
Wishing you a happy and stress-free pregnancy! You are fabulous!