Stress is a reality for all of us. Everyone struggles with stress related to their job, finances or relationships. But when you’re pregnant you can face additional stressors.
For instance, you might worry about your baby’s health, which is actually one of the most common stressors in pregnancy, according to Christina G. Hibbert, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and expert in postpartum mental health.
You might also get stressed out about getting ready for your baby’s arrival, she said. And if you’ve experienced problems with your current pregnancy or a previous miscarriage, you might be feeling especially anxious.
Below, Hibbert shared effective ways moms-to-be can cope with stress.
1. Move your body.
According to Hibbert, pregnant women who exercise – under the care of their doctors – are better able to manage stress. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has a list of general guidelines for exercise during pregnancy (which appears on this page).
2. Get support.
Talk to your friends or join a pregnancy support group, Hibbert said. They can help you minimize the stress and pressure you feel, provide support and problem-solve with you.
3. Feel your feelings.
“Many women ignore or deny feelings of stress, but it simply piles up until you feel like you’re going to explode or implode,” Hibbert said. She suggested sitting with your emotions with someone you trust. “Let someone who cares about you be with you, hold your hand, listen, and feel it with you.”
She also recommended practicing deep breathing every day. Doing so soothes stress and even helps with childbirth. Try this: “Inhale deeply, to your toes, for a slow count of five; then exhale slowly for five. Repeat for five to 10 minutes.”
Another approach she recommends is to channel your emotions into art, such as journaling, painting, drawing or music.
4. Make sleep a priority.
“When you’re pregnant you need more sleep than normal, and you can’t afford to stay up too late, get up too early, and go all day long,” Hibbert said. “The toll it takes on your body and the baby is not worth it.”
Because sleep is cumulative, every catnap counts. So go back to sleep when you wake up, get to bed earlier, take frequent naps and sleep in when you can, suggests Hibbert.
Getting enough sleep during the third semester can be especially tough. Blame it on your burgeoning belly, weaker bladder and thoughts about your upcoming birth. To overcome such challenges, Hibbert suggested using pillows to prop your body; limiting how much you drink in the late afternoons and evenings; and writing down your worries to clear your mind.
5. Seek therapy.
“Many women think they’ll feel better ‘once the baby comes,’ but usually it’s the opposite: Stress tends to increase once the baby is born,” Hibbert said. So if stress is sapping your health or functioning, don’t hesitate to see a therapist. “The sooner you seek help, the better—for you, your baby, and your family.”
Hibbert suggested checking out Postpartum Support International and American Pregnancy Association for more information on pregnancy and postpartum emotional health. Also, Hibbert’s website offers valuable information for moms and moms-to-be.