Being pregnant can bring up a range of emotions for you, including feeling anxious or stressed, but this is completely normal. Stress is a normal reaction to a major change (such as pregnancy). In some cases, stress may even be good for people because it can push them to take action in the face of new challenges. However, too much stress can be overwhelming and could even lead to health problems both for you and your baby.
Make sure you take some time to do what you enjoy, such as reading, watching TV or your favorite hobby.
What can cause stress in pregnancy?
For some women, finding out that they are pregnant can be a stressful experience in itself. You could feel like you have lost control or don’t have enough resources to manage what you’ll be experiencing. Other things that could cause stress in pregnancy include:
- waiting for the results of your antenatal tests
- previous negative experiences with a pregnancy, birth or motherhood such as a miscarriageor death of a baby
- having a pregnancy that is unplanned
- dealing with the physical changes of pregnancy
- having a complicated pregnancy
- being a single parentor teenagerand wondering how you will cope
- experiencing difficulties in your relationship, which could include family violence
- being overloaded with advice from other people
- experiencing financial difficulties
- moving house
- changes in your job
- grief, such as a death in the family
- drug and alcohol problems
- past anxiety, depression or other mental illness
If more than one of the above are happening to you at the same time, you could experience even more stress.
How can stress affect my baby and me?
Chronic (ongoing) stress can affect your own health or wellbeing, and can include experiencing:
- problems sleeping
- fast breathing and a racing pulse
- obsessive thoughts
- worry or anxiety
- eating problems (too much or too little food, or the wrong types of food)
- trouble relaxing or winding down
Chronic stress could also cause problems for your baby. These can include effects on your unborn baby’s growth and the length of gestation (your pregnancy). They can also increase the risk of problems in your baby’s future physical and mental development, as well as behavioural issuesin childhood.
Reducing stress while you are pregnant
It’s important to look after your mental wellbeingduring pregnancy, just as it’s important to look after your physical health. When you are feeling well, content and happy, you are better able to manage stress. When your stress is managed, it is not likely to have any serious effects on you or your baby.
To reduce stress, you could try the following:
- Pay attention to the triggers that make you stressed and notice what happens when you feel stressed.
- Try to slow down, rest and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet to help keep you and your baby healthy.
- Talk to someone you trust about your concerns and how you’re feeling.
- Take part in regular exercise, suitable for pregnancy.
- Do yoga, meditation, breathing, or relaxation through classes, or using apps, videos or podcasts.
- Engage in a favourite distraction activity such as reading, watching TV or a hobby.
- Accept people’s offers to help you.
- Spend time with people who make you feel calm and ask for help when you need it.
If you need more help to manage your stress, you can contact:
- your GP, who can help you or refer you to a psychologist or counsellor
- your obstetrician, doula or midwife
- PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia). on 1300 726 306
- beyondblue. on 1300 224 636
Sometimes the health professionals you talk with may not have enough time to answer all of your questions or talk through all of your concerns. If you need to discuss any issues further, call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to speak to a maternal child health nurse for advice and support.
American Pregnancy Association. (How to treat stress naturally)
Australian Family Physician. (Chronic stress)
beyondblue. (What to expect during pregnancy)
Centre for Community Child Health. (The First Thousand Days – an evidence paper)
Centre of Perinatal Excellence. (Stress in pregnancy)
Centre of Perinatal Excellence. (Relaxation strategies in pregnancy)
Raising Children Network. (Stress and pregnancy)