Stress In Pregnancy: Will it affect my baby?

Justina Valentine

Reading Time: 7 minutes
Stress in pregnancy

Stress in pregnancy is very common. Throughout pregnancy, there are many effects that one can suffer from, such as nausea, constipation, and insomnia. Some of these effects can cause serious consequences in day-to-day activities.

However, other effects, such as stress in pregnancy, can add to the already-existing symptoms of pregnancy. Therefore, increasing the risks of a negative outcome on the mother’s health and the fetus’s development.

Every pregnancy is different, and for this reason, each pregnancy can have a different reaction to stress. Although experiencing stress is common in our daily lives, pregnancy can also contribute as a result of the transformation of the body and physical discomfort.

Stress in pregnancy symptoms

There are several ways stress can affect pregnant women, and the symptoms can vary from person to person. However, here are some common symptoms of stress in pregnancy:

  • Physical symptoms include headaches, backaches, muscle tension, fatigue, insomnia, digestive problems, changes in appetite, and an increased heart rate. These are all physical symptoms of stress a pregnant woman can experience.
  • Emotional symptoms: Emotional symptoms include anxiety, depression, mood swings, irritability, feeling overwhelmed, decreased self-esteem, and feeling disconnected from the baby.
  • Cognitive symptoms: Difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness and feeling scattered are some cognitive symptoms of stress in pregnancy.
  • Behavioral symptoms: These symptoms included restlessness, an inability to relax, decreased motivation, and changes in social activity or withdrawal from social situations.

Related: How much weight should a pregnant woman gain?

What causes stress during pregnancy?

Depending on the body of the pregnant woman, different factors can cause stress. Before proceeding to the most common factors that may cause stress, keep in mind that the effects of stress on pregnancy can have serious consequences. It is, however, essential to see a doctor for the most appropriate treatment.

The main causes of anxiety and stress in pregnancy are:

  • Any energy-consuming moment or event from day to day can cause stress to any individual, including pregnant women.
  • Some discomforts that occur during pregnancy, such as nausea, back pain, constipation, and insomnia, can cause fatigue.
  • Concerns about how the birth will be or how you will care for or educate the baby. This can also cause some stress in your day-to-day life during pregnancy.
  • Mood swings caused by hormones can add to the stress.
  • One of the most common causes of stress is working. As you will have to continue with your job and also take care of your home before maternity leave.
  • If you suffer stress in the first or third trimester of pregnancy, and it was properly managed, it will likely not cause any harm to your health or that of your baby.

Effects of stress in pregnancy

The stress that accumulates and reaches a high degree can cause certain negative effects on the baby later in life. However, the most common effects that can affect the development of the fetus due to stress are:

  • Premature labor or complications during childbirth. Due to the hormones that can be release during stress, certain risks can happen during childbirth. Or the woman may suffer a premature delivery. In the case of premature delivery, the baby may likely have low birth weight and will be kept in the incubator for days to fully develop.
  • Miscarriage: Some studies have shown how an unexpected event, such as the death of a family member during the first trimester, could trigger miscarriage due to high levels of hydrocortisone, a hormone that is caused by stress.
  • Problems in the intellectual development of the baby. Another problem that the baby may suffer from is poor cognitive or intellectual development. Many studies show that stress during pregnancy can cause long-term effects on the intellectual development of the baby, especially in areas related to language and verbal skills.
  • Problems in the emotional or social development of the baby. Some research says that anxiety during pregnancy can cause emotional, attention, and hyperactivity problems, which can affect the child’s social life.
  • Maternal health. The mother can also suffer from gestational diabetes, from not eating enough or overeating due to anxiety and stress. Stress can also cause high blood pressure throughout the pregnancy. This can cause preeclampsia as well as premature labor or miscarriage.

However, if you suffer from severe stress due to a negative event or have been diagnosed with long-term stress or other illnesses such as depression or anxiety. It is best to speak with a medical professional to help you during the remaining months of pregnancy.

What types of stress can cause pregnancy complications?

Pregnancy is physically and emotionally demanding, and stress is a normal part of life. However, excessive or chronic stress can have negative effects on pregnancy and increase the risk of pregnancy complications. Here are the types of stress that can cause pregnancy complications:

  • Emotional stress: Many factors can contribute to emotional stress, such as the death of a loved one, financial crises, and relationship problems. High levels of emotional stress during pregnancy can cause preterm birth, low birth weight, and health risks for the baby.
  • Physical stress: Conditions like illness, injury, or standing up for extended periods can all lead to physical stress. Preterm birth and low birth weight risks might also rise as a result of physical stress during pregnancy.
  • Environmental stress: Exposure to environmental stressors such as pollution or extreme temperatures can impact pregnancy outcomes, and research has shown that high air pollution levels are associated with an increased risk of preterm birth.
  • Perceived stress: perceived stress refers to the individual’s subjective experience of stress. Perceived stress during pregnancy has been linked to poor birth outcomes, including low birth weight and preterm birth.

It’s important to manage stress during pregnancy to reduce the risk of pregnancy problems.

Related: Fastest ways to get rid of heartburn during pregnancy

How can you reduce stress during pregnancy?

If you have a very busy life, reducing the impact of stress is difficult but not impossible. To enjoy pregnancy in all its ramifications and not have to worry about your level of stress, you can reduce it through the following ways:

  • Maintain a good state of health: It is essential to eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, and do physical exercise. This will help prevent common discomforts in pregnancy and reduce the stress of day-to-day activities. In addition, it is important not to drink coffee, alcohol, or tobacco to avoid other possible effects on the baby.
  • Reduce activities that are not necessary: ​​Stressful activities should be minimized, such as shopping, household chores, and day-to-day errands. To achieve this, you can always lean on your partner or your loved ones for help.
  • Try relaxation activities: Some activities, such as meditation or yoga during pregnancy, help to relax the body and mind. Relaxation is essential for managing stress.
  • Attend childbirth preparation classes: Thanks to this type of training, you can learn the different methods of breathing exercises and relaxation that guarantee a calmer delivery. With the help of these classes, you will be much more prepared for delivery if it’s your first pregnancy.
  • Plan the working day before taking maternity leave: Your co-workers can help you avoid or reduce work stress by assisting you with your workload before your maternity leave. This will not only help you keep everything under control but also avoid unnecessary stress.

In a situation where you have no one to assist you, take it easy on yourself, do what you can do, and leave the rest for later. Your health and that of your child should be your priorities.

When can I call my doctor about stress during pregnancy?

If you are feeling overwhelmed, it’s always a good idea to reach out to your healthcare provider. Here are some signs that indicate you should call your doctor immediately:

  • You’re experiencing severe symptoms: If you are experiencing severe symptoms such as panic attacks, extreme anxiety, or depression, you should seek medical attention immediately. Your healthcare provider can evaluate your symptoms and recommend the appropriate treatment.
  • Your stress is interfering with your daily life: If your stress is affecting your ability to function in your daily life, it’s time to seek help. This can include difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, or difficulty concentrating.
  • You’re experiencing physical symptoms: If you’re experiencing physical symptoms such as abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding, or contractions before 37 weeks, you should immediately contact your healthcare provider. All these symptoms could be a sign of more serious complications and may require urgent medical attention.
  • You’re feeling overwhelmed or need support: If you’re feeling overwhelmed or need support, your healthcare provider can offer guidance and resources to help manage stress. This can include referrals to mental health professionals or support groups.

Remember, your healthcare provider is there to support you during your pregnancy. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re experiencing stress or have any other concerns.

Related: Gestational Diabetes During Pregnancy: All you need to know

Can stress have an impact on my baby’s health later in life?

Yes, high levels of stress during pregnancy can have long-term consequences for your baby’s health. Prenatal stress has been linked to several negative conditions, including:

  • Behavioral problems: Children whose mothers experienced high levels of stress during pregnancy are at an increased risk of behavioral problems such as anxiety and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Cognitive and developmental delays: Prenatal stress has been linked to delays in cognitive development, language development, and motor development in children.
  • Mental health problems: Children whose mothers were under a lot of stress during pregnancy are more likely to experience mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
  • Chronic health conditions: Prenatal stress has also been linked to an increased risk of chronic health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Researchers have not fully understood the mechanisms by which prenatal stress affects fetal development. But researchers believe that stress hormones such as cortisol may play a role. Cortisol can cross the placenta and affect fetal development, including the development of the brain.

Final thought

Now that you know the consequences of stress in pregnancy, it is essential to maintain a stress-free life. This can include self-care activities such as exercise, relaxation techniques, and seeking social support.

You should consume well-balanced diet and make sure you are not missing any nutrients that are good for you and your baby. Prenatal care providers can also offer guidance and support.

As a pregnant woman, you need to manage stress as much as possible to reduce the risk of negative outcomes for your baby.

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