Pregnancy and Your Mental Health

There’s no doubt about it: Pregnancy is a stressful time for anyone. But, if you haven’t planned on becoming pregnant and have decided to proceed with your unexpected pregnancy, odds are you are doubly stressed — from the idea of carrying a pregnancy you didn’t want, adjusting your lifestyle to what is needed during pregnancy, and deciding what you will do after your baby is born.

Stress while pregnant can make your pregnancy experience so much harder. Know that you’re not alone in being pregnant and stressed out. Whatever your situation, your feelings are entirely justified; after all, you’re taking a journey that will change your life forever.

If you’re feeling stressed when pregnant, it’s important that you take the time to alleviate that stress as much as possible. Only then can you have the most successful pregnancy possible, not to mention provide a healthy environment for your developing baby.

We know it can be overwhelming when trying to manage extreme stress while pregnant at the same time you are managing so many other emotions and complicated situations. That’s why, if you’re a stressed pregnant mother, you’ll find some of the help you need to move forward below.

However, remember that the information presented in this article is not intended to serve as medical advice. If you are pregnant, stressed, and depressed, or having thoughts about harming yourself or your baby, please reach out to your doctor or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) as soon as possible.

First Things First: Identify Why You are Feeling Stressed When Pregnant

Before you can start coping with extreme stress while pregnant, you will need to identify exactly where your stress is coming from. Being stressed when pregnant is completely normal, but all expectant mothers need to determine whether their stress is caused by the everyday trials of pregnancy or something more. Only then can you take the necessary steps to improve your mental health.

If you are getting stressed when pregnant, you might want to ask yourself these questions to narrow down the cause of your emotions:

  • What is your relationship like? If you are proceeding through this pregnancy with the baby’s father or your spouse, are they giving you the support you need during this time? Your spouse plays an important role during your pregnancy; they should be willing to take on some of your normal responsibilities when you are unable to complete them.
  • Do you have support from your family and friends? If you are facing an unplanned pregnancy, you may or may not have told your loved ones about your pregnancy. If you have, they may not have taken it as well as you hoped they would. When your friends and family are stressing you out with suggestions for your pregnancy and after your baby is born, don’t be afraid to take the space you need during this time.
  • Have you educated yourself on your pregnancy experience? Sometimes, women are the most stressed during pregnancy because they are worried about the months to come, including their labor and delivery process. If you are scared or unsure about what to expect, that can keep you up at night and consume your everyday thoughts. Take the time to educate yourself about what comes next in your pregnancy, and don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor, if you need to.
  • Are you uncomfortable with the idea of raising a child? Parenting is a scary prospect, even for women who have planned their pregnancies. If you are worried about being a good parent, take classes and reach out for help to prepare yourself for this new life journey. If you are incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of parenting, remember that you can always choose adoption, no matter how far you are in your pregnancy.

If you can’t identify anything in particular that’s causing you to feel stress while pregnant, it’s entirely possible that your stress is a product of your hormone and body changes during this time. The uncomfortable side effects of pregnancy (back pain, lack of sleep), coupled with your changing moods due to hormones, are often things you can’t fully control — so coping methods will be incredibly helpful to controlling your stress while pregnant.

What are the Effects of Too Much Stress While Pregnant?

Before we get into the details of coping with extreme stress with pregnant, expectant mothers need to understand the importance of positive mental health during pregnancy. Many pregnant women know the importance of a healthy body when carrying a child, but did you know that a healthy mental state is just as crucial to a developing baby?

Being stressed while pregnant affects more than just your mental state of being. While experts still don’t completely understand how stress can impact a growing baby, there’s an obvious correlation between high levels of stress while pregnant and medical complications and illnesses.

Too much stress while pregnant can:

  • Compromise your immune system and, in turn, increase your risk for infections
  • Trigger your “fight or flight” response over a long period of time, potentially triggering an inflammatory response in your body
  • Lead to lower birth weight and premature delivery for your baby
  • Affect your baby’s growth and increase their chance of developing behavioral problems later in life
  • Increase the chance that you turn to unhealthy coping methods, such as substance use
  • Increase your chances of developing postpartum depression

Clearly, too much stress while pregnant can have debilitating effects on your body and your unborn baby — but there are ways you can solve this problem.

Tips for Coping with Stress While Pregnant

Now that you know about the effects of being stressed while pregnant, you may be even more stressed. Who knew your mental health can have that much of an effect on you and your baby?

Don’t panic: Being stressed out and pregnant isn’t unavoidable. With certain techniques, you can alleviate the effects of your stress during pregnancy and give you and your baby the healthy start you need to your life together.

If you are feeling stressed and pregnant, try some of these coping mechanisms:

  • Practice breathing exercises.
  • Try low-impact exercise, like walking or yoga.
  • Take a warm bath or watch one of your favorite movies — by yourself.
  • Make sure you are eating a healthy, well-balanced diet.
  • Avoid your stress triggers, even if they are loved ones. You need to do what is best for you during this time.
  • Prioritize your sleep and “me time.”

Finally, it’s important to understand that the discomforts and effects of pregnancy are only temporary. With the proper medical care and foresight, you can successfully make it through your pregnancy and bring your little one into the world.

Remember: If you are struggling to deal with the symptoms of stress during pregnancy, please reach out to your obstetrician or a local mental health professional to get the support you need during this time.