SISJ PREGNANCY: THE ‘S’ WORD… STRESS! >
Last week was a huge week for SISJ. I blogged about the domestic violence I experienced during my childhood, my desire to have a little girl and my experience with miscarriage. I was truly overwhelmed with the feedback I received and feel privileged that some of you also shared your experiences with me. As I was reading through the emails, messages and comments, I noticed a common theme of STRESS during pregnancy (particularly in relation to my miscarriage post). This is something I had very strong opinions about prior to getting pregnant, and now that I am, I am flying the flag big-time. Today I will be addressing some of affects of stress during pregnancy and my mantra for coping with stress.
STRESS DURING PREGNANCY:
The worst possible thing you can do during pregnancy is stress. FACT. It not only increases the risk of pre-term labour and complications during labour, but it has also been linked to other problems for babies after birth. We need to educate ourselves on the REAL risks of pregnancy and stop fussing over these small things. I am a big campaigner of not reading forums and chat rooms that have no medical or educational backing. If you have any questions throughout your pregnancy direct these to your OBGYN, midwife or family doctor – that’s what they are there for.
From the moment your baby is conceived a little life is being created. If you were planning your pregnancy you should have already done some pre-reading on diet and healthcare advice. If not, you can start now. It is critical that all women understand that when you are stressed the foetus will experience an elevation in stress hormones and several other biological changes. Some research suggests that if a foetus develops in a high-stress environment, once it’s born, it may be at greater risk of developing stress-related pathologies. While a healthy diet and lifestyle is also key, it is stress that will cause the most damage. All stages of the pregnancy are important for the baby’s healthy development and growth. However, it is those first three months where your body is literally building a life, that is critical. Unfortunately this also is the scariest stages of pregnancy (in my opinion). You want so badly to scream this amazing news from the rooftop, yet you can’t help but feel a little pessimistic that something bad might happen. I totally understand this. As I mentioned in my blog post on miscarriage, the statistics are that one in four pregnancies will result in a miscarriage. While that is high, the chances of carrying a healthy baby to full-term are higher. During those early few months you must try your hardest to lead a calm, healthy and stress-free lifestyle. I personally don’t see the logic behind reading-up on miscarriage, as this will NOT prevent it from happening. Instead, use this time to research some new healthy recipes and productive lifestyle changes.
Pre-term births and low birth weight are among the most recognised effects of maternal stress during pregnancy. Pre-term babies are also at risk of experiencing complications later in life, including: developmental delays (irritability, depression), learning disorders and infant mortality. There’s even compelling evidence from studies that foetuses who experience stress in utero are more likely to develop chronic health problems as adults, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
WHAT WILL BE, WILL BE. Worry about the things you DO have control over – like your diet, lifestyle and parenting choices. While we are all female and possess DNA that makes us worry and overthink things (you know it’s true!), channel this into productive changes and philosophies instead. Every little emotion, reaction and food/drink that we consume, is passed onto our baby. That includes, of course, STRESS and ANXIETY. Please don’t think that by writing this post I have been 100% cool, calm and collected throughout the last six months. What I have been is SENSIBLE and REALISTIC. This is so not my usual approach to life, but now there is someone far more important than me to think about – my little girl. It may sound a little harsh, but stressing yourself out and getting worked-up during your pregnancy is incredibly selfish. CHILL. THE . F. OUT!
I definitely felt slightly anxious (at a sensible level) just before each of my scans (8 weeks, 12 weeks and the big 20 week scan) – this is only natural. What I didn’t do was Google and research articles, forums and chat room conversations, about all the things that could go wrong. What is the bloody point? You cannot change it anyway – that’s the irony. At my 20 week scan I think I held my breath each time he checked over her vital organs – is her heart working well, is her stomach and kidneys functioning, is her brain developing normally, does she have a clef lip? I could go on and on. The important thing to note though is, I didn’t stress out to a chemical level where my baby would feel the affects. I would describe it as a quiet little prayer or crossing of the fingers as he scanned over her body. At each point, luckily, with a sigh of relief. Does this mean I am ‘out of the woods’? Of course not. Does this mean I have not thought about having a stillborn baby or something horrific happening during labour? Of course not. I absolutely have thought about all of these things and more. However, I will deal with these IF and WHEN they happen – not now. I am more focussed on eating a diet full or nutrients, keeping-up my exercise regime and designing her nursery.
I hope that each and every one of you know, you are certainly NOT alone. Women have been having babies for many, many years. Anything you feel or experience has been felt before. I do urge you to keep your shit together though and just listen to your body and its needs. Be aware of the things that could happen and leave it at that. Focus only on what you can control and start each day with your ‘mummy hat’ on. By this I mean, lead by example and do everything in your power to keep your foetus/baby safe in your womb.
I hope today’s post has helped some of you to put this all into perspective, by hearing my approach and some medical research to back it up. We are so privlidged (even with all the yucky stuff!) to experience pregnancy and childbirth, just don’t forget this little life depends on YOU.
IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS OR WOULD LIKE TO REQUEST A TOPIC FOR DISCUSSION, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Images via > crystalized-bliss.tumblr.com & anniemany.com)