Discovering that you are pregnant can bring feelings of joy and excitement for yourself, your partner and family. However, this is often coupled with a certain amount of apprehension of the unknown, especially if you are a first-time mother. For some people these feelings can become more stressful and disrupt your daily activities.
As part of National Stress Awareness Day we spoke with Professor Ellis Downes, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at The Portland Hospital, about our feelings as we go through the pregnancy journey and what to do if you feel particularly stressed during this time.
1. I am feeling very stressed during my pregnancy, is this common?
I have been looking after pregnant women for over 25 years and it is more common not to be stressed during pregnancy than to be stressed. Pregnancy is a unique combination of excitement and stress, especially first time around. Some women are particularly anxious and I always say to my patients that it is important to enjoy their pregnancy and only worry about what needs to be worried about. It is also important to remember that pregnancy is a normal process and not a disease.
2. Will stress affect my baby?
Babies are remarkably resilient and have this amazing ability to isolate themselves from how their mum feels. Only in cases of the most extreme stress, which might affect blood flow, could your baby suffer. For the vast majority of pregnant mums, no matter how stressed they are, this will have no effect at all on their baby.
3. How can I de-stress?
I believe passionately that the key to reduce stress is to understand what is happening with your pregnancy, to speak with your midwife and doctor to share your concerns and, by hopefully feeling content and reassured, your anxiety levels will reduce. Regular exercise, a healthy diet and plenty of sleep can most definitely reduce stress.
4. What if I still feel stressed?
If, despite doing everything to reduce your stress levels you are still feeling very anxious, it is very important to discuss this with your midwife and doctor who will want to reassure you and remind you that, while a bit of stress is normal, for the vast majority of patients with a normal pregnancy there should be no undue concerns. Mental health problems are increasingly recognised during pregnancy as a major health problem, and all hospitals now have a network of counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists who work with a normal pregnancy team of obstetricians and midwives to do everything they can to reduce stress and anxiety to maximise the chance of a happy and successful pregnancy.
For more information about feeling stressed during pregnancy speak with your Portland midwife or GP.