This month is National Stress Awareness month. There are so many forms of stress, but one of the biggest potential game changers for mums starts before we have become mothers – in pregnancy. Many of us experience different levels of stress in pregnancy – whether it be work, family or general-life related and we get used to it being part of everyday life.
However this stress can not only impact on our pregnancies, but also have ramifications that can last right through our little one’s childhood and beyond. We all know that we shouldn’t be stressed in pregnancy, but the reality is much harder. And so here for this instalment of Expert Editions we have Angela Spencer – creator of the Babyopathy wellness programme and author of Babyopathy: Baby Care the natural way – to help us with some advice on how to reduce stress in pregnancy.
Can you explain why stress in pregnancy is such an important issue?
Stress during pregnancy is very much an underestimated concern. Whilst we need a certain of amount of the hormone cortisol when we are pregnant, which is naturally released when we are stressed, as it installs the ‘fight or flight’ reflex naturally needed, we are seeing increasing levels of stress in mothers whilst pregnant and also seeing increases in anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns in babies and beyond.
I have voiced concerns over the potential link of maternal stress on the unborn baby for a few years now and recent studies have confirmed this. Many women now work until very late in their pregnancy and at very stressful jobs in a manic, stressful world. Whilst this may be manageable generally, when you become pregnant the pregnancy itself puts added stress on both body and mind and can subsequently have a direct affect on the unborn baby.
Is it only in infancy that the repercussions of a stressful pregnancy can manifest? Or are there links to later on in childhood also?
The studies in to the effects of stress during pregnancy are very new but increasing as more and more repercussions are identified. It can be as little as a baby experiencing increased anxiety when born right through to the teenage years and depression, ADD and even addiction later in life.
In today’s increasingly stressful world, how can expectant mothers – in general – try to reduce stress in pregnancy?
It is very important to recognize stress during your pregnancy, this could be your journey to and from work or a particularly stressful job, it could be you find yourself in a relationship that is increasingly stressful (or potentially abusive) or you have suffered a bereavement or other loss during your pregnancy. Quite often we just get on with things and don’t acknowledge that we are being affected by a stressful situation. More often than not, stress will be causing a lack of sleep or quality of sleep, constant headaches for example and even skipping meals or not eating at all.
Without being pregnant stress can cause heart disease, depression and much more, so it goes without saying that the added stress of being pregnant can increase those risks. Talk to your employer about your job and whether you can alleviate any extra potential stress. Whilst you may not be able to change much about your job you can use some of the tips I mention below to help you through the day. Most importantly, create time at home dedicated to relaxing and de-stressing.
Can you give some practical specific tips on some things expectant mother’s can do to try and stay relaxed in pregnancy?
A sip and a sniff
Aromatherapy can be used safely during pregnancy if products have been developed especially for pregnancy or you are using recommended oils in a vapouriser etc. If you have to travel a lot for your work, or use the trains and underground, it can quickly cause you to feel nauseous or faint. Angela recommends to keep a bottle of lemon essential oil in your bag (as well as a bottle of water to sip) so that you can waft it under your nose to give you an instant mood and energy lift and fight nausea.
Music is food for the soul
“Music is one of my favourite sensory ‘tools’ – it can make you happy, it can make you cry, it can help your digestion and it can help you relax” says Angela.
“Setting aside a time in the evening each day to play some relaxing music and just sit and absorb it will not only help you to de-stress but from about 17 weeks your baby is able to hear through the womb and will recognize familiar tones and rhythms once born so you are already setting the foundations of a ‘bedtime’ routine”
Meditation or mindfulness is a growing trend in managing stress that Angela thoroughly recommends trying to pursue. However, when you are busy and already feeling stressed and pressured some people find it difficult to find the time. She suggests, when feeling stressed and overwhelmed just take a moment for a few deep breaths – complete lungs full of air breathed in for a count of 5 and out for a count of 5 just to re-balance you.
Crystals are a girl’s best friend
Move over diamonds, there’s a new rock in town! Rose quartz is the ‘mother’ of all crystals when it comes to pregnancy. It has a loving, protective energy during pregnancy (and childbirth) and is powerful in healing during stressful times. Angela Says “many underestimate the power of crystals, and this is one of my favourites. There are some beautiful polished crystal bracelets available now that will work to combat your stress levels during pregnancy”.
A walk in nature
Angela’s book, Babyopathy, which is based upon the care and development programme used in her children’s nurseries, encompases the biophilia hypothesis which is our inbuilt connection with nature that can nurture wellbeing (and aid development and healing). Just a 10 minute walk immersed in nature, a walk along the riverbank or in amongst trees, can have a direct affect on our wellbeing reducing stress and improving our mood. If the sun is shining you get the added benefit of some much needed vitamin D as many of us have a deficiency of this essential vitamin.
If there is only one piece of advice you could give an expectant mum who is feeling stressed during pregnancy it would be…
Acknowledge it and talk to someone. Most of the time we just try and keep going when actually acknowledging we are stressed and talking to someone is therapy in itself! Then try my top tips, they can be used anytime and anywhere.
What is the key takeaway you have learnt from working with mothers experiencing stress during pregnancy?
Most mums are not even aware that their baby’s senses come alive whilst in the womb or that their baby can be affected by their own stress, so for me, the key is to share this message, mums need knowledge, support and the tools to nurture their baby!
Angela Spencer is the creator of the Babyopathy wellness programme and author of the book Babyopathy: Baby Care the natural way, available from Amazon and all good independent bookstores. For more information about classes and shows, please visit Babyopathy.com. Connect on Facebook and Twitter.
Discover expert advice on a host of other topics on the dedicated Expert Editions page here.
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