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How to Handle Pregnancy Stress:
Creating the Healthiest Environment for Baby to Grow
By Christie Hadley

"Stress is the spice of life." One has to wonder if Dr. Hans Selye, the famous stress researcher, had ever met a pregnant woman when he said that. The physical and emotional changes an expectant mother experiences, coupled with worries over finances, family relationships and work life, can greatly increase the pressure a woman feels. The problem is, new studies suggest extreme stress during pregnancy can lead to complications.

According to the March of Dimes, a high level of stress which continues for a long period of time may lead to premature birth, low birth weight, and preeclampsia. A recent study conducted at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium found a connection between maternal anxiety during the second trimester and a heightened risk of a child developing hyperactivity, acting out behavior problems and their own anxiety issues.

"Stress is unlikely to cause problems for most pregnant women, just as long as it is managed properly," said Rachel Von Nida, Editor-in-chief for BabyFit.com and mother of two. "A mom-to-be should always talk to her doctor if she feels overwhelmed by worries because stress is a concern if it builds up to uncomfortable levels. The good news is, there are easy steps you can take to alleviate stress before it becomes unsafe."

Von Nida suggests the following steps to help manage the extra stresses of pregnancy:

Exercise: Moderate exercise helps pregnant moms relieve stress in a physical way, distracting the mind from worries and tiring the body for a better night's sleep (verses staying awake all night worrying). It also helps prevent common pregnancy discomforts like back aches, fatigue and constipation. There are certain precautions and modifications a pregnant woman needs to take into consideration when exercising. Many resources are available to help with those modifications including books like Fit Pregnancy for Dummies, websites such as BabyFit.com and magazines like Fit Pregnancy.

Connect with other moms and moms-to-be: Talking to other moms can help give perspective on your concerns and reassurance that you are not crazy or alone. Other moms can also help answer the questions your afraid to ask. Some studies suggest that having good support may reduce the risk of preterm labor and low birth weight, especially for women who are feeling stressed.

Journaling: Writing down hopes and dreams as well as concerns can help expectant moms reflect, gain perspective and problem-solve. For many people, the act of writing down their problems actually helps transfer some anxiety from heart/mind to pen and paper.

Nutrition: Sometimes people who are under stress skip meals. It is of utmost importance that a pregnant woman does not do this. The growing baby needs constant nutrition and long fasts can actually put more stress on the body. Shoot for three meals a day plus at least two healthy snacks, or eat mini-meals five or six times a day. Balance protein and complex carbs.

Relax: The March of Dimes suggests taking 20-30 minutes each day to practice relaxation techniques. There are many books available on this topic, but women who have never practiced the techniques before might need some instruction from an expert. Childbirth classes teach some techniques that can also be utilized during labor.

Knowing is half the battle. Each pregnant woman should identify the personal and work-related sources of stress in her life and develop a game plan to deal with them. What do pregnant women stress about the most? A recent BabyFit.com poll discovered that the most common stressor for moms-to-be is how their life will change after the baby. Leslie, a current BabyFit.com member from Weirton, WV put it best in a recent post to the BabyFit.com message boards when she said, "The first time was the fear of the unknown. The second time it was the fear of the known."

Realizing what you have control over, and letting go of what you don't will make a big difference in managing stress both before and after the baby arrives.

About BabyFit
BabyFit.com is the only online fitness and nutrition planner for pregnant women, offering tools and information to help them have the healthiest pregnancy possible. Unlike the many general information baby sites, BabyFit.com is the only internet resource that focuses solely on the health and wellness of mother and baby during pregnancy - providing a customized nutrition and fitness program along with expert guidance and a supportive community. Website: http://www.babyfit.com

The information presented on this site is intended solely as a general educational aid, and is neither medical nor healthcare advice for any individual problem, nor a substitute for medical or other professional advice and services from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your unique circumstances. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional regarding any medical condition and before starting any new treatment

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