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What Every Pregnant Mom Needs to Know About Stress During Pregnancy

Do you know the biggest misconception about stress?

It’s not what the symptoms are or how it impacts your health.

It’s that most people believe they’re handling it better than they actually are.

A study published by the American Psychological Association showed that about 81% of people think they’re managing stress well even when they’re clearly showing physical, emotional and attitudinal signs of distress!

That’s a huge problem because if you don’t realize you’re stressed, you can’t do anything about it!

This is why I’ve created a 4 part series on Stress in Your High-Risk Pregnancy to help you stay on top of your health during your high-risk pregnancy so you can lower your risk of additional pregnancy complications.

When you’re pregnant, this is an even bigger issue.

Stress during pregnancy not only impacts your health during and after pregnancy but it impacts your baby even more in terms of development, growth and how soon the baby is born.

Between balancing work and home life and managing financial responsibilities with family and friend obligations, stress is at an all time high in this day and age.

Instead of learning how to lower it effectively, we’ve just learned how to adapt to it so we don’t realize how much we’re stressed.

Once you increase your threshold for stress tolerance, high stress feels normal and you feel like you can manage it.

But even though it feels normal and manageable, it’s still taking a toll on you and your baby’s development. (Tweet that!)

So what do you do about it?

The first step is knowing what stress really is.

A high-risk pregnancy isn’t stressful.

Situations themselves aren’t inherently stressful. If they were, every single one of us would be stressed by the exact same things.

Stress originates in our minds and how we conceptualize and react to the situation. (Tweet that!)

Now, given the nature of a high-risk pregnancy, it’s safe to say that most women have a stress reaction to finding out they have pregnancy complications. But it’s how you think about your pregnancy that determines the level of stress you experience during your pregnancy.

This means you can control your stress reaction even during a pregnancy that feels completely out of control.

To lower your stress you have to know how stressed you really are.

How you react to stress can show up in your body, in your thoughts, through your attitude or in your behaviors and each of us has a unique pattern of reactions when we feel stressed.

Physically, stress impacts your nervous system.

It sets off the fight or flight response, the same response you have when you’re being chased by a bear.

This can show up in a variety of ways in your body such as dry mouth, sweaty hands, heart palpitations or through pregnancy-specific symptoms such as preterm contractions.

But if your stress threshold is really high, you may not even notice these signs anymore because they are part of your daily life.

You’ve accepted that your jaw aches every morning. It’s just your thing. You hardly notice the dry mouth and just keep an extra bottle of water with you.

When you are feeling stressed, your nervous system is in battle mode.

But that in itself is not detrimental to your health.

Feeling stress is an inevitable part of life and as long as you have a recovery period soon after the stress reaction, you can restore balance to your body.

For people who have a high threshold for stress, that recovery period doesn’t happen.

At some point, stress levels are too high for too long and the changes to your nervous system and body become permanent.

That’s when we see chronic illnesses such as IBS and heart disease in otherwise healthy people.

For a pregnant woman, when stress is too high for too long, that could show up as preterm labor.

You can also be clued into your actual stress level by looking at your attitudes or behaviors.

Even if you have become immune to your physical or emotional stress reactions, there are certain attitudes or behaviors that show up in someone who is very highly stressed.

For example, are you someone who worries a lot? Are you someone who holds on to things you’re upset about for a long time? Are you someone who goes from zero to Hulk when something angers you? Do you consider yourself to be Type-A?

Behaviors and attitudes such as these typically mean your baseline stress levels are higher than you may realize and you could be at higher risk for stress-related pregnancy complications such as hypertension or preterm contractions.

Why should you care?

You may have a high tolerance for stress but your developing baby does not. (Tweet that!)

So while you may feel immune to your stress response, not realizing how stressed you actually are, your baby is feels it.

According to research, your stress during pregnancy can alter your baby’s development in the womb. (Next week is all about how your stress impacts your baby so stay tuned!)

This means even if you’re following all of your doctor’s orders during your pregnancy by limiting your physical activity, cutting back at work and taking your medications as prescribed, stress is still keeping your risk of developing additional pregnancy complications high. (Tweet that!)

Ready to do something about it?

Take this short quiz to see where you really lie on the stress scale.