This country is failing you and your baby.
The United States ranks 54th in the world for the number of preterm births we have each year, according to the March of Dimes. The prematurity rate in the United States is as high as one in ten births, with preterm births being the number one cause of neonatal deaths in this country, to this date.
How is it that despite being a country that prides itself on cutting edge medical advancements, we have one of the highest prematurity rates of high-income countries in the world?
It’s because there is a critical piece missing from our existing prenatal care model to help women carry to term. (Tweet that!)
That missing piece is stress and anxiety management.
Treating your pregnancy by managing only your physical health without considering your stress levels and your emotional wellness is doing a disservice to you and your baby.
If a disease like cancer or a virus like the flu played a role in more than half of preterm births, the scientific community wouldn’t think twice about trying to find a cure so women like you could stay pregnant longer.
Yet when studies show that among women who are stressed during pregnancy, 54% of them deliver prematurely with stress as an attributable risk factor, doctors tell moms there was nothing more that could have been done. This is like telling someone with heart disease that obesity doesn’t affect their cardiovascular health.
The research is already out there so why don't more women know about it?
Unfortunately, this information, though available, is just not easily accessible to mothers or physicians. Without access to it, so many women like you who have pregnancy complications, feel like you have no control over your health and well-being during pregnancy.
That helplessness sets up a chain reaction of potentially deleterious outcomes. Helplessness is a strong risk factor for antepartum and postpartum depression. (Tweet that!)
Given that 50% of postpartum depression begins during pregnancy, and that antepartum depression is a risk factor for preterm birth, allowing you to continue to feel like you cannot positively impact your pregnancy strongly calls into question how effective our prenatal care system truly is.
Research over the last 20 years has shown how stress and anxiety play significant roles in the development of pregnancy complications.
Health complications such as high blood pressure, low birth-weight, preterm contractions and preterm birth are all linked to stress and anxiety during pregnancy.
In addition, maternal stress is a tremendous risk factor for health complications for the baby after birth, including increased risk for ADHD, sleep disturbances, learning disabilities as well as emotional and behavioral problems. Babies born preterm face even more health complications due to their prematurity such as chronic lung disease, neurological impairments and motor delays.
Despite this, stress management is still not included as part of standard prenatal care practice in the United States.
Research conducted at Duke University concluded that high levels of anxiety increases the risk of preterm birth even after controlling for confounding variables. Yet everyday, women like you hear from your treating physicians that anxiety doesn’t play a role when it comes to perinatal health.
Dr. Calvin Hobel, one of the leading obstetricians and researchers dedicated to understanding the role of stress in pregnancy, shares that high levels of stress in the first trimester of pregnancy can set the clock for premature delivery.
Still, you are told that stress isn’t related to why you delivered early.
Here's what you need to do.
It's urgent that you invest in lowering your stress levels and striving for wellness during your pregnancy. It is easy to do and critical to your health and your baby’s health. (Tweet that!)
Just as you take your prenatal vitamins and folate, eat well, avoid smoking or drinking alcohol during pregnancy, you must include stress management as part of your prenatal treatment plan to give your baby a healthy start to life.
Simple changes to your lifestyle can positively impact your pregnancy, lower your risk of additional complications and avoid preterm birth. (Tweet that!)
Looking for ideas? Here are 5 simple strategies you can start with to lower your stress during pregnancy.
Interested in more?
If you're ready for a personalized plan that involves treating you as more than an incubator for your baby and increases your chances of bringing home a squishy baby, let's talk.
Your health and your baby's health is in your hands.
What are some ways that you manage your stress during your pregnancy? Leave your ideas and suggestions in the comments below! I would love to hear from you!