top of page

Triggers That Activate the Stress Response During Pregnancy

I talk a lot on my podcast, on this blog, in Pregnancy Brain , on social media...and really everywhere I can..about how stress is NOT a mindset issue. So if it's not in our heads, not something we can think ourselves in and out of...then what is it?

What are common triggers of stress during pregnancy? Stress triggers are anything that activate our sympathetic nervous system and create changes to our endocrine, immune and nervous systems. The graphic below shows you just some of the most common ones women experience during pregnancy.

Those thoughts you were calling "stress" are symptoms of this physiological chain reaction. Rarely, if ever, the cause.

There's one more

The triggers in the graphic above are not an exhaustive list but there's one trigger in particular I want to call special attention to: Systemic stressors. Meaning environmental toxins. Poor air quality. Feeling unsupported or untrusted as a patient. Racism.

They're ugly truths but the data supports it. The prematurity rate continues to rise. The death rate during childbirth in the US is the highest of in the industrialized world. African American women who may endure a lifetime of systemic stressors experience significantly higher rates of preterm delivery & maternal morbidity than any other women.

This is not in your head, it's in your body

An activated stress response affects our health. The changes to the endocrine, immune and nervous systems throw off the delicate balance required for a healthy pregnancy and increase the risk for or exacerbate existing pregnancy complications. All of these triggers, the physiological changes caused by these triggers and their association with pregnancy complications have been researched for over 70 years (many of these studies are cited in Pregnancy Brain)! There are even more studies showing its impact on fertility as well.

How long must be wait to get this support to women fighting for their babies?

Yes, we need more robust research to better understand this, but how long are we supposed to wait to teach these tools when women are continually experiencing a high-risk pregnancywithout being taught how they can help improve pregnancy outcomes? Research shows it takes 17 years to translate research into patient care and clinical practice.

That is atrociously too long when lives are stake.

Stress management tools are not contraindicated with medical treatments & have shown tremendous success in managing & preventing some pregnancy complications & improving outcomes. How long do we keep beating our head on the same door hoping it will open, trying different versions of the same thing, when we could have a key that would open that door to more opportunities? This is why I do what I do & why I wrote Pregnancy Brain.

Stress is not a causal factor & your high-risk pregnancy & experience with prematurity aren't your fault. But without including appropriate physiological stress-relief tools into prenatal care, it's like wondering why we cannot complete a 100 piece puzzle with 99 pieces.

Am I doomed? No! Please don't take this as a crystal ball predicting your future if you're currently pregnant.

The amazing thing about our bodies is that when you're able to turn off this stress response by giving your body what it needs, that balance can be restored. Healing can happen. You may not be cured of your pregnancy complications, but consider it a much needed boost to help your body do what it's trying to do - protect you, protect baby and stay pregnant as long as possible.

Ready to take the next steps?

The key is to remember the power of our bodies. Our bodies are trying to and are fully capable from healing from the damaging effects of stress. Activating the repair system in your body can help tremendously when you're pregnant to improve your pregnancy health even if you have complications.

Tools such as progressive relaxation, breath work, somatic support to release unresolved grief and trauma, are all powerful tools that have been shown in the literature to improve pregnancy outcomes during pregnancy.

Many of these are outline in detail in Pregnancy Brain. If you want personalized support throughout your pregnancy and are ready to invest in your health and wellness, apply to work with me privately!

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page