How would you feel if you were being chased by a bear right now?
Terrified out of your mind right?
You’d probably run faster than you ever have before. You’d go on for as long as you can, the minutes feeling life hours.
As soon as you could you’d find a spot to rest. Catch your breath. Because you know you can’t run like that forever.
And you’d spend that time coming up with a game plan so if the bear attacked again you’d be able to do another sprint.
How running from a bear is like getting through your pregnancy
Our bodies are extremely strong and resilient, even more than we give ourselves credit for. We can push ourselves to unimaginable limits especially when lives are at stake.
If you had to, you could run from the bear for 15 minutes, no matter your athletic abilities. Your body would find a way because of our sheer will to survive.
But what if a bear were to chase you for an hour. A whole day? Weeks on end with no reprieve?
Human bodies are not built to sustain that level of stress for that long. (Tweet that!)
Yet, that’s what’s happening in your body during a high-risk pregnancy.
A high-risk pregnancy is constant stress, anxiety and worry every second of every day.
However, as sophisticated as our bodies are in many ways, there is no differentiation between types of threats.
So the way your body reacts when you’re being chased by a bear is the same way it reacts when you’re scared about a presentation in public.
And it’s the same way your body reacts when you’re faced with the fear of what could happen to your baby during a high-risk pregnancy.
Your body knows no difference.
So it prepares you to run, faster than you ever have before.
Blood rushes away from your digestive tract into your arms and legs. You can’t sleep because you’re on high alert. You lose your appetite because eating is no longer a priority to your body.
Your body is preparing you to run.
Except, during a high-risk pregnancy, you’re not running at top speed. If you’re on bed rest, you’re probably not even moving very much.
Essentially, your body is surging with stress hormones day in and day out with no outlet.
With a high-risk pregnancy there’s no reprieve.
There’s no ability to put your belly to the side, walk away, clear your mind and then come back to the enormous responsibility on your shoulders to protect that little life.
The stress builds up, you become accustomed to it and after a while you don’t even realize that you’re stressed anymore because you assume this is just “how a high-risk pregnancy feels”.
The problem is then you miss out on all the ways your body is telling you to stop to rest. Catch your breath. Come up with a game plan.
Surprising ways your body is telling you that you’re under too much stress.
Typical stress symptoms such as insomnia, shallow breathing and high blood pressure also occur during pregnancy.
However, here are 7 surprising signs that your body is under too much stress and it could be impacting your health and your baby’s health.
Aches and pains.
Pregnancy can be uncomfortable in all parts of your body. If you’re on bed rest those discomforts may be amplified. But stress-related aches and pains show up consistently in the same place and they come and go based on your successful efforts to lower your stress.
Abnormal sugar levels.
Despite managing with medication, a proper diet and/or exercise prescribed by your doctor, if your sugar levels are still outside of normal range, stress is likely to be the culprit. Especially if you are at risk for or are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, stress management must be part of your treatment plan.
Depression and feeling hopeless.
Frequently moms will reach out to me and share that they aren’t stressed but they feel depressed and down. They say they feel hopeless, negative and always think about the worst that could happen and they can’t seem to control it. This is the effect of chronic stress.
Even if you don’t feel depressed but find yourself crying far more frequently than you typically used to, don’t be too quick to blame pregnancy hormones. Stress hormones are more likely the culprit impacting your ability to regulate your emotions.
If you are able to sleep, you may wake up with an achy jaw or a jaw that clicks when you open. Clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth through the night is a sign of high, chronic stress..
When you are pregnant, you already have a lowered immune system and are more likely to catch a cold. But stress can impair your immune system further causing you to become sick frequently. This is especially scary for moms who have experienced PPROM (preterm premature rupture of membranes) or PROM (premature rupture of membranes) and are at high risk for infections that could be fatal for their baby.
One of the most direct effects of stress during pregnancy is preterm contractions. In fact, chronic stress has been linked to going into preterm labor (which is when the contractions cause changes to your cervix) and can significantly increase your risk for preterm birth.
Why is this important?
Stress is one of the biggest risk factors for pregnancy complications including but not limited to high blood pressure, preterm labor, delivering prematurely and low birthweight in babies, even those born at term.
A complete treatment plan to protect your health and your baby’s health during a high-risk pregnancy must include stress management to have a healthier pregnancy and improve your chances of delivering as close to your due date as possible.
In fact, research has shown that working with a professional to lower your stress during pregnancy can reduce preterm birth risk by at least 54%!
The most important thing you can do.
The answer is the same as what you would do if you were being chased by a bear.
Recognize these signs as your body’s way of saying, “You need to stop. Catch your breath. Come up with a new game plan.”
Though you may not be physically running, your body is running on empty.
There are many resources that you can turn to when you are ready.
Practicing mindfulness, deep breathing, managing your thoughts, and emotion regulation are all supported by research to be tremendously helpful for women who are stressed during pregnancy and are research-supported strategies that I teach each of my clients to master.
However, they can only be effective if you recognize your body’s signals telling you that something needs to change.
I know how overwhelming it can feel to have to try something new when you’re fighting for your baby’s life with every fiber of your being.
But not doing anything could far more detrimental to you and your baby than sustaining this level of stress for weeks or months on end.
You may not have much control over your pregnancy complications but you have tremendous control over lowering your stress. (Tweet that!)
Want to know more?
If you read this and realized this sounds exactly like what you’re going through and never realized stress was behind it, you probably have a lot of questions.
Send me a message and I’ll be happy to answer you back personally.
You don’t have to figure this out alone.
How does your body tell you that you’re running on fumes and you need to slow down? What stress management tools have helped you during your pregnancy?
Leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you!