the Pressure Out of Pregnancy
Excerpt By Colette Bouchez, HealthScoutNews
It could be
something as dramatic and public as the events of Sept. 11, or it
could be something highly personal, such as the death of a loved
one or the loss of a job.
if you're pregnant and you're under significant stress, studies
show there could be some serious consequences if you don't relieve
research in this area is still new, it has become increasingly clear
that, for many women, stress during pregnancy can have some adverse
consequences, including an increased risk of premature labor, premature
birth and low birth-weight babies," says Dr. Michael Paidas,
director of maternal-fetal medicine at New York University Medical
studies have also shown experiencing extreme stress during pregnancy
can increase the risk of miscarriage, preeclampsia (a dangerous
form of high blood pressure in the mother), and even birth defects.
thing to remember is that not all women react to even major stresses
in the same way, so not all pregnant women who experience stress
will have a negative outcome, Paidas says.
can make the difference is how early the stress is recognized and
steps taken to offset the risks, doctors say.
Among the most
important steps a woman can take: Talking to her doctor about even
that small stress she may feel about becoming a parent.
women don't realize that all mothers-to-be, particularly first-time
mothers, have feelings of apprehension and even fear -- about their
baby's health, about the delivery, about the pregnancy itself,"
says Dr. Stephen Chasin, director of high risk pregnancy at New
York Weill Cornell Medical Center.
If you keep
those feelings bottled up, he says, stress levels rise. Discuss
them with your doctor, however, and you may find you have little
You can also
join a support group of your peers -- sharing your feelings about
being pregnant with other pregnant women.
lot of women, particularly those undergoing severe types of stress,
support groups or peer groups can be really helpful. Talking about
it, and seeing that other people are having the same fears and same
stresses that you are, can help reduce your own stress," Chasin
experts say if you took anti-anxiety medication before getting pregnant,
you should talk to your doctor about continuing to do so after becoming
isn't whether a medication has the potential to cause harm during
pregnancy, but whether the harm of taking the medication is outweighed
by the harm of not taking it," Chasin says.
The March of
Dimes also suggests that pregnant women can reduce stress by using
a number of different relaxation therapies. Among those recommended
include biofeedback, meditation and guided imagery.
pregnant women who are experiencing stress recognize the signs in
time to seek treatment, this isn't always the case. Indeed,
experts say that because so many of the physiologic symptoms of
stress -- difficulty sleeping or gastrointestinal upsets -- mirror
a normal pregnancy, it can be hard to tell just how stressed you
One way to
tell, say experts, is to keep your eye on your weight.
to gain the proper amount of weight during pregnancy is usually
a sure sign that you are suffering from stress," Chasin says.
the problem as early as possible can help you avoid a number of
serious complications, Chasin says.
A new French
study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology shows
that low weight gain, in conjunction with depression and anxiety,
during pregnancy can increase the risk of pre-term labor.
If you find
you are not eating well during your pregnancy, or if you are eating
and still losing weight, Paidas says you should visit your doctor
and discuss not only the weight problem, but any stresses you may
If you find
you are experiencing stress, the March of Dimes offers these
tips to help keep your pregnancy on track:
- Eat regular
nutritious meals and take a multivitamin containing folic acid
- Drink at
least six glasses of water a day.
- Get adequate
rest and try to find a window of opportunity each day to participate
in a relaxation activity.
- With your
doctor's OK, participate in an exercise program.
- Avoid alcohol,
cigarettes or herbal products designed to alleviate stress --
particularly since there is little long-term safety data about
effects on baby's health.
- Talk about
your fearful or stressful feelings -- to your partner, family,
friends and to your doctor.
find you can't sleep, or have problems eating, or feel overwhelmed
by your emotions, talk to your doctor right away.
For more tips
on coping with stress during pregnancy, visit Storknet.
To read about
how to avoid stress during pregnancy, visit The
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