Some stress during pregnancy is normal, just as it is during other times of life. But if stress becomes constant, the effects on you and your baby could be lasting.
“There are some data to show that higher chronic stressors in women and poor coping skills to deal with those stressors may be associated with lower birth weight and with delivering earlier,” says Ann Borders, MD, MPH, MSc. She is an OB/GYN in the obstetrics and gynecology department, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, at Evanston Hospital, NorthShore University HealthSystem.
Maternal Stress and the Fetal Brain
Chronic stress may also contribute to subtle differences in brain development that might lead to behavioral issues as the baby grows, she adds.
Research in this area is still early, and doctors still need to figure out the exact link between stress and pregnancy outcomes. Even so, it’s an important factor for pregnant women to consider, especially if they’re dealing with chronic stress — for example, from financial or relationship troubles.
“We know that we want to think about how to reduce unhealthy stress and find ways to help women have better coping mechanisms to deal with the stress in their lives,” Borders says. You shouldn’t feel guilty about stress, she adds, but you should try to control it as much as you can.”
Since every woman experiences stress differently (and what drives you to the edge may be no big deal for someone else, and vice versa), it’s important to know yourself and your limits, identify the triggers…
If you start to experience symptoms you can’t shake — like feeling worried all the time, losing interest in your life, feeling hopeless, sleeping or eating more or less than usual, or having difficulty concentrating — you should let your doctor know. These could be signs of depression or an anxiety disorder, conditions than affect more than 10 percent of pregnant women, and should be addressed and treated right away.