How To Stop Stress Eating During Pregnancy
Ive been giving lots of thought recently to food and why I overeat, why you might be overeating, and things to do instead.
Some of us overeat because were looking for physical comfort. Thats certainly true of me. If Im bored or stressed or anxious about something, food gives me immediate gratification, but it also really does a number on my body. As Ive started to eat healthier, Im trying to focus on things that I can be doing instead of eating unhealthy food. Here are three ideas to stop stress eating during pregnancy
How To Manage Stress Naturally During Pregnancy
Balancing multiple roles and demands while also managing life stressors and taking time for yourself is always difficult, but may be even more challenging during pregnancy. In our fast-paced world, advice to slow down and take time to relax while preparing for your babys arrival is often easier said than done. However, finding ways to keep stress at bay has numerous health benefitsincluding increasing the likelihood of a full-term pregnancy and reducing the risk of health complications for both mom and baby. The good news is that there are science-based strategies for managing stress and anxiety. The strategies for coping with stress during pregnancy can fit into your everyday life, including mindfulness-based practices, getting enough sleep and exercise, and making the most of social support.
Mindfulness is simply defined as being as aware of what you are experiencing as you are experiencing it, without judgement. Mindfulness is a great way to treat stress naturally during pregnancy. Research shows that mindfulness is linked to improvements in mood, depression, anxiety, sleep, interpersonal communication and self-compassion. During stressful times, mindfulness can help you calm your body, and appreciate the fleeting moments of your pregnancy. Three simple tips for starting a mindfulness-based practice include:
Enhancing Sleep Quality
What Labor Will Be Like
Labor can’t be controlled. All you can do is set a destination on your GPS, prepare well for the journey, and then move gracefully through any obstacles on the way.
You cant force a homebirth, vaginal birth, unmedicated birth, or a perfect story. And worrying about it is not going to get you there.
The best thing you can do is prepare for labor. Take childbirth classes and read books that are supporting of the kind of birth you hope to have. You can also take a hypnobirthing class to give you mind-body skills that can help.
If something comes up that requires you to reroute your plans for example, a medical reason to have a cesarean its totally appropriate to grieve. But be gentle with yourself and just make sure youre in good hands. Its all good.
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How To Treat Stress Naturally During Pregnancy
- Discover your triggers Is there anything specific that makes you anxious? Pay attention to what is happening when you feel most stressed out.
- Get Some Rest Exhaustion or irregular sleeping habits can lead to increased negative emotions, including stress. Be sure that you are allowing yourself plenty of sleep.
- Eat healthily A well-balanced diet can help reduce stress, as well as keeping you and your baby healthy.
- Exercise Thirty minutes of mild to moderate exercise several days a week is enormously beneficial. It can also help lower cortisol levels, which is the hormone that causes anxiety.
- Meditation Meditating can help clear your mind and lower your stress levels.
- Therapy If your stress levels become unbearable, you may want to seek a therapist, to discuss possible underlying issues beneath your anxiety, as well as healthy ways to cope with your feelings.
What Causes Stress During Pregnancy
The causes of stress are different for every woman, but here are some common causes during pregnancy:
- You may be dealing with the discomforts of pregnancy, like nausea, constipation, being tired or having a backache.
- Your hormones are changing, which can cause your mood to change. Mood swings can make it harder to handle stress.
- You may be worried about what to expect during labor and birth or how to take care of your baby.
- If you work, you may have to manage job responsibilities and prepare your employer for time away from your job.
- Life is busy and it sometimes takes unexpected turns. That doesnt stop just because youre pregnant.
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What Other People Think
The hard fact is that women can be really judgmental with one another around pregnancy and parenthood choices.
Ive had many wonderful women tell me they were kicked out of natural mom online groups because they had an epidural or needed a C-section. My response? What other people think is not your worry.
How you do your pregnancy, birth, and parenting is your business alone. If youre worrying about what other people think, please, stop right now because it will keep you from making the choices that are best for you and your baby.
And when you make the choices that are right for you, your family and friends will get on board, and youll find the right mommy groups for yourself too!
How Does Stress Cause Pregnancy Problems
We dont completely understand the effects of stress on pregnancy. But certain stress-related hormones may play a role in causing certain pregnancy complications. Serious or long-lasting stress may affect your immune system, which protects you from infection. This can increase the chances of getting an infection of the uterus. This type of infection can cause premature birth.
Stress also may affect how you respond to certain situations. Some women deal with stress by smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or taking street drugs, which can lead to pregnancy problems.
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Tips For Managing Stress And Pregnancy
Here are some tips for managing stress during pregnancy.
Health and lifestyle
- Do some exercise, like walking. As well as lowering stress, it has overall health benefits.
- Try to rest where you can, and avoid booking in too many activities. Its OK to lie on the couch, take a break and slow things down.
- Do some activities that distract or engage you, like reading, watching your favourite TV show, baking, painting or something else you enjoy.
- Try to take pressure off yourself to be perfect. Accept that youre doing the best you can. Try not to worry if things arent quite the way you want them to be for example, if your house is messy.
- Ask for practical help or say yes when someone offers practical help during pregnancy and after your baby is born.
- Try yoga, meditation, breathing exercises or relaxation. If you cant get to classes, you can look for online videos or use a smartphone app.
Family and friends
- Spend time with people who make you feel good and help you de-stress.
- Ask for and accept help with things youre struggling with. Support from people around you can help you manage stress.
- Consider asking someone to be gatekeeper that is, if you have trouble saying no or slowing down, ask your partner or someone close to you to say no for you.
- Connect with other expectant parents for example, you could use social media to connect with other parents or parents-to-be.
Stress Lifestyle Factors And Infertility
Stress can push people toward unhealthy behaviors that have been proven to impact fertility. For example, when you’re stressed out, you may:
- Sleep too much or sleep too little
- Have a harder time sticking to healthy eating habits
- Skip your regular exercise or push yourself to exercise too much
- Drink too many alcoholic drinks
- Drink too much caffeine, especially if you’re sleep-deprived
- Lose interest in having sex
All of these are habits that can affect your ability to conceive, so it’s worth exploring each of them.
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Preterm Birth And Low Birth Rate
Another small study links stress to preterm birth delivery before 37 weeks of pregnancy).
Preterm babies are more likely to have developmental delays and learning disorders. As adults, theyre more likely to have chronic health problems, like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Also correlated is low birthweight .
On the flip side, premature infants are born every day, and most do quite well. The main point is to avoid adding risk factors like stress to your pregnancy if you can , because the fewer the risk factors, the better the outcome.
Unfortunately, in some instances, the effects of prenatal stress show up later sometimes, many years later.
One 2012 shows a possible link to developing depression as a teenager.
Of course, once your baby arrives you might find you have a whole new set of stressors.
If youre stressed caring for your infant, try to sneak in more sleep when you can and focus on healthy foods. Ask your partner to look after baby so you can do something for yourself like take a walk, journal, or talk to a friend. Know its okay to say no to too many visitors or prioritize your little one rather than a clean kitchen.
Now for some good news: It doesnt have to be this way. You can get relief. Here are a few ways you can calm yourself and help your baby:
Can Stress During Pregnancy Hurt My Baby
Regular, everyday stress during pregnancy, such as stressing to make a work deadline or finish the babys nursery, wont hurt your baby.
But extreme , chronic and long-term stress can, in some cases, increase the risk of:
- Developmental delays in the baby
Babies born too soon or too small can face more complications than full-term, normal-weight newborns.
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Options To Manage Anxiety During Pregnancy
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions we treat at UT Southwestern’s Psychiatry and Psychology Department.
The three types we see most often during pregnancy include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder, which involves persistent, excessive worry about life in general: money, family, work, and so on. Nearly 10% of pregnant women may experience GAD, particularly during their first trimester. Women are twice as likely as men to develop GAD, which can cause nervousness, a sense of impending doom, and trouble concentrating.
- Panic disorder causes sudden bouts of overwhelming fear or dread. Also commonly referred to as panic attacks, the conditions related symptoms include weakness, sweating, and irregular heartbeat. Some patients can identify specific triggers for panic attacks, while others have them out of the blue.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, affects approximately 1% of U.S. adults and its most common symptoms involve obsessive thoughts and compulsive motions. A patient may experience distressing thoughts, which they try to resolve by doing ritualistic actions. For example, touching their nose 10 times or doing a task “just right,” no matter how long it takes.
While anxiety is not as immediately threatening as depression, it can be debilitating and you deserve to feel happy and healthy. The pandemic has the potential to magnify these feelings, so expectant moms should consider accessing these effective, pregnancy-safe treatment options.
You’re Late And Now Stuck In Traffic
“This is the perfect situation to practice surrender.” says Trapani. “You can’t control the traffic, and you likely have no way to get out of it. Recognize that becoming tense and frustrated will not change or improve the situation.”
First, turn on a radio station or CD with calming music. Then take a moment to feel your hands on the steering wheel. Now, take a full breath in through your nose and let it out of your mouth with an audible sigh. Aaaah. Or, as you inhale, draw your shoulders up to your ears and say inside your head, It’s okay. When you exhale, let your shoulders drop and say to yourself, Let it go!
You can also visualize that you’re inhaling positive, light energy and exhaling all of your stressful energy. Repeat this exercise at least five times. Now just surrender to the situation.
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What Types Of Stress Can Cause Pregnancy Problems
If managed well, a little stress can help you take on new challenges. Regular stress during pregnancy, such as work deadlines, probably doesnt add to pregnancy problems.However, serious types of stress during pregnancy may increase your chances of certain problems, like premature birth. Most women who have serious stress during pregnancy can have healthy babies. But talk to your health care provider if you have these types of stress:
Limit Your News And Social Media Intake
For many people, its hard to stay off social media. We want to connect with friends and family, especially since we cant be together in person right now.
But if the constant stream of political or pandemic news causes you stress, stop scrolling. Instead, watch one scheduled news segment to get a synopsis. You’ll be up to date without going down the rabbit hole of infuriating comments on social media.
In the same spirit, be mindful of what you can and can’t control. We all feel passionate about certain causes, such as racial equality, saving the environment, and helping the homeless.
However, none of us is Superwoman you can’t fix everything, but you can focus impactfully on one or two causes. Contributing how you can will give you a sense of satisfaction and control.
Related reading:Pregnancy and social media
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The Worry: You’ll Lose It In Labor
We won’t lie: Labor hurts. But think of all the women who go through it — and then opt to do it again. Fear of childbirth really has to do with fear of the unknown, so arming yourself with information can help you calm down. “Childbirth classes aren’t just about teaching breathing techniques,” explains Pamela Berens, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. They’re also about showing you what’s available for pain relief, how the hospital works, and what will happen if you need a C-section. Knowing what to anticipate can make things a lot less scary.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Even if you happen to freak out, you won’t be the first to do so. Delivery-room staff have seen everything — so don’t be embarrassed if you scream or curse a little . “It’s very uncommon for us not to be able to calm a woman down,” says Dr. Berens. “Just a few deep breaths and talking through the situation can help.”
Originally published in the January 2011 issue of Parents magazine.
Symptoms Of Anxiety During Pregnancy
Some degree of worry is natural during pregnancy. After all, the process may be entirely new for you. You may have faced situations in the past, like miscarriage, that give you reason for concern. But if these worries start to interfere with everyday life, you may have anxiety.
- feeling an uncontrollable sense of anxiousness
- worrying excessively about things, especially your health or baby
- inability to concentrate
- having tense muscles
- sleeping poorly
Occasionally, bouts of anxiety may lead to panic attacks. These attacks may start very suddenly with the symptoms above, and progress. During a panic attack, your symptoms may be very physical in nature, which can make the experience that much worse.
Symptoms of a panic attack include:
- feeling like you cannot breathe
- feeling like youre going crazy
- feeling like something awful may happen
While anyone can develop anxiety during pregnancy, there are certain risk factors that may contribute, including:
- family history of anxiety or panic attacks
- personal history of anxiety, panic attacks, or depression
- previous trauma
- use of certain illegal drugs
- excess stress in everyday life
Mild cases of anxiety usually dont require any specific treatment, though its a good idea to mention your feelings to your doctor.
In severe cases, your doctor may recommend medication after weighing the benefits and risks.
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Anxiety And Your Baby
Well-meaning friends may have told you that you need to stop worrying because it isnt good for the baby. While their sentiment comes from a good place, you may feel like stopping the cycle is easier said than done. Still, research shows that there is good reason to get your anxiety under control.
High levels of anxiety during pregnancy are associated with a risk of developing conditions like preeclampsia, premature birth, and low birth weight.
What Are Pelvic Floor Exercises
Pregnancy and birth weaken your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are located in your pelvis and go from your pubic bone at the front to the base of your spine at the back. They are shaped like a hammock and protect your bowels, womb and bladder.
Your pelvic floor muscles support these organs when you jump, sneeze or cough, lift heavy things, and push your baby out in the second stage of labour.
When youre pregnant you should make sure you exercise the muscles of your pelvic floor. By keeping them strong you can help decrease the risk of becoming incontinent .
You can exercise them at any time of day, wherever you are, without anybody knowing youre doing the exercises.
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Ways To Stop Smoking In Pregnancy
Youre pregnant or youre trying to get pregnant.
You probably already know that smoking and pregnancy are not a good combination. But that doesnt mean its easy to give up.
Smoking is, of course, highly addictive and giving up while feeling the pressures and fears that often come with a pregnancy is very daunting.
This challenge of stopping smoking is made even harder when youre faced with a number of harmful myths which provide false information about the dangers of smoking, the safety of giving up smoking, and the methods you can use to stop reaching for the cigarettes.
So in the first half of this article weve put together a list of common myths about smoking and pregnancy and explained why theyre not true. And in the second half we share a number of safe ways to quit smoking while pregnant.
It is hard. But it is not impossible.
You can do this!