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    What are the effects of stress during pregnancy?

    • 4.7   (5 Votes)
    Medically Reviewed by Dr. Deepika Tiwari - MS, MBBS on 25 May 2019 - Written by Dr. Bhavna Banga - MS, MBBS - Grammatically Approved by Dr. Kavita Jaggi Agrawal - MS, MBBS

    Hormonal Changes, Financial Strain and Family Disturbance Are Some of the Causes of Stress. Consequences of Stress Include Pre-Term Delivery, Low Infant Birth Weight, and Preeclampsia. Stress During Pregnancy Affects Infant's Health. One Can Avoid Stress During Pregnancy by Yoga, Exercise, and Having Balanced Diet.

    Stress in pregnancy has important impacts on women during pregnancy, bringing vast changes in the body. These changes include overweight, hormonal changes or extra starvation. During pregnancy eating more than usual, or especially wrong eating habits may discomfort the pregnant woman and her infant. Stress can be of two types- high stress, and low stress. High-stress problems include high depression, psychological stress, and cervical remolding. Whereas in low-stress patterns one may have financial problems, social network and family issues. Exposure to disturbing life events for long creates a strong impact on the pregnant lady. During pregnancy consequences of stress can trigger neuro-developmental disorders including major depression. Gestational stress refers to the anxiety and stress a woman faces during pregnancy. It is crucial for women to stay calm and compose during pregnancy, as it may disturb the health of a successor for a long time. A woman should always feel happy and positive about the outcome of the pregnancy. A journey of a pregnant woman is difficult and requires medical assistance and care from the family. Therefore, a family should always look after and create a healthy environment for pregnant women. (1) Stress may influence certain health factors in the body. It may develop migraines, disturbed sleeping patterns, appetite loss or indulging in over-eating. Prolonged high levels of stress may cause problems like heart diseases and imbalance levels of blood pressure. These types of stresses can increase the chances of low birth-weight babies (less than 5 pounds) or premature birth, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Babies born with low weight or premature pregnancy increases their risks to a healthy life. There are high risks of causing infections to premature infants.

    In this article, we will be looking at the below-mentioned points-

    1. 3 Major effects/consequences of stress on pregnancy:

    • Pre-term Labor or Delivery: the external and internal environment of the body directly affects the development of a fetus. The fetus responds and develops according to the energy provided to it. These energies may be positive or negative. Positive or nutritional energies help a fetus to grow healthy and strong. Whereas, stressful life and wrong eating habits hamper the embryo to develop healthily. Prenatal stress directly impacts on the brain and the development of the fetus. Prenatal stress refers to trauma or stress that occurred due to a stressful life event like losing someone close, or environmental hardships like an earthquake. It affects the hormones of the mother, which hinders the brain development and immune system of a fetus. (5)
    • Low infant birth weight: Hormones like the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) and corticotrophin-releasing hormones are very tender to stress. Low infant birth weight is found maximum in occupational parents. Small Gestation Age (SGA) may occur in working women, who are taking daily stress for managing work and household collectively. Generally, expectant women limit their work stress at the end of the pregnancy phase to concentrate more on her health. However, it is perceived that in the trimester, the first stage is most substantial than the second and third stages. Hence, a mother should prevent taking work pressure from the conception of pregnancy. (6)
    • Preeclampsia: It is a complication that occurs while gestation. It elevates high blood pressure and produces more protein in the urine. In severe cases damage to the other healthy organs like liver and kidneys is possible. Preeclampsia is a condition usually detects after 20 weeks of gestation in women with normal blood pressure. Delay in treatment may harm the health of the mother and fatal both. In this case, the infant takes additional time to develop. This condition usually occurs to women with diabetes, family history of the same disease or antecedent high blood pressure. However, early detection and timely treatment may help in an easy pregnancy with a healthy infant. 

    2. Effects of high levels of stress on baby:

    It has been proved by many types of research that psychosocial, environmental and cultural stressors experienced while in gestation have a powerful impact on the maternal and fatal (baby) health. There are three types of prenatal stress.

    • Severe stress or trauma 
    • Moderate stress or life-changing events 
    • Mild stress or daily hustle stress

    Earlier it was recognized that these stresses do not affect the pregnancy. However, as per modern studies, it has been evaluated that severe, moderate or mild all three levels or causes of stress have a negative impact on the delivery, hampering physiological and behavioral development of the baby.

    If we look into the general term 'psychosocial stress' is stress that happens to a normal person or a pregnant woman due to daily hassle, marital strain, financial stress, and social stress, etc. However, specifically in pregnancy, it refers to the stress while waiting for test results, concerns about the upbringing, fear of the baby’s health, etc. In the researches, it is given that pregnancy-specific stresses or psychosocial stress both can have a negative impact on the overall development of the human in the long run. Prenatal stress may affect the infant's development and health directly or indirectly; it also develops the chances for adverse birth outcomes. Stress and anxiety mainly cause pre deliveries and lower birth weights in babies, whereas in mothers it generates high blood pressure and inappropriate behavior towards others. Depression is also related to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which has affected many women with miscarriages in their first pregnancies or have severe depression about a certain life event.

    3. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Pregnancy:

    Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - It refers to the trauma, women feel after losing her baby while in gestation. As per research, it is observed that 25% of the women experience anxiety and flashbacks of last unsuccessful pregnancy, which reactivates the stressor of losing a baby once again. About 50 % of the women who experience miscarriages become pregnant within the next 12 months. Women should avoid remembering prior experience and practice focusing on new endeavors to have a successful pregnancy. Causes of stress in prior miscarriage may affect subsequent pregnancy. Therefore, women with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder  (PTSD) experience uncontrollable stress, self-blaming, have inappropriate guilt and traumas in their new pregnancy. Consequently, women experience more aches, fatal activity, and pains than prior pregnancy due to PTSD. To avoid such consequences of stress a psychologist may help the pregnant woman. Mental relaxation may also help the woman evolving out of the trauma stage and assist in feeling the same joy, that she discovered in her last pregnancy. (3)

    4. Reasons of stress during pregnancy:

    Here are the common reasons occurring stress in the day-to-day life of pregnant women. It is observed that mild stress works as a defense mechanism. It helps the mother in preparing herself to become stronger, against the changes in her body and fight stress during pregnancy. Care from family and friends at this point will help her in gaining the confidence and motivation to bear a child in her body.

    • Common causes: There can be normal discomforts, tiredness, backache, nausea, etc. These problems caused due to change in the body, and sudden deficiencies. Intake of suggested heavy nutritional diet can bring relief to these short-term reasons for stress.
    • Hormonal changes: Mood swings can be easily noticed while being in pregnancy. This is normal to have changes in one's taste buds demanding any specific food item at any time. However, avoiding such craving may bring stress and anxiety. Mood swings happen due to changing hormones, which is unavoidable but being relaxed and meditating regularly will help in controlling unnecessary over-eating.
    •  Changing Habits: Pregnant women usually stress due to the worries of managing an office, home, and pregnancy altogether. Support from family and life partner may help in managing the pregnancy and work simultaneously.
    • Social life: Over advice from relatives or family violence also brings stress during pregnancy. Women in relationship difficulties or becoming a single parent, continuously bother her causing stress. These situations exert a pressure of negative thinking during pregnancy. A pregnant woman starts over thinking about the loss of last pregnancy, self-blaming and doubting the fulfillment of a new pregnancy. These social causes of stress on pregnant women generate obsession and anger. One must sympathize and priorities the pregnant women because her health demands extra care, assurance, and politeness from the people around them. 
    • Grief: A sudden loss of a family member or occurrence of a certain unfavorable event, may shock or agitate pregnant women. During pregnancy, a pregnant woman must avoid remembering the unfortunate events over and over again. These experiences may increase the breathing problem, heartbeat and racing pulse.
    •  Financial Reason: Pregnancy treatments are expensive these days. Whereas standing in a long queue, sanitation maintenance, and special care from government hospitals are restricted due to a large number of patients. Hence, to take a decent treatment one should first establish them financially and then plan for a baby accordingly. Couples face more complications in unplanned pregnancies than a planned one. People take long to understand unexpected responsibilities coming their way with financial demands. (2)

    5. Methods to treat causes of stress naturally:

    We are mentioning below the different ways for pregnant women to collect her strength back and have a peaceful pregnancy duration. Performing below mentioned points daily will help in surviving stress during pregnancy.

    - Care for your baby
    - Sort out the anxiety issues
    - Eat nutritional Diet and avoid unhealthily 
    - Exercise and try Yoga
    - Learn about pregnancy and delivery 
    - Avoid rush times and do not overwork
    - Research and find the best affordable health care centers 
    - Try different therapies 

    • Care for your baby: In pregnancy, consequences of stress affect child development. Therefore, one must avoid taking stress and always think of a beautiful, strong and healthy child. Around the 23rd week of pregnancy, the baby starts listening to the voices. To create a bond with the child one must talk, sing, and chat with the baby growing in the womb to feel each other's energy and responses. This will help in enhancing a positive connect in between mother and child.
    • Sort out the anxiety issues: During pregnancy, the mother should become optimistic about herself and notice all the triggers, which makes her discomfort or anxious. Discussing these triggers with the loved ones or with the doctor prepares them to balance and improve the given diet and medication. (8)
    • Eat nutritional Diet and avoid unhealthily: Healthy eating can prevent excessive Gestational Weight Gain (GWG). If a balanced diet is maintained then Small Gestation Age (SGA), LBW, and stillbirths may be prevented. Iron and folate deficiency in pregnant women is associated with cardiovascular risk in the later age of an infant. Therefore, sufficient iron and folate intake is advised to pregnant women. Whereas, supplements like Vitamin A, calcium, and zinc are only suggested when their deficiency is prominent. In pregnancy, choline, omega 3, iron, and iodine contribute to good health. Experts restrict specific food containing bacteria or methyl mercury and alcohol. (7)
    • Exercise and try Yoga: Yoga is the best activity to maintain mental and physical strength. Stretching in yoga helps in relaxing the body muscles, soothing the soreness, aches, and activating the stamina throughout the day. Yoga solely may help in healthy birth of a baby with the help of breathing techniques and with yoga positions one can get the infant into the best positions and manage her labor pain. A pregnant lady must wait for 14 weeks in her gestation to join yoga classes. As a beginner, one must always start yoga through a training center. The yoga centers focus majorly on meditation. It releases stress immediately with a longer effect. These centers usually end the classes with meditation practice to relieve the stress, which proves to be beneficial for the pregnancy. Opting for weekly classes may reduce hypertension and anxiety. In fact, yoga has the power to reduce depression significantly, if practiced on a regular basis.
    • Even mild exercises, swimming, and a brisk walk in pregnancy are safe and help in improving overall health. Exercising distracts the mind from over thinking and regulates several hormones to work efficiently. A little fatigue may provide a good sleep, which is usually very tough for pregnant women. A woman having stress during pregnancy feels tired and apprehensive. Continuous stress and high anxiety levels may affect the health of the baby and mother simultaneously. However, for the natural healthy growth of the baby, one should stop resorting to anxiolytics and start working out with the intake of a nutritional diet. (4)
    • Learn about pregnancy and delivery: A pregnant lady should take education classes and know about the delivery process and childcare. Awareness about the complications and procedures helps the mother in preparing herself to tackle future problems resourcefully. These classes teach a mother to manage her pregnancy and her child are in the best manner.
    • Comfortable Travelling: Travelling in rush hour may give unnecessary stress to the expectant mother. She may feel exhausted and suffocated while traveling. Working pregnant women should avoid traveling via public transport on a daily basis. In fact, work from home or working for less time may help in balancing the work, and house, along with taking care of the growing baby.
    • Research and find best affordable health care centers: Pregnancy is an expensive and prolonged treatment. It requires experienced obstetricians and special care to enjoy her subsequent nine months. In the long journey, every test and medication taken throughout the journey may charge more. Hence, one must find the nearest fertility center for less commuting time and take different pregnancy care packages to sustain a healthy pregnancy.
    • Try different therapies: One must take massage from a professional therapist who has experience in handling pregnant women. (9) Stress during pregnancy makes the expectant mother tired and agitated, which may increase discomforts during pregnancy. It is commonly observed that most of the pregnant woman have swelling on their due to increase in weight during pregnancy. Massaging below her feet can relieve her immense pain and relax her body. Different therapies like acupressure, acupuncture, and aromatherapy provide improved regulating the blood circulation and relieving the daily stress and pain.

    In case, a pregnant woman follows the above steps and still feel constant discomfort and anxiety, then a visit to an experienced obstetrician will help. Pregnant women must talk openly about the triggers disturbing one's health will relax the tension. There are medicines available in the market to help in pregnancy and relieving the excessive pains and anxieties. There is no harm in visiting a doctor in such situations. In fact, they will assist in determining the causes and provide suitable medication accordingly. It is vital for every individual to give essential care and respect to a pregnant woman. In the course of pregnancy, family and friends must take discussions with the pregnant mother and try to keep stress away from them. Stress remains the primary cause of various progressing health problems. The consequences of stress negatively affect the health of a baby and pregnant woman during the pregnancy time period. Preventing stress is substantial for the active development of an infant in the mother's body, as well as after the successful delivery of the baby. Regular test and check up exactly determines the magnitude of the stress. For an accurate diagnosis, experts must consider personality type, eating habits, physical activity, and history of stress. (10) Recognizing the exact factors will help in reducing stress during pregnancy. It will also provide effective medical therapy to treat the causes of stress in a particular woman as per her problems.

    Dr. Bhavna Banga

    Written by

    MS, MBBS
    Infertility Specialist, Gynecologist

    Dr. Bhavna Banga is a reputed Gynecologist, Obstetricians and IVF specialist in Delhi. She has vast experience in treating patients with different infertility and gynecological health issues. She is the prime choice for women and infertile couples looking advanced fertility treatments including Intrauterine Insemination(IUI), In-Vitro Fertilization(IVF), Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection(ICSI) Normal Vaginal Delivery(NVD), PCOS, Gynecological Problems, Donor Egg Programs as well as Surrogacy Procedures. She is well-versed with the latest technological adancements in ART treatments and follows modern methods to attain highest success rate.

    Dr. Bhavna Banga completed her MBBS and attained her MS degree in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is highly qualified infertility specialist anda member of the Clinical Fellow in Reproductive Medicine, Federation of Obstetrics & Gynecology Society of India (FOGSI) and Indian Society of Assisted Reproduction (ISAR). She has a work experience of over her decades and have successfully treated thousands of patients. She has also received many awards and recognitions from reputed institutions from India and abroad. Due to her deep expertise, she is a preferred IVF specialist of patients in Delh as she has trained in many welll-known hospitals including Monash IVF in Melbourne, Australia, Yale Fertility at Yale University,U.S.A. and at Royal Victoria Hospital, Mcgills University at Canada. She is presently practicing at Max Multi Speciality Centre as an Assistant Director and Infertility specialist.

    Max Multi Speciality Centre is a Super Specialty Hospital as well as an IVF center situated in Panchsheel Park, Delhi. Established in the year 2000, it is one of the leading and renowned hospitals which provides superior care to all the visiting patients. The hospital has separate departments for all the specialties such as Orthopaedics, Gynecology & Obstetrics, Kidney Transplant, Cardiac Surgery, Infertility Clinic, and Bone Marrow Transplant. The Gynecology and Obstetrics services include In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), Microsurgical Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (MESA). The hospital has a huge facility equipped with state-of-the-art medical instruments and devices. They perform every treatment with care and accuracy to ensure positive results and fast recovery. The doctors are also backed by talented professionals and staff to make it every procedure quality and to avoid complications. One can also find treatment for Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome/Disease (PCOS), Endometriosis, Hyperandrogenism, Follicular Cyst of Ovary and other women and men related disease.





    Zeinth Mehra

    I strongly believe in the listed points in this article. Stress doesn't let you have time for yourselves. You cannot manage your thoughts which helps you to take a decision, making you filled with negative thoughts.

    Oct. 5, 2018, 7:56 p.m. 4.5


    Deepak Pal

    I used to work at night shifts and the work pressure didn't allow me to either sleep or eat. Sleeplessness results in stress and my wife wasn't able to conceive due to it. Now I have abandoned my job and my wife is 3 months pregnant.

    April 23, 2018, 11:23 p.m. 4.5


    Shathvik Tanwar

    Stress can even affect your monthly cycles. With irregular cycles, it's difficult to determine fertility days and you might find it hard to conceive.

    Feb. 8, 2018, 3:40 p.m. 5.0


    Abhishek Sharma

    Once I came to know about its ill-effects and how stress affects pregnancy, I started finding ways to be more happy and it did work for me.

    Nov. 1, 2017, 1:51 p.m. 5.0


    Jeevika Kohli

    Yoga and meditation has a long lasting effect on stress. Morning walk, running and jogging can be done to release toxins from the body. Getting pregnant gets easier if you give your body proper nourishment and exercise well to burn calories.

    Nov. 1, 2017, 1 p.m. 4.5

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