5 Easy Ways to Manage Stress When You’re Pregnant
Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Eden, M.D.
Having a baby can be thrilling. But it also brings some stress. While everyone is different, there are a handful of worries that are pretty common.
These worries include:
- Concern about pregnancy loss—especially during the first three months, or if it’s happened before
- Fear that the baby will have health issues
- Doubts around when and how to announce your pregnancy
There’s also the pressure to feel like things “should” be a certain way. I should be liking my pregnancy more. I should be more excited about being a parent. I should feel closer to this baby. I should be eating better… The list can feel endless.
For some, pregnancy also adds new types of stress. These might include finding or paying for the healthcare you need. Then, there are worries about COVID-19. Plus, whether you can find the right supplies, like baby formula.
How Stress Can Affect Pregnancy
Stress may seem bad for you, but sometimes it's not. Experts even say we need some stress to get things done. At best, stress can nudge us to be on time or make time for enough sleep. But too much stress really isn’t good.
How Much Stress Is Too Much?
Stress becomes hurtful when things seem like too much or you don’t know how to manage the demands. During pregnancy, too much stress can have a negative effect on both you and your baby.
Too much stress can cause:
- Poor sleep
- Worries that are hard to shake
- Health issues for you or your baby
- Early delivery
- Low birth weight for your baby
- Low mood for you or your baby
Research also suggests that stress over a long period of time could affect how well the baby grows in the womb.
5 Ways to Manage Pregnancy Stress
You can’t get rid of all stress. But these steps can help you lower it:
1. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Many people don’t think of sleep as playing a big role in their well‑being, but it really does. Good sleep can help you feel better during the day and manage your stress better, too.
Experts say eight hours of sleep a night is best for most people.
This may be easier said than done. It can be hard to get comfortable in bed in the third trimester. Try extra pillows for more support. And doing simple things (listening to music, taking a shower) to relax before bed can help you sleep better during pregnancy.
2. Eat Well and Drink Water
You feel more energized when you eat a healthy diet. This boost of energy can help you deal with any stress that comes your way. Try to eat well and drink plenty of water—about 8 to 12 cups a day. And avoid foods and drinks low in nutrients or high in sugar.
3. Stay Active
Moving your body is a well-known way to ease stress. It may also lessen aches and other side effects of pregnancy. Walking is a simple way to add exercise into your routine. Prenatal yoga can help you stay fit, relaxed, and prepared for labor.
If you’d like to try harder workouts, talk to your doctor about what would be safe for you and your baby at your stage of pregnancy.
4. Shorten Your To-Do List
Often, you can manage stress by what you don’t do. You can say no to extra tasks. Or take things off your list that don’t make you feel good.
5. Talk to Someone You Can Trust
Get it off your chest. Talking to someone about how you’re doing can help you feel better. It’s also smart to ask for help. Perhaps a friend or a family member can help you build the crib or fill out forms. It sounds simple, but sharing a stress can help ease it.
These simple, healthy habits can go a long way in helping you handle stress during pregnancy. But if life feels like it’s getting out of control, the best thing you can do is ask for help.
What to Do When Pregnancy Stress Is Too Much
If you think these tips aren’t enough to deal with stress during pregnancy, talk to your doctor. Adding therapy and/or medication can be useful for some people. Your doctor can help you think through the pros and cons of taking medicine while you’re pregnant. And if you can, lean on your family, friends, and care providers for the support you need.
Experts we spoke with for this article:
- Paige Bellenbaum, a licensed master social worker and founding director of the Motherhood Center of New York, in New York City, which provides supportive services for new and expecting moms, including those experiencing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
- Elisabeth Netherton, M.D., a psychiatrist with MindPath Care Centers in Houston.
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