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Pregnant and Stressed? Here’s How Others Coped

By Lauren Krouse
Reviewed by Jessie Everts, Ph.D.
September 15, 2023
You can listen to this article.

Being pregnant is typically stressful, thanks to a variety of factors, including surging hormones, money worries, and the coming challenge of balancing work and family. How can you keep yourself and your baby healthy? What do you need to know to write a birth plan? What gear will you need?

But although some stress is totally normal during pregnancy, for the reasons above and more, too much of it can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety, trouble sleeping, high blood pressure, and other health problems that can affect you and your baby or babies. So, it’s crucial that expecting parents learn to tend to their emotional state.

“[I found it important] to embrace the mentality that you can only control what you can, and then do your best with what you can’t,” says Jennifer Crudeli, 46, of Wilmington, North Carolina. “It takes a little work to get there, and sometimes you have to melt down first.”

Jennifer, a mother of three, coped with plenty of stressors during her most recent pregnancy, which overlapped with the pandemic, the raising of her two young children, and her job as a high school gifted-education specialist. Here, she and five other recent moms share advice to help you take charge of your stress and stay centered from now until the baby arrives.

Name and Address Your Feelings

Step one is to figure out why you’re stressed out, talk it through, and problem-solve. Take it from Ashley Baddorrek, 31, a Cleveland mom currently pregnant with her second child.

Ashley recently lost her job in a surprise layoff. With a tighter budget, a toddler at home, and her husband picking up extra hours, things came to a head. “It finally got to a point where I imploded,” she says.

To ensure that she could have a fruitful talk with her husband about how overwhelmed she was feeling, Ashley ran errands alone to clear her mind, took time to identify her stressors, and waited until she felt calm (and her daughter was in bed) to start a discussion. She explained her feelings, and together she and her husband strategized ways to deal.

“Things immediately changed,” Ashley says. “He came home from work the next day and loaded the dishwasher and gave our daughter her bath. Those little things made the biggest difference.”

Lean on Your Village

Monica Greco, 34, a mother of two in Auckland, New Zealand, says she and her wife struggled during their last pregnancy because they didn’t have any family nearby. “That said, lots of friends and neighbors stepped in to help us out,” Monica says, “whether to cook a meal or simply spend some time with us so we wouldn’t feel alone.”

If you’re missing your people or don’t have any nearby, forge new connections with locals, Monica suggests. You could use meetup groups and social media, ask for suggestions at your doctor’s office, or join local pregnancy or parenting support groups. Online groups like our pregnancy community are helpful, too, for connecting with others or even venting.

And when people ask, “Is there anything I can do?” be ready to give them a specific task, Jennifer says. You could request that they drop off a healthy meal on Tuesday, babysit Saturday, or just hop on a long, teary phone call so you can let it all out. Whatever you need, you’ll have to communicate that to other people so they can give it to you.

Simplify Your To-Do List

“The weird mentality that moms have to do it all? It’s a trap,” Jennifer says. Instead of buying into it, acknowledge to yourself that everyone needs help, and do everything you can to lighten your load.

Jennifer says she leans on friends, hires a cleaner once a week, and orders takeout for dinner every Friday.

Kate Wehr, 37, of Butte, Montana, says that when dealing with her kids’ severe food aversions caused her major stress during her most recent pregnancy, she stopped trying to cook everything from scratch. “We embraced the canned and boxed and frozen stuff way more than usual,” she says. “I also started keeping some things perpetually in stock, things I knew I could eat and the kids would eat—hello, pasta and jarred Alfredo sauce.”

Fire Dr. Google

When Mindy Cockeram, 57, a mother of two in Redlands, California, was pregnant, she struggled with a common worry: how the baby’s birth would unfold.

But her midwife had her back. “She enrolled me in childbirth classes so I knew what to expect,” she says.

Mindy’s advice? If you’re stressed out about something physical or emotional in your pregnancy, resist the urge to dive into internet research, which could lead you down a rabbit hole of anxiety and misinformation.

You can also ask your doctor for trustworthy resources to help you manage your concerns. For example, the website of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has a variety of informative pregnancy articles. And our articles are medically reviewed. Mindy—who was so inspired by her midwife’s intervention that she’s now a prenatal educator herself—recommends the Lamaze Podcast, which debunks popular birth myths and provides information from experts on a slew of pregnancy topics.

If you do have a specific symptom that concerns you, contact your healthcare provider right away. They may be able to schedule an appointment for you to get checked out or assure you that it’s nothing to worry about. Either way, the peace of mind is worth it.

Detox Your Feed

Although social media can be great for meeting fellow parents and exchanging advice, some Facebook groups can also dial up anxiety—especially when members are catty or judgmental or share scary or negative stories. For this reason, Crystal King, a 40-year-old single mom by choice with two kids in Orlando, Florida, deactivated her Facebook account while pregnant.

Ashley, who says she benefited from joining some forums and following educational accounts like Expecting and Empowered, says she’s also wary of social media, as many influencers paint a romanticized version of motherhood that’s simply not relatable or attainable. So, if your social feed is stressing you out or making you feel less than, don’t hesitate to unfollow, limit your scrolling time, or step away for a break.

Keep Up a Movement Routine

Regular physical activity can help you chill out by increasing feel-good, pain-relieving hormones called endorphins while lowering the cortisol and adrenaline that make us feel stressed.

So long as your doctor has approved it, aim for about 30 minutes of movement each day, and per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, talk to your doctor about how to adjust your workout for each phase of pregnancy. For example, Crystal shifted from her usual Orangetheory workout classes to a modified version in her first trimester, swapped jogs for power walks in her second, and then transitioned to salsa lessons in her third.

“It helped relieve stress because my body wasn’t so tense,” Crystal says, “and I knew I was doing something good for me and my baby.”

If you’re new to exercise, that’s okay, too. Any kind of movement is good for stress relief, including walking.

Protect Your Alone Time

Throughout the whirlwind of pregnancy, find a way to check in with yourself regularly. Because Jennifer had kids and a husband at home, she often used her workspace at school for a moment of self-care during her pregnancy.

“I would literally shut my door, turn on a five-to-10-minute timer, turn off the screen on my computer, and close my eyes and relax,” Jennifer says.

When your mind’s racing, narrowing your focus to deep breaths held to a count of three can be a “brain-numbing, soothing activity,” Jennifer says.

Whether you schedule a daily meditation, ask for help more often, or plan out a movement routine, it’s a good idea to try some of these tried-and-true stress relief techniques. You can also explore some of your own ideas for ways to take care of yourself. They’ll come in handy now—and long after your baby arrives, too.

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