Feeling stressed is common during pregnancy since it is a time of many changes. Your family life, your body, and your emotions are changing. You may welcome these changes, but they can add new stresses to your life. Both parents experience stress during pregnancy, but does the stress that our parents experienced affect our stress levels as grown-ups?
Can Stress Affect Pregnancy?
While extra stress isn’t good for your overall health, there’s no evidence that stress causes miscarriage. Certain stress-related hormones may play a role in causing certain pregnancy complications. Severe or long-lasting stress may affect your immune system, which can cause premature birth.
High levels of stress that continue for a long time may cause health problems, like high blood pressure and heart disease. During pregnancy, stress can increase the chances of having a premature baby (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or a low-birthweight baby (weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces). Babies born too soon or too small are at increased risk for health problems.
Other Ways Stress Can Cause Pregnancy Problems Include:
- Normal pregnancy discomforts, like trouble sleeping, body aches and morning sickness, may feel even worse with stress.
- You may have problems eating, like not eating enough or overeating. It can make you underweight or cause you to gain too much weight during pregnancy. It also may increase your risk of having gestational diabetes and preterm labour.
- Stress may lead to high blood pressure during pregnancy; this puts you at risk of a severe high blood pressure condition called preeclampsia, premature birth and having a low-birthweight infant.
- 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 serious health problems in you and your baby.
Can We Take over Prenatal Stress and Begin Our Healing Adventure?
Our parents felt something about themselves throughout the pregnancy and in our early years. The experiences they had, how supported, respected, appreciated and accepted they felt impacted us as a child. It programmed us for the habits, beliefs and perceptions we carry into our lives and impact our ability to be full of health and vitality. It is NOT your fault, nor the fault of your parents or caregivers. They did, and are doing the best they can with the info and resources they have.
Maternal stress during pregnancy increases the risk of the child having a range of altered neurodevelopmental outcomes. The stress can be of different types, and at least for some outcomes, there seems to be a linear dose-response effect. Not all children are affected, and those that are, are affected in different ways. The gestational age of vulnerability probably differs for different outcomes. It is of interest to view all this in terms of our evolutionary history. In a stressful environment, it may have been adaptive for our ancestors to have children who were more vigilant (anxious) or with readily distracted attention (ADHD), and possibly with more rapid motor development. But in our modern world, several of these changes can be maladaptive, and cause problems for the child and their family.