Life today is hectic. There’s so much go-go-go that we forget to slow down from time to time. From a busy work day to rushing around for after work events – all the while trying to maintain a clean house and keep up with social media (and all the new posts of people having babies, ugh!)– there doesn’t seem to be much chance to slow down. But your stress may be doing a number on your chances for pregnancy. Before running the risk for complications, you might want to find time to relax a little more.
Dr. Calvin Hobel, Director of Maternal-fetal Medicine at Cedars Sinai and a professor of obstetrics/gynecology and pediatrics at UCLA, has spent his life researching the impact stress can have on pregnant women. Women are so used to the stress of everyday life that they forget about the extra stress that the body experiences trying to conceive and during pregnancy. Bringing a new baby into the world can create its own amount of stress, so Dr. Hobel believes it’s important to take a break from the external elements from time to time.
Just as you pass along vital nutrients to your baby, you’re also passing along those extra stress hormones. Your psychological functioning – meaning your personality, anxiety levels, and stress – are passed along to your unborn child, affecting their temperament after birth. Infants whose mothers experienced more stress, have been proven to be more irritable and experience some depression.
Stress can make it hard to conceive and can cause harm to the baby as early as the first trimester. As part of your stress reaction, your body naturally releases stress hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine that naturally constrict blood vessels and reduces oxygen flow to your reproductive organs (making ovulation more difficult) and to the developing embryo and baby. If you are pregnant, this response can make the placenta increase production of corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH), which regulates fetal maturation and the length of pregnancy. Your stress can induce pre-term labor, with one in 10 women delivering their baby before they have reached 37 weeks.
Pre-term babies are more likely to experience complications such as developmental delays, learning disorders, chronic lung disease, and even infant mortality. But the effects don’t stop there. Research has shown that baby’s born to stressed women, may be more susceptible to chronic stress related conditions later in life. That means your stress can affect your child well into adulthood, with the onset of conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
One of the keys to conception and eventually a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby may just lie in your ability to relax. Everyone is different and can handle certainly levels of stress, but relaxation techniques can ensure a healthy pregnancy baby and mom.
Find a relaxation technique that works for you. Take time for yourself so you can unwind. If you are concerned about your stress level, talk to Dr. Scot Hutchison to discuss your options. Whether it’s the Mind-Body Medicine Program, yoga, guided imagery, a long bath, or a walk through the park, you have to find time to let yourself slow down and enjoy life more. If work is a major stress inducer, you may want to adjust your schedule so you work less or maybe have a day off midweek. Taking time to eat sit-down nutritious meals provides a little bit of extra relaxation time. Practices such as acupuncture and massage can also provide relaxation. Unplug yourself from media, read a real book. Your friends and family and spouse can prove invaluable. Talk to friends and family about the things that are bothering you and don’t be afraid to ask for a little assistance to help relieve some of the strain in your daily routine.
Taking time for you to enjoy life will improve your health and ensure your baby has a healthy and full-term gestation. Dr. Scot Hutchison is committed to ensuring you have a safe and healthy pregnancy. If you have questions, contact his office at Reproductive Health Center today by calling (520) 733-0083.