Pregnancy is stressful, both physically and mentally. While your body changes to accommodate a new little human, you’ll experience new sensations and stressors in all parts of the body. Plus, the emotional task of preparing for your new responsibilities can be overwhelming, especially for first time parents. Some stress is to be expected, of course, but sometimes parents-to-be might experience prenatal anxiety that’s worth checking out with your doctor.
If you are experiencing worry, stress, and anxiety, consult your care provider (OB/GYN, midwife, therapist, general practitioner, etc.) to discuss methods for you to help reduce your anxiety and stress. This blog post will explore 8 ways to reduce your stress and anxiety during pregnancy - we hope that a few of our tips will be just what you are looking for!
1. Snack Smart: It’s tough when you’re fighting morning sickness, but long stretches without eating anything will tank your blood sugar and lead to bodily stress and anxious behavior due to the lack of available fuel for your brain. Try to graze throughout the day, especially on snacks rich in quality proteins and fats along with whole-food based carbohydrates (think nuts and seeds with dried fruit or veggies with hummus). Sugary treats in moderation are perfectly okay, but relying on them could affect your blood sugar and leave you feeling even hungrier.
Sarah G. says: “Macadamia nuts are quick anxiety fixes - great to carry in your purse.”
2. Reduce Caffeine: You probably already know this one, but pregnancy and caffeine don’t always mix well. Caffeinated drinks like soda, tea, and coffee can also increase anxiety symptoms and leave you feeling breathless and stressed out. With your doctor’s okay, figure out how much caffeine is right for you (ranging from almost none to 1-2 cups per day) and work on tapering down to your ideal level.
For some parents, finding the sweet spot of just the right amount was key to managing their stress when it came to a morning cup of java.
Katie C. says: “Having my one cup of hot coffee in the morning was my relaxing escape during pregnancy.”
Andrea H. says: “Waking up early to enjoy a hot cup of coffee can be the most relaxing moment of the day when you have other kids.”
3. Stretch It Out: Yoga can help reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress. Try a prenatal yoga routine to help stretch and soothe your body and mind. There may be a yoga studio in your area or you can check with your doctor or practitioner about poses and stretches that are safe for your pregnancy.
Kat B. says: “I did yoga in my first trimester to help reduce stress and practice mindfulness.”
4. Practice Mindful Breathing: Breathing technique isn’t all about labor and birth - practicing deep breathing techniques can also help you get a handle on your stress levels when you feel yourself start to panic. You can try a meditation app like Calm or Headspace, or just practice breathing in for a count of eight, holding for a moment, and exhaling for a count of eight. Start each morning with deep breath and a positive intention for the day.
Addie A. says: “Daily meditation, especially in the evenings for me, helped to alleviate the excess stressors. It allowed me to clear my mind so that I could focus on what was actually happening.”
5. Delegate and Say No: Many of us tend to try and have it all, do it all, and control it all. Involve your partner or a friend in handling some household chores or nesting activities that are overwhelming you. If you’re worried that nobody can perform a task the way you do it, ask yourself: is it better to get it done, or is it better to get it done “perfectly”? See what you can let go and allow someone else to take care of for you. The people in your life are here to help, if you’ll let them!
Briary R. says: “Knowing limits and saying NO is a huge one for anxiety and self awareness in pregnancy. You’re already taxed because of growing another human. Saying NO that you don’t want to do something or physically cannot is liberating for both stress and anxiety.”
6. Stick With Your Self Care Routine: Pre-pregnancy you may have had certain routines and rituals like a daily bath or an evening walk. Try to keep your routine as much as you can, with accommodations as your pregnancy advances. Taking a warm bath or shower can help you relax, especially if you include aromatherapy essential oils or candles. If you ever don’t have time for your full soak, take a sniff of your favorite scent - it’s associated with relaxation in your mind and will help you take a mental break.
Rachel C. says: “Keep up with your known and enjoyed hobbies as long as you can, and make sure to take time out for yourself.
7. Talk It Out: Join some parenting groups in person or on social media so you can establish a trusted place to talk out your concerns. You can also talk to a family member or friend, or even go to a therapist for a totally guilt-free third party to vent and talk to. Of course, you can also talk out any worries you have with your care provider.
Rachel C. says: “Join groups or find other moms-to-be to talk through your concerns with. You can find them online, in your community, and even some hospitals have parenting classes where you can meet people going through the same thing. Talk to others, especially your doctor or midwife.”
8. Set a Timer: Know that you will have stressful and anxious moments throughout pregnancy and as a parent. Everyone gets worried and stressed, and so will you. The important thing to remember is how to not let the stress overwhelm you. Establish a set amount of time you’ll let yourself go over all the what-ifs and worries. Jot any recurring stressors down to discuss with your doctor or therapist later.
Sara M. says: “Give yourself a fixed time period to go ahead and freak out. I had a high risk pregnancy and some of my anxiety was based on very real possibilities. When I couldn’t talk myself out of worrying about them, I set a time and let myself worry for fifteen minutes. After that, I took a hot shower until I felt better.”
Remember that stress and worry can be normal, but that doesn’t mean you have to handle it alone. No concern is too small, and no two pregnancies are the same. What worked for your best friend might not work for you, and what you experienced with your first baby may be completely different from later pregnancies. Anything that seems off is an acceptable reason to check in with your provider!
Are there any tips on this list that you want to try out, or do you have a favorite stress management tip to share with other pregnant parents?