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Q&A: Does Stress Affect Pregnancy?

I have a very high-pressure job and was wondering if high stress rates could have negative effect on my baby? If so, what can I do about it?
ByMaria Kammerer
Certified Nurse-Midwife
Updated
Jan 2017
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The simple and honest answer is yes. But, stress is an inevitable part of all our lives, and only one factor among many in a healthy pregnancy. And the last thing I want is for women to start stressing about the stress in their lives. We have enough to worry about already! I tell the women I work with to change the things they can, and learn ways to cope with what they can’t.

With work stress, think about ways to take on a lighter load, or consider participating in a job share arrangement. Now is the time to wrap up projects, not take on new ones. After all, maternity leave is right around the corner. If reducing your work load is not possible, there are plenty of tools out there to help you manage the stress, including journaling, meditation, yoga, counseling and stress reduction classes. If you haven’t tried any of these before, pregnancy is an excellent time to begin.

One resource I particularly like is Mindful Birthing, a stress reduction program developed by John Kabat-Zinn in Massachusetts. It was designed for people with chronic pain, but has been adapted to help women with the stresses and uncertainties of childbirth and parenting, and focuses on staying in the moment.  But any class, book, tape, or counseling session that helps you cope with stress is beneficial, during your pregnancy as well as when you’re a new parent. And don’t forget to set aside time for regular, low-impact exercise and eat small, frequent, healthy meals and snacks throughout the day. The healthier your body, the better it will handle the inevitable stress thrown at it.

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