It’s normal to have some anxiety about giving birth. Many women worry about the health of their baby, potential for pain and discomfort, or whether they’ll need an epidural or a C-section. First-time moms might feel even more anxious.
What Happens To Your Body When You’re Stressed
Normally, stress isn’t good for your body. Stress and anxiety can lead to headaches, upset stomach, aches and pains, insomnia and low immune responses. But stress and anxiety while pregnant can lead to other, more serious complications, such as:
It can help to work through your fears and calm your anxieties before you go into labor. A research study found that women who fear childbirth are in labor an average of 47 minutes longer than women who are not anxious.
Struggling through anxiety and stress isn’t the way to go, especially since women who have anxiety during their pregnancy are more likely to develop postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum mood and anxiety (PMAD). It’s always better to ask for help.
There are a few things you can do to calm your nerves and find some peace of mind.
Try to get seven to eight hours of quality sleep every night. Lack of sleep can worsen your anxiety. If you’re having problems sleeping, talk to your doctor.
Eat whole foods. A healthy, balanced diet helps regulate gut bacteria, which researchers have linked to lessened anxiety.
Stay as active as possible. Regular exercise is key to reducing anxiety and stress.
Build a support system. Other moms, friends, supportive family members and uplifting social media groups can help you ease anxiety by sharing your feelings and hearing positive stories from others.
Here are some other tips that can help you manage anxious feelings about childbirth:
Talk with Your Healthcare Provider
It’s important to share your concerns with your doctor. Write down any questions or worries and bring them to your next appointment. Typically in your third trimester, your doctor will talk you through possible scenarios, including various forms of pain management -- such as an epidural -- and what will happen if you need a C-section. Information and awareness can go a long way to alleviate your anxiety.
Take some time to learn about visualization, meditation and breathing exercises that can help you stay calm and focused before and during labor. Explore different options throughout your pregnancy to find which techniques work best for you before labor starts.
Stay “In the Know”
You likely know a lot about what’s going on with your baby’s development as your pregnancy progresses. Learning about the physiology and anatomy of your own body and the birth process can be beneficial, too.
Though every birth experience is unique, it can help to know what you might expect. Listen to positive labor stories. Attend a childbirth class that will help you prepare for each stage of labor. Hearing stories from women with positive birth experiences can help alleviate your anxiety.
Your body goes through many changes during pregnancy that can create physical and mental stress. Prenatal yoga focuses on poses for pregnant women to help improve strength and flexibility, preparing your body for labor. Prenatal yoga and meditation also offer other benefits, such as decreasing stress hormones and helping develop proper breathing techniques for a more comfortable labor. Research shows that prenatal yoga also helps reduce labor pain and shortens the duration of childbirth.
Be Gentle with Yourself
Self-care is more important than ever during pregnancy. Do your best to stay active, even if that means taking a walk around the block to get fresh air and exercise. And take it easy on yourself. A little stress is normal during pregnancy. If your anxiety and stress are affecting your day-to-day life, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor.
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