Stress: In a medical or biological context stress is a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. Stresses can be external (from the environment, psychological, or social situations) or internal (illness, or from a medical procedure).
Pregnancy can be a cause for a great mixture of emotions. Whether it is planned or unplanned, doubts may creep in whether your are able to care for a baby be it physically, financially, or emotionally. Fear of lack of support to help you care for the baby. Physical changes that you are not looking forward to. Concerns about your career. Or how will this new person in your life affect your relationship you your partner. Fatigue, morning sickness, headaches, aches body, lack of sleep, and perhaps other physical illnesses during pregnancy can lead to stress.
When we are stressed the body creates more blood catecholamines. These are stress hormones. In pregnancy if you have elevated levels, you are at risk of developing trouble sleeping, fatigue, high blood pressure, lowered immune system, anxiety, etc. These hormones can slow labor down. It can decrease circulation to the placenta decreasing baby’s ability to be nourished in utero. The effects of postpartum stressors can be a decrease in oxytocin production which is important in mother baby bonding and is helpful in mothers ability to heal, and increases the risk for postpartum mental health problems. The effects of stress on baby’s health are lower birth weights, premature delivery. There have even been studies down that have correlated low birth weights with high blood pressure in adults.
First on my list of course is massage therapy! So many studies have been done proving over and over massages ability to soothe and restore the nervous system. It helps the body to know what needs correction and helps it to reach a balanced state. The Touch Research Institute has done some amazing research on the effects of massage therapy and pregnancy. Here is one case study showing the enormous benefits of massage in pregnancy.
Field, T. (2010). Pregnancy and labor massage therapy. Expert Review of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 5, 177-181.
In essence, massage works! It is well worth it to put massage therapy in your plan of care during pregnancy. You will feel the benefits now and see them well into labor and your baby will too. As for postpartum, I will discuss that another time. What are some other stress reducers you can implement in between you massage appointments?
So if you are feeling stressed or anxious, know that it is okay to take some time for yourself. It is okay to ask for help. You are not being selfish but you are caring for the wellbeing of yourself and your unborn baby. If you have other recommendations that helped you to lower your stress during pregnancy, please share in the comments.
Congratulations! You’re pregnant. There are so many things to plan and look forward to. Besides the name of baby, the room colors, etc., the one thing that may be tough to decide on is who should be your care provider. Depending on where you live, your options may include, a family doctor, an OB/GYN, or a midwife. How do you choose? What are some things you can ask your potential candidates? I hope by the end of the article you’ll know what to ask and start thinking about what is important to you for your birth experience.
Questions specific to a midwife
You want to know the stats of the provider you are choosing. This can tell you what kind of care you will likely receive. If it is an OB/GYN or family doctor, they are most likely associated with a hospital and those statistics are a matter of public record. Here in NYS, you can go to http://profiles.health.ny.gov/
Things you will be looking for is what are the percentage of Cesarean sections, what are the percentage of vaginal birth Cesarean, What is the percentage of drug use in labor, the percentage of Epidurals, the percentage of vaginal births, and more. It is nice to be able to compare and contrast the hospitals you are looking at in comparison to each other and the national average.
Though it’s a big decision to decide on a care provider for you and your baby, just know that if you feel you are not getting the care you need with the provider you have chosen, no matter how far into the pregnancy you are, you can switch your care to another provider. Whoever your final candidates may be, ask family and friends for their recommendations or if they have had experiences with those particular care providers. The first thing we do in making a choice a household service or before hiring a mechanic, is ask friends who they recommend. How much more so care should be given in choosing a provider to attend on us as we bring our child into this? I wish you the best in choosing your provider as you build your birth team. Happy birthing!