You just found out that you are pregnant! You have told everyone you know, and this is supposed to be the happiest time of your life, but you cannot help but feel a little stressed. But stress and pregnancy don’t go well together.
You have so much to do before the new baby arrives, even if this is not your first child – clothes to buy, a crib, diapers. It can all seem a little overwhelming! You have heard that extreme stress and anxiety during pregnancy can affect your fetus, but do you know just how much?
Here are ten effects of stress during pregnancy on infant and child development:
1. Low birth weight
A baby is considered to be small if it weighs less than five pounds, eight ounces when the mother is 37 weeks along.
Even if you eat right over the course of your pregnancy, certain stress hormones like epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol can restrict blood flow to the uterus, causing intrauterine growth restriction (IGR), which means that the fetus is not getting the proper nutrition.
High-stress levels, especially during the early stages of pregnancy have been linked to miscarriages.
Your body can produce tryptase, a chemical that can alter the actual construction of the placenta that feeds the baby. This is why you should especially focus on trying to stay calm in the beginning. On the same note, if you find you’re having a hard time getting pregnant, stress could be to blame.
3. Loss of sleep
We all know that sleep keeps our immune systems going. But as our bellies get bigger, sleep becomes harder. Although we may not realize it, lack of sleep is actually stress- stress that can interfere with your baby’s development.
4. Loss of appetite
It is important to eat right while you are pregnant, but you may find that you are “just not feeling” eating five small meals a day or only want to eat junk food. This is your body’s natural reaction to stress. While that bag of chips might be the most appealing thing in your cupboards right now, your fetus will benefit more from a well-rounded meal.
Consider reading: 10 Refreshing Beverages to Have During Pregnancy
5. The stress can be transferred
Stress and pregnancy together not only the mother but also the child. Studies have shown that if a woman is stressed during her pregnancy, she has increased cortisol levels and so does her fetus. This means that your baby can feel your stress and also be stressed because of it.
6. Increased risk of infection
When you are excessively stressed for a long period of time, your immune system suffers. Without a proper immune system, you’re going to get sick more often, and being sick when you’re pregnant is no fun, especially if you are already experiencing morning sickness.
7. Preterm labor
Being stressed out can actually cause your body to go into labor before it’s time to deliver. This is especially dangerous if your baby is not fully developed.
8. Premature birth
If you catch it in time, preterm labor can generally be held off at the hospital. But if you let it go too long, you would actually end up delivering your baby early. If your baby is not ready to come out yet, you could end up dealing with a whole slew of problems that you would not have had to if you had carried full term.
9. Problems later on
Remember when I said that your stress can transfer to your baby?
The stress that the baby incurred during pregnancy can actually affect him or her later in life.
These issues can manifest themselves through behavioral issues, learning difficulties, or slow development (walking, talking, etc).
10. Increased risk of PPD
If you are already stressed out, you are likely to feel it even after you have delivered.
Post-Partum Depression (PPD) can manifest in different ways; you may feel overwhelmed and not want anything to do with your new baby.
There are many ways to deal with stress, whether it’s acute or chronic. Yoga, eating the right foods, and meditation are just a few natural stress-busters that you can benefit from whether you’re pregnant or not.
You may also like: Did Your Mother Experience the Same? Is Postpartum Depression Hereditary?
If you feel that your stress levels are more than you can deal with on your own and wondering about how to avoid stress and depression during pregnancy, consult with your doctor. Always remember, stress and pregnancy don’t end well both for the mother and the child.