6 Ways to Reduce Stress During Pregnancy

You’re pregnant and can’t seem to relax and disconnect from your fast-paced life. Even long walks or quiet strolls through museums or escapes to the movie theaters can’t seem to help you “shake it off.” Whether you’re 6 or 36 weeks along, it’s always a good time to reevaluate your day-to-day lifestyle so you can figure out what’s bringing you down.

If you live in a metropolitan area or are working especially, it’s easy to find yourself eating on the run, holding off going to the bathroom way longer than your bladder can take, or working late and realizing that you haven’t had a snack for hours. And let’s not even start to talk about the commute to and from work. None of this is good prognosis for pregnancy outcomes, but the good news is, you can turn it all around.

Here are 6 new routines that you can incorporate into your day to help you chill out during your pregnancy.

1. Pause for a moment. In my 27 years in and out of the birthing room, I have found that a calm woman is a more confident mother. Become aware of what you are doing by taking a break and slowing down throughout your day. Literally stop what you are doing, be still, take in a deep cleansing breath and slowly exhale any tension you may feel from the top of your head to your toes. This will calm you down. Then ask yourself, “Am I rushing? Am I stressing? Am I pissed off at someone?” Try to figure out where your thoughts are racing to. With practice, you will become more skillful and inclined to opt out of stressful situations. This continued confidence and ability to be more mindful of yourself and your body will help you shift your energy and habits and will allow you to be more tuned in to your baby.

2. Take a siesta. Take a 30-minute or power nap daily. Lay on your left side in a runner’s position with a few pillows between your knees to maximize blood flow to your baby. Getting a chance to rest can help boost your mood, perspective, and energy. If you’re at work and don’t happen to have a bed or couch at your disposal, sit upright in a chair and lift your feet up to keep your circulation moving.

3. Eat grains, drink water, avoid sugar. If you are feeling anxious, look on your plate to see if you are eating enough whole grains. They’re rich in B vitamins and great for calming down your nervous system. Get in one to two servings a day. Be sure you are not deficient in Vitamin B by getting blood work done (if you haven’t already). This is especially important if you are a vegetarian. If you are dehydrated, it’s difficult for your organs to work optimally, and headaches can occur to further compound anxiety. Keep headaches at bay by carrying a water bottle with you everywhere you go. Avoid white flour and sugar-coated foods to reduce spiking sugar levels, which are likely to hype your nerves only to leave you with little energy shortly after.

4. Modify work. Gradually modify your work schedule, especially after 32 weeks of gestation. Try to get to work an hour or two later to get a few extra hours of sleep and to avoid rush hour traffic. Leave your job an hour or two earlier, and consider working from home a few days a week to avoid the stress of commuting. Women are less likely to develop complications of late pregnancy including preterm-labor contractions or low amniotic fluid levels when they make adjustments to reduce the time they spend on their feet or sitting at a desk. Getting work done and preparing to get your house ready before baby arrives can be stressful. So at the onset of your third trimester or when you feel it’s time to slow down, your healthcare provider can provide your employer with a letter that goes over modifications of activities, including pee and snack breaks every two hours.

5. Attend wellness classes. A sedentary lifestyle (unless medically indicated) reduces circulation and movement, which can also create unnecessary tension, stiff muscles, lower back pain, and nervous energy. Letting an experienced chiropractor who works with pregnant women make appropriate adjustments can help calm down your nervous system while aligning you with your growing baby. An osteopathic adjustment and a prenatal massage are also helpful. Be careful to work with a registered prenatal massage therapist because there are various trigger points for starting labor that you want to avoid. If family and friends ask you what you want for the baby shower or the holidays, you can ask them to chip in for prenatal wellness classes like yoga, pilates, bodywork, dance, meditation, swimming, and relaxation. After all, how many onesies do you really need? A childbirth class will also give you time to chill out, have quality time with your partner to learn about labor and birth, and give you an opportunity to make some new friends.

6. Have a Q&A with yourself. Are you carrying heavy bags? If so, consider a suitcase on wheels. Are you wearing flat, comfortable shoes? Good! You’ll be less likely to fall than in heels. Do you dress in layers? It’s probably a good idea since pregnancy can bring on hot flashes. While you’re packing a couple of extra layering essentials, add an extra shirt and a bra in your pocketbook, in case your breasts leak colostrum. And since getting moist down there is your new norm, carry a few extra pairs of cotton crotch underwear in your bag. Changing into a dry pair of panties is healthier than using sanitary pads, which can move bacteria around. Are you surrounding yourself with pictures and mementos that bring about happy and fulfilling memories? No? Make sure you do. They’ll bring a smile to your face, and smiling is good for morale. And last but not least - are you talking to your baby? Doing so will help you slow down and forget the stressful things happening around you.

If you’re able to find quality alone time but are still feeling depressed or anxious, talk to your midwife or physician and get a referral for professional counseling. Unresolved fears of labor, birth or mothering can keep a pregnant woman on edge, unable to chill out without her realizing it.

Photography by Jonica Moore for Well Rounded.

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