How to stay on top of pregnancy stress

Photography: Brandi Johnson

By Hannah Mearns

When I was pregnant with my little girl and we went along to our 20 week scan, I was shocked to discover that I had what the sonographer described as low blood flow through the placenta. I already knew that my baby was on the small side but I had put that down to genetics – neither my husband or I are particularly well built or tall.

I was even more taken aback when they suggested that I needed additional scans to monitor the situation and this might mean that my little girl could arrive early. I did what any nervous mum-to-be would do and Googled the problem as soon as possible.

What I read scared me a little but it also made sense – that the mother’s stress levels could affect the metabolism of the placenta. In other words, how I was feeling could be affecting how nutrients were passing across to my baby and this could be hindering her growth. And now, as is the way with anything you Google, there is evidence that shows the opposite can be true too.

We can all agree that chronic stress during pregnancy isn’t great. How can we deal with it though? Having a baby is stressful – there’s a birth to arrange, a seemingly never-ending list of stuff to buy, worries about money, fears around giving birth, constant unwanted advice and bump touching, plus you actually have to figure out how to look after this small human once they’ve safely arrived.

I’ve never been an anxious person but I had to work really hard to keep my looping mind in check. Luckily, the placental insufficiency problem naturally went away and my daughter was born a perfectly healthy 7lbs 3oz.

Here’s how I kept on top of the thoughts that kept me up at 3am:
  • Write it all down
    I found this helped massively. In fact, now people around me know when I’m worrying about money and organising things, I’ll be found making a spreadsheet. I had lists of the baby things I wanted to buy, a spreadsheet which kept a running total of baby-related expenditure and then also an income spreadsheet – what I was going to earn before my maternity leave started, and outgoings as well as monthly budgets for before and after baby. It took it all out of my head and stopped the endless looping to do list.
  • Relaxations and mantras
    I’ve always leaned heavily on relaxing activities and positive thinking in times of pressure. Pregnancy was no different. I started each day with half an hour of gentle pregnancy yoga then listened to my positive birth affirmations MP3 as I got ready for my day. During my commute on the train, my headphones went on and I looked through the positive mantra cards I had – 10 positive birth statements that I went over each day. You may not be sure that the yoga is particularly working for you or that the mantras are going in but focusing on those instead of your usual worries will buy you a valuable bit of headspace.
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