Sever stress, especially if it persists for prolonged periods of time, is not at all good for Mother & Baby. This is due to the effects of stress hormones.
The physiology of stress is such: The person perceives a threat or an emerging crisis (Either a real danger, like an oncoming train, or a perceived one, like worrying that the doctor you are about to meet will criticize you.)
As stressful thoughts arise, the human brain secretes corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH), this triggers the release of glucocorticoid stress hormones, including cortisol, stimulating adrenaline. This hormone response to stress shifts one into a fight or flight crisis response mode.
When one is is crisis mode, normal physiological processes like cell growth, healing and digestion are cast aside. The mind becomes alert, pulse and breathing rate increase, blood sugar rises. The body is ready to respond.
The hormones of stress are meant to help us survive, but when we are hyper-alert, often afraid or chronically worried, the stress hormones do not subside to a normal baseline level. Elevated cortisol present in the body keeps one in a state of emergency, increasing stress, establishing an exhausting cycle.
This hyper-vigilance leads to high blood pressure and can have grave consequences for pregnancy. Too much stress increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, preeclampisa, and underweight babies.
Cortisol levels do climb during pregnancy, this is a function of the placenta, it helps the baby’s lungs develop and prepares the new mother to bond well with her baby. All part of the miracle of sexual reproduction… pregnant mother’s bodies produce increased quantities of a special protein called CRH-binding protein. This protein fools the CRH receptors into not recognizing the stress hormones, making pregnant mothers less reactive to stress.
The danger comes in the last few weeks of pregnancy, when CRH levels increase even more while the CRH-binding proteins decrease. If the balance is lost, the mother-to-be’s blood pressure may climb dangerously.
In postpartum this hormone mixture helps mothers to know the scent of their own baby. Mothers who breastfeed their babies have lower levels of stress hormones than mothers who bottle feed.
Balancing life so that the stress hormones do not go out out-of-control is very important during pregnancy and postpartum.
*Enjoy Prenatal Yoga
*Schedule a nice pregnancy massage
*Hug a lot
*Take a daily Nap (or if you cannot, get more sleep anytime you can)
*Enjoy the company of supportive sisters, family or close friends, who BELIEVE in you.
*Seek therapy, if your stress levels and/or response to stress feel like “too much.”
*Stay active, exercise burns away stress hormones.
*Meditate or mellow-out
*Complain less ~ think positive
*Laugh, really belly laugh, nice and loud and often.
*When you worry, give yourself some guidelines: “I am going to worry about this for 10 minutes, no longer, than I will let it go.
*Make a journal, one you can write in, draw and doodle.
*Listen to lovely music ~ even better, sing along.
*Cry if you need to
*Baby Steps… most of us cannot solve all our problems and cope with all our challenges in one day, taking Baby Steps toward resolution is enough. Baby Steps add up.
*EARTHing… get out in Nature for a wonderful Walk. Play~work in the garden. Put your bare feet on the Mother Earth.