Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reducing Stress During Pregnancy

Researchers from Imperial College in London want to raise awareness about stress during pregnancy.

According to Professor Vivette Glover, maternal stress and anxiety can alter the development of a baby's brain. In fact, the effects of stress during pregnancy can last many years, including into adolescence.

The stress hormone cortisol one way the fetus is affected by the mother's pregnancy anxiety. Usually the placenta protects the baby from the mother's cortisol by producing an enzyme that breaks the hormone down. When the mother is very stressed, the enzyme doesn't work as well and allows the cortisol through the placenta. Researchers suggest that the higher the level of cortisol in the womb, the lower the toddler's cognitive development or IQ at 1.5 years.

Cortisol and other stress hormones also affect labor itself, by affecting the naturally occuring hormone oxytocin that stimulates contractions!

If you see your glass as half empty and stress is getting to you during pregnancy, try these helpful hints:

1) Find a massage therapist trained in pregnancy massage ~ get a massage.

2) Make sure you are eating properly and getting 8-10 glasses of water each day.

3) Reduce the level of stressful activity in your life by saying "no", either to others or to yourself.

4) Have quiet time each day ~ listen to relaxing CDs that also have relaxation exercises on them. Meditate or take a yoga class.

5) Reach a good balance of sleep and exercise.

and finally, have a good support system ~ friends, family, your childbirth care team!

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