Pregnancy is a beautiful and most important phase of a woman’s life. Pregnancy is a time of many changes. Your body, your emotions and the life of your family are changing. You may welcome these changes, but they can add new stresses to your life. Feeling stressed is common during pregnancy. But too much stress can make you uncomfortable. Stress can make you have trouble sleeping, have headaches, lose your appetite or overeat.
Prolonged stress is injurious to health and during pregnancy; it affects baby and mom’s health very badly. High levels of stress that continue for a long time may cause health problems, like high blood pressure and heart disease. When you’re pregnant, this type of stress can increase the chances of having a premature baby (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or an underweight baby. Babies born too soon or too small are at increased risk for health problems.
What types of stress can cause pregnancy problems?
Stress is not all bad. When you handle it right, a little stress can help you take on new challenges. Regular stress during pregnancy, such as work deadlines and sitting in traffic, probably don’t add to pregnancy problems. However, serious types of stress during pregnancy may increase your chances of certain problems, like premature birth. Most women who have serious stress during pregnancy can have healthy babies. But be careful if you experience serious kinds of stress, like:
- Negative life events. These are things like divorce, serious illness or death in the family, or losing a job or home.
- Catastrophic events. These are things like earthquakes, hurricanes or terrorist attacks.
- Long-lasting stress. This type of stress can be caused by having financial problems, being abused, having serious health problems or being depressed. Depression is a medical condition where strong feelings of sadness last for long periods of time and prevent a person from leading a normal life.
- Racism. Some women may face stress from racism during their lives. This may help explain why African-American women in the United States are more likely to have premature and low-birthweight babies than women from other racial or ethnic groups.
- Pregnancy-related stress. Some women may feel serious stress about pregnancy. They may be worried about miscarriage, the health of their baby or about how they’ll cope with labour and birth or becoming a parent. If you feel this way, talk to your healthcare provider.
High Levels of Maternal Stress Induce Broad Developmental Deficits in the Child:
We should expect substantial detrimental effects of prenatal stress and cortisol exposure to the human infant brain. Indeed, human infants born to stressed mothers during pregnancy exhibit broad developmental deficits in cognitive, emotional, behavioural, linguistic, motor skills, and in social functioning. They are also at a higher susceptibility to a wide range of psychopathology, including depression, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder, and schizophrenia. For instance, scientists have reported:
- At 8 months of age: lower mental development in infants whose mothers experienced high amounts of daily hassles in early pregnancy;
- Before 4 years old: delays in motor development and increased amounts of behavioural problems, including excessive clinging, crying, hyperactivity, low frustration threshold, and antisocial behaviour in children whose mothers experienced severe and continuing familial or marital discord during pregnancy;
- At 6 years old: lower school scores of gymnastics, reading, writing, mathematics, music, and behaviour in the first year of the grammar school in children whose mothers experienced high levels of stress during pregnancy;
- At 7 years old: less focused attention on children whose mothers experienced more stressful life events during the first trimester (0-12 weeks) of pregnancy;
- At 12 years old: a 1.68 times higher risk of becoming overweight in children whose mothers were bereaved by death of a close family member within the period from a year before pregnancy till birth of the infants (It suggests that even the maternal psychological state long before pregnancy has a far-reaching impact on the infant’s development).
We don’t completely understand the effects of stress on pregnancy. But certain stress-related hormones may play a role in causing certain pregnancy complications. Serious or long-lasting stress may affect your immune system, which protects you from infection. This can increase the chances of getting an infection of the uterus. This type of infection can cause premature birth. Stress also may affect how you respond to certain situations. Some women deal with stress by smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or taking street drugs, which can lead to pregnancy problems.