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How to deal with stress related to pregnancy

By Faeza
15 September 2016

THE recent research results of the Philips Mother and Childcare report show that the most common reasons for stress among South African mothers is the economy, crime and family relationships and that firsttime pregnant women reported the most stress. Durban-based Counsellor and Neurofeedback Practitioner, Jenna Oertel Dias says feeling stressed is common during pregnancy. “But too much stress can make you uncomfortable and if it continues for a long time it may cause health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease. When you are pregnant, this type of stress can increase the chances of having birthing problems,” explains Jenna.

SYMPTOMS

According to Jenna, when you are pregnant or after you have a baby, you may be stressed and not know it. “Some normal changes during and after pregnancy can cause symptoms similar to those of stress. Symptoms that persist for more than two weeks such as feeling restless, moody, sad, hopeless and overwhelmed as well as crying a lot need a doctor’s attention,” she says.

Jenna also mentions other things like having no energy or motivation, eating too little or too much, sleeping too little or too much, having trouble focusing or making decisions, having memory problems, feeling worthless and guilty, losing interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy, withdrawing from friends and family, having headaches, aches and pains, and stomach problems that do not go away as being some of the symptoms.

CAUSES

“Pre and post-natal stress is a combination of factors. Women with a family history of stress are more likely to have it. Changes in brain chemistry or structure are believed to play a big role in stress,” she adds. In addition, stressful life events such as death of a loved one, caring for an aging family member, abuse, and poverty can trigger stress.

TREATMENT

Jenna says there are two common types of treatment for stress: therapy and medication. “The talk therapy involves talking to a therapist, psychologist or social worker to learn to change how stress makes you think, feel and act. Also, your doctor can prescribe an antidepressant medicine. This medication can help relieve symptoms of stress,” she says. According to Jenna these treatment methods can be used alone or together. “If you are stressed, your stress can affect your baby. Talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of taking medicine to treat stress when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.”

LACK OF TREATMENT

Untreated stress can hurt the mother and her baby. “Some women with stress have a hard time caring for themselves during pregnancy. They may eat poorly and do not gain enough weight, have trouble sleeping, miss pre-natal visits, not follow medical instructions and some might use harmful substances like tobacco, alcohol or illegal drugs,” explains Jenna. Jenna says stress during pregnancy can raise the risk of problems during pregnancy or delivery, having a low birth weight baby or premature birth. Also, she says after birth, lack of treatment can affect the mother’s ability to parent. “You may lack energy, have trouble focusing, feel moody and be unable to meet your child’s needs,” she adds.

CONSEQUENCES FOR THE BABY

Jenna says stress in a mother can affect her baby's development. “It can cause the baby to have delays in language development, problems with mother-child bonding, behaviour problems as well as increased crying.”

TIPS ON HOW TO AVOID PREGNANCY RELATED STRESS:

? Rest as much as you can. Sleep when the baby is sleeping.

? Don’t try to do too much or try to be perfect.

? Ask your partner, family, and friends for help.

? Make time to go out, visit friends or spend time with your partner.

? Discuss your feelings with your partner, family and friends.

? Talk with other mothers so you can learn from their experiences.

? Join a support group. Ask your doctor about groups in your area.

? Don’t make any major life changes during pregnancy or right after giving birth. Major changes can cause unwanted stress. Sometimes big changes can’t be avoided. When that happens, try to arrange support and help in your new situation ahead of time.