Don't let worrying about stress add more stress to your day. Stress is a part of life—it has weaseled its way into your schedule before your pregnancy, and it will continue to accompany you throughout your pregnancy. Even when you're pregnant there will still be traffic jams that make you late, inconsiderate and pushy people who drive you nuts, deadlines to meet, and arguments with friends and co-workers. In these kinds of situations, stress will not harm your baby.
On the other hand, stress that is intense or chronic can be a problem for you and your baby. If this is an unplanned pregnancy, for example, or if you have separated from your partner, or if you are grieving over the death of a close friend or family member, or if you have a job that's making you want to jump off a cliff, your body's physical reaction to this kind of stress can be harmful to both you and your baby in many ways:
The World Federation of Sleep Society tells us that three or more hours of lost sleep per night can decrease the efficiency of the body's immune system by as much as 50 percent.
During stress, the body releases a hormone called cortisol. Initially, cortisol helps us deal with stress by raising blood sugar for quick energy and heightening our sense of awareness. But if the stress is chronic, the neurons that release cortisol in the brain become stressed and agitated, causing depression.
If you read through these stress-related symptoms and say, "Hey, that's me!" it's time to talk to your health-care provider about finding ways to ease stress. Maybe it's time for an early maternity leave from your job, for example. In the meantime, make relaxation exercises a part of your daily routine.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth © 2004 by Michele Isaac Gliksman, M.D. and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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