Recognizing stress> How do you know if your stress level is too high? Signs include constant fatigue and worry, mental confusion, feeling out of control and the need to stay active without rest, says Christine Dunkel Schetter, Ph.D., a psychology professor at UCLA. Experts advise women not to let everyday stress build up. If a
sudden negative life event should occur, you could be too overwhelmed to be able to cope.
Because it is subjective, there are no hard-and-fast rules about what amount of stress is harmful; in fact, what’s stressful to one person may not be stressful to another. Lockwood recalls one patient who worked long hours in her law firm throughout her pregnancy. Although he urged her to cut back on her work, she resisted. “Ultimately, for her, not working would have been more stressful than doing what she was doing,” Lockwood says. Her baby was born without complications.
Relax now> Every woman handles stress differently, and this can be key to the health of a pregnancy.
Experts agree that taking steps to get out of stressful situations (ideally, before you even get pregnant) can only help. “There is no question that relaxation techniques and other methods
of remaining calm and optimistic are good for mother and baby,” says Dunkel Schetter.
Social support in particular also seems to have a positive effect on
pregnancy, according to Wadhwa: It has been associated with higher birth weight in babies.
If you are anxious by nature, seek professional help. “Talk to your doctor or midwife,” says Lockwood. “He or she may recommend that you see a psychiatrist for medication.” Most anti-anxiety medications are safe to take while pregnant and nursing, so if you need them, you’re better off by continuing to take them.
Finally, try not to worry about things like that argument you had with your boss last week. Make an effort
to talk it out, relax and get some perspective. You’ll be doing yourself and your baby a big favor.