Home Pregnancy Stress during pregnancy: when it becomes too much

Stress during pregnancy: when it becomes too much

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 238 views

Up to a certain point, stress during pregnancy does not harm the unborn child. However, strong maternal fears and great stress can have an unfavorable effect on the child’s development. Possible consequences are premature birth and low birth weight. Long-term effects in children such as depression or asthma can also arise as a result of severe psychological stress during pregnancy. Read everything you need to know about stress during pregnancy here!

Child development 

During the relatively short phase of pregnancy, a highly developed child grows from a fertilized egg cell. During this time – around 40 weeks – the head, torso, arms and legs are formed, as well as all organs such as the heart , kidneys and brain . The development is coordinated and guided by the blueprint in the child’s genome. The unborn child receives all the necessary substances such as nutrients, hormones and antibodies from the mother.

Stress during pregnancy can – among other factors – influence this child’s development.

Stress during pregnancy – what happens in the body

Everyone knows stress. High demands in professional life, lack of time, existential worries, disputes in the partnership, noise and the everyday hustle and bustle demand a lot from each individual. Even pregnant women are often unable to escape the stress of everyday life. Many women also worry about the course of their pregnancy, the well-being of the unborn child, the birth and the time afterwards.

If we are in a stressful situation, the body increasingly releases various stress hormones such as adrenaline , noradrenaline, dopamine or precursors of the hormone cortisol . As a result, heart rate, blood pressure and breathing increase , muscles tense and digestive activity is reduced.

Mild stress during pregnancy is not dangerous

The child growing in the womb can perceive these changes. For example, the child’s heartbeat accelerates shortly after that of the mother. There is a good reason for this: Researchers suspect that light stress not only does not harm the child, but may even promote it. Physical maturation, motor skills and mental abilities of the child seem to improve.

Low stress is therefore not harmful to the child. However, it is still advisable to recognize the triggers of stress during pregnancy and to take countermeasures.

Too much stress can be harmful

If the psychological stress on the mother-to-be is too great, this can have a negative effect on the child’s development. It is known that prenatal stress (that is, stress before birth) increases the risk of serious childhood disorders. These include premature birth , low birth weight, neurological and emotional development disorders such as ADHD or reduced mental abilities, and physical complaints such as asthma or obesity .

The following psychological stresses can have a negative effect on the child:

  • depressions
  • Fears, including pregnancy-related fears
  • bereavement
  • problematic living conditions such as problems in the partnership, mental or physical violence
  • other traumatic experiences such as muggings, terrorist attacks or natural disasters

However, many children are also born healthy whose mothers have suffered from severe mental stress in the previous nine months. This means that severe stress during pregnancy can, but does not have to, have health consequences for the child.

If you suffer from severe anxiety or stress during pregnancy, or if you cannot overcome a traumatic experience, seek help from a doctor or trained therapist. 

Psychotropic drugs in pregnancy

Women with psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia , bipolar disorder, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder are usually treated with medication. If you become pregnant, you should not stop treatment abruptly. So far, only a few psychotropic drugs are known to be teratogenic (e.g. some epileptics).

Therefore, talk to your doctor about which medications you can take despite pregnancy and which ones should be discontinued or exchanged for an alternative preparation to be on the safe side. He will also be able to give you recommendations and support options for the time during and after the pregnancy.

Avoid stress during pregnancy

Stress during pregnancy can happen, but it should not become a habit or take on excessive proportions. Therefore, learn to recognize the triggers such as noise or excessive demands in professional or private life and to take countermeasures. Learn to say “no” or delegate tasks. Pay attention to your body’s signs: If it’s tired, it needs a break. Treat yourself and the child to these breaks. Relaxation exercises such as yoga, tai chi or meditation also help to relieve stress during pregnancy .

You may also like

Leave a Comment