Guest post by Dr Ellie Rayner
Congratulations on your pregnancy and for coping so well during this time. It is completely normal to feel a little worried or stressed when you’re pregnant, particularly if it your first pregnancy. Pregnancy is a time of tremendous change which can understandable leave you feeling uneasy or anxious about different things and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything is seriously wrong. However, there are some things you can do to help reduce your levels of stress and help you feel more in control.
- Talk to someone
It is incredibly important to talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling, such as your partner, family member or friend. Pregnancy is a really exciting time for you and your family and even if you are not able to share your journey face-to-face or in person, try and find new ways of staying in touch with your loved ones. Getting any worries or concerns off your chest can make a big difference and remind you that you are not alone and that support is available and helps them feel included also.
Exercising regularly during pregnancy and after birth has huge physical and emotional benefits for both you and your baby, including reducing your stress and anxiety levels, helping you sleep better and improving your mood. Getting outdoors and into nature for some fresh air lowers your blood pressure and stress hormones, reduces the chance of preterm birth and of having a baby with a low birth weight.
Try and focus on your own wellbeing and be kind to yourself. Pregnancy places huge demands on your body so ensure you make time to do something you enjoy every day. Whether this be taking up a new hobby or activity, undertaking some physical exercise or stopping smoking; taking care of your physical health will positively affect your mental wellbeing too. Eating well and maintaining a healthy diet, avoiding caffeine and developing a sleep routine all promote self-care and help reduce levels of stress and anxiety in pregnancy.
4. Don’t google
Unfortunately, there can be lots of misinformation, particularly online regarding pregnancy, labour and birth which can lead to confusion and increased anxiety. It can be difficult to know what is correct information and what is relevant to you or your pregnancy/situation and some sources may be out of date or factually incorrect.
Try to seek out reliable information from healthcare professionals or use recognised resources or organisations, as these are less likely to be biased and will contain up to date and evidence-based information.
5. Avoid negative birth stories
Unfortunately, during pregnancy friends and family members may choose to share their experience with you, which may not always be a positive one. There are many different reasons why someone may have a negative birth experience, or complication during labour or birth, but that doesn’t necessarily mean this will happen to you or your baby. Try and surround yourself with positive and empowering messages and stories around birth and if your friends or family start sharing horror stories, have to confidence to politely ask them to wait to discuss their experience after your baby is born.
6. Take part in Antenatal Classes
There is a really important distinction between feeling informed and empowered and feeling overwhelmed and therefore anxious. Antenatal courses are specifically designed to strike a perfect balance between providing you with the right level of accurate information to prepare you for different eventualities, without scaring you. Whether it be online or face-to-face, attending antenatal classes can really help you feel informed about your different birth choices and options, help give you confidence in your decision making and help you feel in control, reducing the fear of the unknown so many parents have.
7. Practice Hypnobirthing
Hypnobirthing is designed to help you manage your stress hormones and reduce anxiety in preparation for labour and birth. Although many people think it is only useful during labour, actually developing and practicing hypnobirthing techniques is helpful throughout your pregnancy.
Hypnobirthing consists of several different elements including guided relaxations, breathing techniques, positive affirmations, and self-hypnosis skills that together aim to create positive, relaxed and even excited feelings towards pregnancy and birth. The more you practice the more effective these skills can be and many women find that daily hypnobirthing practice, particularly the breathing techniques, reduces their anxiety and stress levels throughout their pregnancy.
If you do feel you have, or are becoming, more anxious or stressed during your pregnancy then it is especially important you talk to your midwife or doctor. They will routinely discuss your mental wellbeing at every appointment and can assess if this is normal or whether this is the sign of something more serious that may need additional support.
Dr Ellie Rayner – Obstetrician & Gynaecologist
Dr Ellie Rayner is a practicing NHS Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Antenatal and Hypnobirthing teacher and founder of The Maternity Collective. The Maternity Collective provide comprehensive online antenatal and birth preparation courses led by a team of NHS expert healthcare professionals. More information is available at https://www.thematernitycollective.co.uk/
Follow Dr Ellie Rayner @maternitymedic for the latest evidence-based information on pregnancy, birth and women’s health issues.