Photo courtesy of Xavier Mouton Photographie
It’s completely normal to feel stressed during your pregnancy. Pregnancy means big changes in your life, even if it’s not your first child. Working a full-time job doesn’t usually help alleviate that stress, nor does all that prep that comes with having a baby.
But it’s alright. There are things you can do to reduce the stress you’re feeling. Here are seven of them.
1. Get sleep
Being pregnant can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, which that’s totally normal, and getting good sleep can help you relieve the stress that comes naturally with pregnancy.
Get exercise during the day (more on that later), which can help you sleep more soundly at night.
Do your best to establish a normal sleeping routine that involves quiet, a bath, calm music, reading, and no screens.
Don’t stress about losing sleep (thanks for the tip, right?), but it’s common to lose sleep during pregnancy. You’re normal.
Allow yourself the time to fall asleep. Everyone is different when it comes to sleeping patterns, but for some people, it can take 30 minutes to an hour before they’re able to drift off. If that sounds like you, give yourself that time to lay down in bed and prepare your mind.
Sleep on your side (try your left side if you’re prone to heartburn) and use pillows between your knees or under your belly to help you get comfortable.
Try relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga breathing to help you drift off.
2. Ask for help
Chances are, the people around you are looking for ways to help, but they just don’t quite know what you need.
Maybe your coworkers have offered to throw you a baby shower, but what you really need is someone to provide meals or help with childcare for your other children. It’s okay (and good) to ask for what you need.
Women still take on the bulk of childcare and household duties in the U.S., even if she has a partner, even if both of them work full-time. So, enlist your partner, your other children, your friends, or extended family to help out where you need it—so you can worry about alleviating stress (see what we did there?).
3. Make space and time for moments of peace
Practice mindfulness. Being mindful means keeping yourself in the moment. When you're looking at life in weeks and trimesters and appointments, it’s easy to not be present. Adopting a simple meditation practice at the beginning and/or end of the day can help you remember the present moment.
If you have other children, ask your partner or a friend to take them for an evening so you have time totally alone.
Adopt a journaling practice, even if all you write is a few sentences a day, can be a great way to remind yourself to slow down, be mindful, and practice gratitude.
Find those moments of quiet when you can. When you have down time, resist the urge to pick up your phone, turn on the TV, or even work.
Make a playlist of your favorite songs that help relax and calm you.
- Watch something funny. Netflix and relax with your baby bump.
4. Talk about what you’re experiencing
Pregnancy brings up a lot of emotions, many of them totally new. It’s good and right to talk about what you’re feeling.
Talk to your doctor, even about the emotional things. Your doctor is there to help you and keep you healthy. Emotional and mental health is physical health, so don't shy away from addressing what you’re feeling.
Go on a walk with a friend or your partner. Just take a few moments to get outside and talk about how you’re feeling—excitement, fear, stress, anxiety, confusion, pain, discomfort, joy, the constant need to pee...
Consider joining a group for pregnant women where you can share your worries, frustrations, and stresses. Many times, just talking about what’s worrying you can be calming.
5. Make a plan for your maternity leave
Knowing that you’ll be able to time away from work after giving birth can be a stress reducer. While paid maternity leave is a reality for few in the U.S., that doesn’t mean you don’t have options for taking time away (or maintaining some income) after the birth of your child.
Here are some resources on parental leave and how you can take time away from work:=
And before you leave, make a plan for your absence during maternity leave so you know that work has been squared away and you can focus on what’s important.
6. Know your finances
Money and finances are the most common stressors among Americans, according to the APA, and have been for decades. Having a baby is a significant financial responsibility, and taking control of your finances can go a long way in busting that stress.
Simply making a plan for the next few years can set your mind at ease. And you don’t have to pay big bucks for a private financial advisor, either. Simply make an appointment at your bank of credit union, nearly all of which provide free or nearly free financial advice to clients, and The Foundation for Financial Planning offers free financial services to families who qualify. If you would like to find a financial planner, you can check out The Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education.
7. Get moving
Exercise is a proven stress-buster, so let’s get moving! Exercise during pregnancy can also help you sleep better, improve your mood and energy levels, and reduce backaches, constipation, bloating, and swelling.
The Mayo Clinic recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day. But before you embark on a new exercise routine, talk to your doctor about what is safe for you.
Try taking a prenatal yoga class, or even a meditative kind of yoga that is aimed at relaxing your muscles along with your brain.
Commit to taking a walk with a friend or partner in the evenings so you know you have a stress-relieving activity coming for you at the end of the day.
Read more: How to Work More Steps into Your Workday