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Pregnant? You Are Important!

pregnant woman posing against a tree in the forestYes, you have a big responsibility growing a brand new human, but it is vital to remember that you are important too! You are not just an incubator for this baby, you are literally teaching them how to survive in the world when they arrive. Wait, how am I teaching them?! As you can imagine, when you are pregnant you have a very intimate connection with your unborn child. This connection runs even deeper than you may have ever known. Every thought you have, emotion, and stress that you feel, your baby feels too because they are sharing your nervous system with you. Your baby is also wiring together with their own nervous system too! So as you go about your daily life if you are under constant stress, guess how the baby will wire their nervous system? They will wire for stress! This is what I meant about you are teaching your baby how to survive in the outside world. When they are born, however, they are wired will be their default setting. Now there is no ‘mom-shaming’ going on here. As a woman who is currently 7 months pregnant, I know I have had my fair share of stress during this pregnancy. We do not need to avoid all negative stress, you don’t live in a vacuum, it’s not possible.

Stress is our body’s normal response to situations that it views as dangerous or could threaten our existence. When this stress or sympathetic side of our nervous system becomes activated our body takes specific actions to increase our chance of survival. One of the first reactions by our body is to send more blood to our arms and legs and less blood to our central organs like our stomach, intestines and yes the uterus too! Our body is not worried about digesting lunch, fighting bacteria or feeding a baby when it thinks we might die. We need our arms and legs to “fight or flee” from things that could hurt us. Evolutionarily this would have been things like lions and bears. Today it is things like getting cut off in traffic or getting attacked by a stranger that would make it useful to have more blood in our limbs. This is neuro-physical stress, but our body reacts this way toward other stress too. That will be a discussion for another day. When we send less blood to the uterus the baby is consequently receiving less oxygen and nutrients. Also, our body releases stress hormones like adrenaline and norepinephrine to help us survive the situation. These hormones cross the placenta and affect your baby. Think of a time you received a sudden shock of bad news or got cut off driving down the interstate. What happened to your heart rate? You feel that dryness in your throat, a sudden spike and pounding in your chest, and maybe some sweat across your forehead because your heart is working overtime to get the blood to the essential body parts and your sympathetic nervous system is firing on all cylinders. The same reaction takes place in the baby, they will have an increased heart rate and stress response to your response. Now this is a normal response to stress and it can happen to you while you are pregnant. It’s okay! What is not okay is when we stay in this stress response for the majority of our day! We should call on this response to help us with a stressful situation, then we should be able to turn this system off and fall back into the healing side of our nervous system, or the parasympathetic nervous system.

So, what are some ways you can manage your stress better daily to keep from always having the stress side of our nervous system turned on? Here are some real-life examples of stress and ways you can better handle these situations.

  1. You are always late getting out the door in the morning. This can be a source of constant stress and anxiety that occurs every weekday. Be creative and finds ways to allow for more time in the morning. One way is to do as much prep work the night before. Set out clothes, pack book bags, pack lunches, have your kids find BOTH shoes, and meal plan for breakfast and lunch. Anything to help you save time in the morning so that when the unexpected surprises pop up, like most mornings, you already have a cushion built in to handle it and still get out of the door on time.
  2. You are stuck in traffic and you are already late.  Now I know no one ever gets stuck in traffic in Charleston… This is a great opportunity to practice letting go of things you can’t control. No matter how stressed you feel, it will not make the traffic move faster, but it will give your baby a dose of stress. Place one hand on your belly and take a deep breath. Let go of your anxious feeling, know there is nothing you can do to change it. This is good practice for labor because there is only so much we can control, and you need to be ready to roll with the contractions and the progression of labor.
  3. Your clothes no longer seem to fit. That’s supposed to happen! Don’t let the picture-perfect models in maternity clothing ads distort your view. I honestly think they just throw a fake belly on some skinny girl to make the shirts fit. During the first trimester, our body lays down a fat ring around the love handle areas, so the uterus always has an immediate energy source. As your body changes, know it is for a reason, it is literally changing to support your baby. If you need a bigger size don’t get discouraged! I remember last month having to buy the next size up underwear and thinking am I getting fat?! My sweet husband reminded me that the ligaments of my pelvic complex are relaxing, and I am literally expanding from the inside out in that area. Don’t body shame yourself and do not put up with others doing it either. You are beautiful!
  4. You are nervous about labor.  As a first-time mom, I feel this creeping in as I get closer to the end of the pregnancy. This next tip is straight out of the Bradley method birth book and it is fantastic. When you start feeling yourself get anxious, practice tensing and relaxing different parts of your body. Tense all the muscles of your face, now completely relax them. Now your shoulders, then arms, then hands and so on. This will help you recognize what it feels like when you are tensing your body and help you get good at letting it go. This will be a very useful relaxation tool in labor!

There’s no perfect pregnancy but if you can find joy in even the less than appealing parts of pregnancy (like hemorrhoids!) you and your baby will be much better off. Be creative in finding ways to manage and more importantly prevent stress in your daily life. Give that sweet baby every advantage in life by giving them a body wired for health, not stress! Would you like help to quantify the stress on your body and methods for helping your body and baby be more efficient at processing stress? We are here for you and we want to help you have the healthiest pregnancy possible. Call our West Ashley office at (843) 203-3199 or check out our pregnancy information here.

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