Stress is a part of life. Whether it’s work related, family related, or financially related; we all live with stress in our lives. As physicians, we all know how detrimental extreme stress and chronic stress can be on heart health. From increasing your risk for heart disease, studies have shown that chronic stress can also limit your life expectancy. But when it comes to pregnancy, how much ‘normal’ stress is too much? What constitutes extreme, chronic stress?
Physical Stress and Pregnancy
Your body goes through an entire array of stressful conditions while pregnant, from morning sickness to lower back pain, vomiting and nausea, constipation and headaches, and much more. The natural stress and is associated with pregnancy can sometimes be far worse than any physical or emotional stress that comes from outside sources. So, it’s important to keep in mind how stressed your body already is, how taxing pregnancy can be on your body, and how your stress threshold is a bit lower now that you’re dealing with these additional physical stresses.
Physical stresses on the body include lifting, bicycling, amusement park rides, snowboarding and surfing and waterskiing, and tennis or contact sports. Most of these items seem pretty self-explanatory. The main idea is that you do not want to stress the abdomen. Trauma to your abdomen, according to the MayoClinic, is the leading cause of ‘pregnancy-associated maternal deaths in the United States.’ So, when considering physical activity and actions that might affect your abdomen, consider not only your baby’s health but your own as well.
Emotional Stress and Pregnancy
According to the March of Dimes, women who experience high levels of stress also may be at increased risk of premature delivery.
Babies born before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy are considered premature. Babies born too small and too soon are at increased risk for health problems during the newborn period, lasting disabilities (such as mental retardation and cerebral palsy), and even death.
Don’t fret if you’re facing everyday stresses such as being late for work, getting the kids off to school, making dinner, etc. However, those stresses that involve a death in the family, divorce, loss of a job, or any other catastrophic life event, can constitute an extreme stress and one in which you’ll want to consult your physician.
Extreme stress causes a hormonal reaction within the body, and a hormone called corticotrophin-releasing hormone, or CRH, which is produced by the placenta, can trigger the release of prostaglandins and uterine contractions.
Stress is a factor of our lives, yet if that stress becomes chronic; where it lasts for many weeks, if it is physical such as a car accident, or emotional such as a death in the family, speak to your physician immediately.