Today is all about prenatal stress. Something that maybe doesn’t get the attention it deserves. To open, I am sharing a clip from a piece that Valentina at lovefestjourney.com wrote on mindfulness during pregnancy.
Belly Breathing Through Your Pregnancy
I am a firm believer in taking care of ourselves in every way possible, but most of all through pregnancy. For me, creating a mindfulness practice was hugely important to the way I felt both about myself and the connection I had to the tiny person growing inside me. Things such as breathing, yoga and daily mantras all contributed to the calm mind and physical awareness that I held through my pregnancy.
I first learned to ‘breathe’ a few years ago. I know this sounds silly because of course I have been breathing since birth – but I mean really breathe – with my belly. In for 4 counts, out for 4 counts.
Read more of Valentina’s work at lovefestjourney.com
When Pregnancy Isn’t What You Thought It Would Be
According to a recent review, pregnancy isn’t always a joyous event. Indeed, many mothers feel conflicted—both frighten and empowered.
Mothers who feel misunderstood by their partners, alone, or without support are more likely to keep these feelings to themselves.
This—in turn—can impact a mama’s birth experience and her postpartum recovery. For example, mamas with internalized stress may be more likely to have:
- A preterm birth
- A baby with low birth weight
- Poor attachment to baby
- Postpartum depression
Aleksandra Staneva from University of Queensland’s School of Psychology explains,
The review provides further understanding on the sometimes unrealistic and romantic expectations of motherhood and pregnancy. These can result in feelings of inadequacy, defeat and isolation, all of which may contribute to and perpetuate distress.
The take-home here is that your environment might be more—or just as—important than your own ability to deal with stress. Surrounding yourself with support goes far.
Fortunately, prenatal yoga is more popular than ever and an excellent way to manage depression and anxiety while in a supportive environment. Also consider social media, which is full of groups that can help uplift a mama during dark times.
Antidepressants During Pregnancy May Be Linked To Autism
An interesting review found a possible link between antidepressant use during pregnancy and autism.
SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are the first medication that a mama will receive if she’s looking for ways to manage depression.
Here’s a quick rundown of the possible mechanism: About 1/3 of children with autism have elevated serotonin, a brain chemical that SSRI’s work to elevate. Serotonin levels are regulated by serotonin receptor genes. The expression of genes are shaped by environment.
The idea is that increased activity around serotonin *might* have something to do with the onset of autism.
While the review has many limitations—there appears to be a solid relationship between mamas who use SSRIs during pregnancy and developmental disorders.
Prenatal Stress Trifecta: Your Babe’s Immune System, Brain, And Gut Microbes
A paper published in 2014 digs deep into the effects of prenatal stress on your baby’s brain, immune system, and gut. Prenatal stress includes depression and anxiety—as well as recurring mental and emotional stress.
Stress + high levels of cortisol during pregnancy impact how your baby’s brain develops. Specifically, areas of the brain that regulate mood, learning, memory, and the processing of fear.
Cortisol is a stress hormone and it’s able to cross the placenta, entering your baby’s circulatory system.
It looks like prenatal stress turns up the volume on your baby’s HPA axis, programming the brain and hormone network that’s responsible for managing stress. And hardwires your baby to have a lower tolerance for stress.
Also—when stress and the brain are involved, you can count on gut microbes making an appearance. During pregnancy, stress activates your immune system. This can mean a rise in inflammatory messages and dramatic changes in gut bacteria, which has long-term effects.
In adults, a healthy mix of gut microbes can protect against mood disorders, skin problems, and weight gain. In babies, gut microbes are crucial for brain and behavioral development. Healthy baby gut bacteria literally tone the stress response system.
Besides difficulty with memory and learning, a more recent study with animals argues that prenatal stress may lead to:
- Respiratory problems, like asthma
- High blood pressure
- Gut problems, like less good bacteria
- Stunted development of the nervous system within the colon
- The tendency to overreact to stress