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As a new mom, there are so many voices vying for our attention to their expertise or friendly suggestions. It’s hard to know where to turn. It’s also hard to know what to even do, because of all the changes your baby and your body are going through postpartum. Because of this and more, Stress is a word that likely describes your world postpartum and in the next few years as a new mom… Yet it doesn’t have to. There are a lot of resources for new moms, and it’s worth it to check them out in your local area or online. You can read more in my article for postpartum moms here.
Now, keep reading, and learn more about stress and how it affects your body… Because of this information, it is so important to find your village and ask for help in whichever way you need. Do not be afraid of this! Postpartum brings ample changes to your life and body, and stress exacerbates these issues. It is rare the two are seen without the other, and this makes it even more imperative to learn about stress in pregnancy and postpartum, as well as to learn what to do about it.
What do we know about stress, anyway?
We know that stress affects different systems of the body and that certain stress-related hormones may play a role in causing certain pregnancy complications. Serious or long-lasting stress can affect the immune system, which protects the mother from infection. Stress affects every single area of our health.. yes… especially our physical health! Stress exacerbates health problems, maybe more-so in pregnancy. This can increase the chances of getting an infection in the uterus, which can cause premature birth… As just one example.
With a little bit of background knowledge, it is clear how important it is that you know how to deal with stress during pregnancy in a healthy way. As a doula, this is one of the things I work through with every single client. Stress can be managed well… and reduced.
Here is a process to work through it:
Identify the stressors.
Before anything can be done, you need to identify what it is that is stressful, where it is coming from. Then you can talk to your family and provider about it. A great way to do this is just to start writing about your days, your worries, your plans, your annoyances, and what you think of when you hear the word stress. Identify your stressors.
Make positive plans.
Once the stressors have been identified, it’s very helpful to sit down and either alone or with your birth partner, and to start writing down action plans for dealing with the specific stressors. For example, if you are stressed about leaving work for the birth and postpartum period you can make a plan to train a coworker on how to cover her position while she is gone. If you are worried about how you will handle the birth, scheduling time to attend a childbirth class and afterward, practicing the birth exercises you learn will be immensely helpful. Making a to-do list to prepare the house for baby proofing is another example of making positive plans to combat each stressor.
Accept that the discomforts of pregnancy are only temporary.
Pregnancy comes with many physical discomforts. Thankfully these are only temporary and will pass when the baby is born. Remind yourself that! This is only a season… Although there are many serious ailments that can occur during pregnancy, generally most of them will cease once the baby is born. They are also reminders of the blessing in your womb – leg cramps tell you that baby is growing, morning sickness shows you that your body is working as it should, even the PUPPS rash (which I had – quite itchy!) – illustrates that your body is finding ways to cope with the state of pregnancy – the cause of PUPPS isn’t distinctly known, other than it being a common pregnancy annoyance because of the changes in the mother’s body.
Stay Healthy and fit.
Nothing is made better by sickness or pain, so it’s in your best interest to be proactive. Make sure you are eating well – an abundance of fruits and veggies and real food, drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, and partaking in light exercise. Staying well helps to combat the effects of stress!
Let go of some things.
It’s easy to forget that your body is directing a great deal of energy toward a major project – literally making another human being. Your body is put under more stress than normal during pregnancy, that’s a fact. his means that whatever else is in your daily schedule is competing for time, energy, and resources with this monumental task of growing a human life. Take some time to assess everything you are doing each day and finding areas to cut back some, in order to alleviate some of the stress. You can’t do everything, mama, especially while pregnant. Don’t try!
Ask for help.
A simple way to rid of stress as a new mom is to learn to ask for help, and not to feel bad about it. Find you support network, look for local providers and resources, and hire a postpartum doula. We were made to do life in community; we can’t do this together, and especially during pregnancy and postpartum, don’t try.
Start some relaxing hobbies.
A common way to relive stress is to start some relaxing hobbies. It’s not silly – it’s life-giving. There are so many out there you can try to reduce stress. Physical activites like pilates or exercise routines are common and positive for reducing stress. Of course, as a newly postpartum mom, you need to approve this with your care provider before you partake, but as a mom of an older baby or child, light exercising, walking, or more, is a great way to relive some stress.
If you are not able to do physical activities or prefer not to, other things to try are writing, reading, art/crafts, walking…
If you think there is a chance there is a medical problem or depression involved, make plans to get help immediately. This would mean medical or counseling appointments to directly meet the problem to find a solution. Stress is normal as a new mom, but too much stress is debilitating. Don’t be afraid of asking for professional help. Putting it off or trying not to think about it will only keep it lingering around in your mind, adding to anxiety and causing stress to build. It’s much healthier, albeit difficult, to tackle this directly, with support from family, as well.
What are some things you would add to this list?
~Katherine Newsom writes at Simple Natural Mama
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