Pregnancy is a cause for great celebration, joy and hope. But at the same time, some mums-to-be can experience high levels of stress and anxiety during this period.
Did you know that anxiety during pregnancy may actually be harmful to both the pregnant mother and the baby in her womb? A growing body of evidence suggests that high levels of stress and anxiety during pregnancy can lead to pre-term labour, low birth weight babies, and later developmental delays in children.
In order to bring you some great information on the topic of stress and pregnancy — including how to manage pregnancy-related anxiety — we spoke to Dr Wendy Teo, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist for Mount Elizabeth Hospital Novena.
What do mums-to-be worry about during pregnancy?
If you could tune in to the thoughts of a pregnant mum, these are just some of the things you may hear: Will my baby be healthy? Will my baby be strong? What is labour like? Will it hurt? Will this nausea ever stop? Ouch, my back – will this pain ever go away?
It’s perfectly normal to worry during pregnancy whether you are a first-time mum or the mum of many kids. However, medical experts, including Dr Teo, agree that stressing unnecessarily about the pregnancy can cause more harm than good.
Worrying can affect mum-to-be and her unborn baby
Dr Teo explains that constant anxiety and stress during pregnancy may have a negative impact on a mum’s health.
Such mums may face an increased risk of pre- and post-natal depression, or even hypertension and diabetes later in pregnancy. What’s more, high stress levels can lead to lowered immunity levels in the mum, leading to the risk of her falling sick more often.
It’s not just the pregnant mum who can be affected by high stress and anxiety levels. Dr Teo says her baby may also feel their impact in the following ways:
- Since stress hormones constrict blood vessels, the baby may experience a reduced blood and oxygen flow
- Just as highly stressed adults are prone to infections, babies who are accustomed to high stress environment in the womb could have lowered immunity as well and therefore have a higher risk of infections
- Foetuses of highly stressed mothers have been associated with an increased risk of chronic lung disease, developmental delays, learning problems and even infant death
- They are also more prone to chronic illnesses like hypertension and diabetes in the future
- Some studies even show that the temperament of a baby may be affected by the stress levels of the mother
On the next page, find out about some great ways you can manage your pregnancy-related fears and worries.