When you're striving for a healthy pregnancy, you tend to focus on things like eating well, exercising and following all of the guidelines set forth by your doctor. However, there may be something you're forgetting that ranks right up there with avoiding high-mercury fish: your stress level. Pregnancy can be nerve-wracking; not only does it entail a lot of physical changes, but preparing to become a parent can take a lot out of you, emotionally and physically. You may figure that it's just par for the course, but did you know that being under extreme stress while pregnant can actually cause problems for your baby?
Stress causes our bodies to release hormones in response to the threat that the body perceives -- the higher the stress level, the more hormones our body produces. Since we all handle stress differently, an overwhelming situation for one person may be easily managed by another. Studies are inconclusive as to the exact relationship between stress and pregnancy, but it does seem that the most severe forms of stress, such as a death in the family, can have the biggest negative impact on a pregnancy.
It can be tough to draw conclusions, however, because pregnant women already experience many of the signs of too much stress, such as fatigue and poor sleeping habits. That's why it's important to listen carefully to what your body is telling you and to keep your doctor up to date on what's going on with you, mentally as well as physically.
If keeping yourself healthy in general isn't incentive enough, read on to learn about five ways that stress can affect a pregnancy and get tips on how to keep your own stress levels down.