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Chelsea at Crunch Gym

Forty Weeks of Fitness!

Chelsea, our pregnancy fitness expert, is a certified personal trainer at Crunch gym in San Francisco, California. She gave birth to her daughter, Madeira Re, in July 2006. Read more

Stress and Pregnancy

Some types of stress are beneficial, helping us to face challenges and achieve goals; however, high levels of stress can cause serious health problems. During pregnancy, excessive stress and anxiety can harm not only you, but your baby as well.

Stress during pregnancy can cause excessive fatigue, anxiety, loss of appetite or overeating, headaches and backaches, and can disrupt sleep. If intense stress persists for a long period of time, it can lower your resistance to infections, cause high blood pressure, heart disease, preeclampsia, and preterm labor. In babies, stress is thought to cause low birth weight, emotional and gastrointestinal problems, and may be a cause of colic.

According to the results of a study by the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine, women who experienced high levels of stress around 18 to 20 weeks of pregnancy were more likely to have high levels of the hormone corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) in their blood. CRH is produced by the brain as well as the placenta and has been linked with preterm labor in several studies.

Another type of stress-related hormones called catecholamines (the "fight-or-flight" hormones) are also released during times of intense stress. These are thought to contribute to low birth weight in full-term babies because they constrict blood flow to the placenta, robbing the fetus of nutrients and oxygen it needs for proper growth. These hormones also strain the fetus's developing nervous system, and can cause the fetus to become accustom to feeling stress and his system becomes constantly prepared to overreact to stimuli. Babies of mothers who had a great deal of stress over the course of their pregnancy show more emotional and gastrointestinal problems and researchers believe this may be one of the causes of colic.

If your job or work environment is stressful, you may need to consider making some changes, such as reducing the number of hours or days you work or the tasks you perform. If you are a stay-at-home mom with small children, ask your partner or a friend or family member to help out whenever possible. A good support network -of your partner, family or friends - can help relieve stress by providing information, an emotional outlet, and physical help with chores and errands.

Practicing stress-reduction techniques can also help keep you calm and healthy. These include regular exercise, meditation, relaxation, and yoga. For 20 to 30 minutes every day, focus on your breathing. Breathe slowly, steadily and deeply from your belly, not your chest. Learn to recognize tension in your body's major muscle groups and release that tension, one by one, until you are completely relaxed.

It may be difficult to completely avoid stress; unfortunately, it is a part of our daily lives. However, try to limit your stress and anxiety and make an appointment with yourself to practice relaxation every day.

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