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Mel Gravely

Helping Pregnant Women Reduce Stress During COVID-19

For women having their first pregnancy, their daily lives are full of questions and new experiences. How can I protect my health and the health of my baby? How can I make sure my pregnancy is progressing as it should? What should I eat? What medications are and aren’t ok to take? And that’s during normal times. But these aren’t normal times. Add on top of that the uncertainty of a global pandemic, and today’s pregnant women are experiencing something truly unique and potentially anxiety-inducing. We don’t yet know how the virus might affect pregnancy or the delivery of the baby. For pregnant women, it’s just one more thing to worry about.

It’s completely normal for pregnant women to experience some anxiety about their pregnancy. However, too much stress is not good for their health or the health of their baby. Head Start can be a resource to help pregnant women reduce stress by connecting them with needed resources, and educating them on healthy habits during their pregnancy,

Practicing mindfulness, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and staying positive are among the most important things pregnant women can do to help ease anxiety and protect their health.

Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness in particular is a relatively new recommendation for pregnant women, and is particularly important during this pandemic. It has been known to successfully relieve stress, anxiety, and depression during pregnancy and could positively affect the baby’s health after birth. Mindfulness activities include stretching, meditating or breathing exercises, walking, yoga, or light physical activity.

Eating a Healthy Diet

When feeling stressed or overwhelmed it’s common to want to grab a sweet snack or other type of unhealthy comfort food, but it’s important to stick with fruits and vegetables and drink lots of water. Some immune booster foods to keep around are strawberries, oranges, and kale for vitamin C, spinach and lentils for iron, lean meats, whole grains, nuts, and avocados for zinc and vitamin E, and sweet potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, and black-eyes peas for vitamin A. For more immune system boosters checkout “Tips to manage ‘pandemic pregnancy’ stress“ by Robyn Horsager-Boehrer, M.D. at UT Southweastern Medical Center.

Getting Enough Quality Sleep

The next thing an expecting mother will want to do is to go to bed at a consistent time every night, even on the weekends. Pregnant women need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Sleep supports our immune system and mental health by resetting the body and mind. You should avoid sweets and caffeine before bed and should shut off or put away digital devices a few hours before bed, in order to limit blue-light stimulation from these devices. The content encountered while using devices to browse online can also lead to more worrisome thoughts which add anxiety and make it more difficult to fall asleep.

If this happens you can manage stressful thoughts by separating real issues from unfounded worries. Kathleen Couillard with Naître et grandir says “If you are dealing with a concrete issue, break it down into steps. What is the first thing I need to do to solve this problem? Then, proceed to the analysis of the options, including their pros and cons. If, however, those worries seem unfounded, transform your thoughts to make them more positive. For example, instead of thinking ‘I could catch the virus and transmit it to my baby,’ tell yourself, ‘the virus is circulating, but I take all the necessary precautions to stay healthy. My baby will most likely be healthy, too.’” (COVID-19: Managing your stress level while you are pregnant)

Staying Positive

When managing your stress it’s essential to stay positive, which you can do by reminding yourself of all the things that went well during the day, or of other times in your life when you faced difficult situations that you successfully managed. Stay away from negative news and don’t be hard on yourself, managing stress requires practice. We might be physically isolated but you are not alone, there are plenty of resources to help and ways to remain physically distant but socially connected.

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