November 7, 2021 2:24:26 pm
By Divya Ahlawat
Hey! You were thrilled to see the second line that showed your positive pregnancy test, a few days ago. Now are you feeling worried at every twist and turn that something might be wrong? It’s a feeling you just can’t separate, and it’s starting to affect your everyday life? Isn’t pregnancy supposed to be a time of joy? If you suffer from stress and anxiety, it can have some complications. Here’s more about stress during pregnancy and some ways you can cope. Pregnancy is a time of enormous change. Some of the feelings and sensations are welcomed, while others are downright uncomfortable and scary. Hormonal changes during pregnancy may affect the chemicals in your brain which in turn can cause stress and anxiety.
Here are some coping strategies:
*Speak out: If you’re feeling very anxious during your pregnancy, it’s important to tell someone about your fears. It can be anyone, your partner, a close friend, or family member whom you trust the most as they may offer you support. Simply sharing your thoughts and feelings may be enough to keep yourself free from stress in your everyday life. You may also ask your doctor to refer you to a therapist who is trained to help with anxiety if you find it difficult to cope by yourself.
*Deep breathing exercises: Deep and conscious breathing plays a vital role during pregnancy. It ensures efficient removal of waste products as well as an ample supply of oxygen for both the mother and baby. Effective breathing purifies and calms the nervous system and induces a feeling of pleasant well-being. Practice doing deep breathing by keeping your hand on your abdomen as you lie relaxed on the floor. Focus on the hand and on moving it up and down as you inhale and exhale. Count a number in your head, as you bring it up and the same number as you bring it down. This breathing is excellent for pregnancy since it can result in one-third more oxygen being inhaled.
*Exercises: Engaging yourself in various physical activities that help to reduce your stress and anxiety may be a good choice for you. Exercise is considered vital for maintaining mental fitness, and it can reduce stress. Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate. When the brain along with its many nerve connections is affected by stress, the rest of the body feels the impact as well. So it stands to reason that if your body feels better with exercises, so does your mind. Physical activity helps your body in releasing endorphins which are the chemicals produced by the body to relieve pain and stress in your brain naturally and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress. Moving your body is one of the most recommended ways to manage stress.
Activities to decrease stress include:
Walking: Walking can be relaxing and refreshing for you at the same time. Walking can help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently without impacting your muscles and joints much. Walking is considered as the safest and easiest activity during pregnancy. There are numerous advantages of walking during pregnancy, such as:
*Aids with maintaining a healthy weight gain throughout pregnancy.
*Keep your muscles strong.
*Helps keep your bowel movement functional to combat constipation.
*Maintains or improves your fitness level throughout pregnancy.
*Pumps your heart, lungs, and blood vessels for overall cardiovascular health.
Swimming: Swimming is an ideal form of exercise during pregnancy as there is zero chances of falling on your stomach and injuring your baby. Along with the safety measure, exercising in water which is known as hydrotherapy gives you better relaxation, keeps you mentally and physically fit and calm with better range of motion without putting much pressure on your joints. Swimming helps to relieve swelling and pain of your body. Your growing uterus puts pressure on your body, but when you go swimming, the natural property of water makes you feel light. You can feel weightless and so calm in the pool even if you are carrying twins. Swimming is also beneficial for those pregnant women who have swollen joints and have back pain in pregnancy.
Swimming also improves your cardiovascular condition as your heart rate remains healthy by slowing the heart rate for some time. Cardiovascular activity increases the capacity of your lungs and you can breathe easily.
You can do swimming even in your ninth month. But as a safety measure you should choose a stroke that feels comfortable and your neck, shoulders or back muscles doesn’t hurt. The breaststroke can be a good option as you don’t rotate your belly in this. Also, you should be careful while entering in the water, avoid jumping and diving because they cause too much abdominal impact. Please remember to consult a doctor before attempting any form of exercise.
Aerobics: During pregnancy, at least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week is recommended for every healthy pregnant woman. Aerobic activities make your breath faster and deeper and increase your heart rate. It helps in keeping your mind and body healthy, also it keeps you extra energetic. If aerobics are done with soft music your stress level can lower down and you can have sound sleep. A session of aerobic exercise reduces the blood pressure reactivity to stressors and in turn reduces the frequency and intensity of anxiety. Along with these, it helps in reducing the risk of complications like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. You can do mild stretching, riding a stationary bike, strength training, etc.
Weight training: Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilise mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects. Aerobic exercises include low intensity weight training exercises which not only decreases your stress and strengthens your muscles but also prepares your baby and your body for a normal and healthy birth. According to a study, moderate-intensity, weight-bearing exercise is associated with a significant increase in fetal birth weight. Low-moderate exercisers (expending <1000 calories/week) gave birth to infants weighing approximately 100 grams more than those of non-exercisers (p<0.05). Heavy exercisers (expending >1000 calories/week) gave birth to infants weighing approximately 276 grams more than those of non-exercisers.
Aquatic aerobic exercises: Aqua-aerobics is quite simply aerobic exercises done in water. The movements are often very low intensity and can be done with the aid of pool noodles and kickboards, making it a great entry-level exercise for beginners. The endorphins released when you are active can help you through some of the common, unpleasant symptoms of the first trimester (nausea, fatigue and sickness). And if you’re happy and relaxed, then it’s likely your baby will be, too.
Being in the water feels good when you’re pregnant, and there are physiological reasons why. Water greatly reduces the usual stress on your musculoskeletal system and supports the weight of the foetus, thus taking the load off your lower back. Water also makes it easier for the heart to pump blood, reduces pregnancy-related swelling (edema) and takes pressure off your bladder. Even as it soothes you, the pool environment allows for a total body workout. Water provides 12 times the resistance to your muscles as does air, thus offering a strength-training benefit similar to lifting light weights.
Yoga: Yoga is believed to reduce stress since ages. Yoga is practiced to balance your mind, body, and breath. It’s all about relaxation, which makes it one of the most popular choices for antenatal exercise. It encourages mental and physical relaxation which in turn decreases stress and anxiety. Also it promotes flexibility, relieves tension and alleviates pains and aches. Yoga helps in promoting mood boosting endorphins . Focusing on the present moment during yoga enhances your awareness, boosts your concentration and centers your mind. According to a study , yoga had a positive effect on women who practiced yoga three times a week for a month. After several sessions, they experienced significant reductions in stress, depression and anxiety.
There is an evidence-based study that suggests exercise during pregnancy does not harm the foetuses of healthy mothers and exercise may actually benefit the mother and the foetus and also reduce the rate of caesarean birth. Cesarean birth is associated with risks such as infection, hemorrhage, reduced bowel motility, longer recovery, and respiratory complications. Therefore, avoiding caesarean birth is a benefit to both mother and infant based on these stated risks.
(The writer is Executive Physiotherapist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Panchkula.)
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