On Your Mind
Now that you're feeling more symptoms of pregnancy, the reality of impending parenthood may suddenly hit home. “So much to do, so little time,” you may be thinking. Understanding and recognizing your emotional changes can help you better control your stress levels.
Find yourself laughing hysterically or sobbing uncontrollably? If you're normally the even-keeled type, these emotional outbursts can be downright alarming. You aren't losing control or losing your mind, you're just experiencing the normal mood swings of pregnancy. Although this emotional lability may continue throughout pregnancy, it is typically strongest in the first trimester as you adjust to hormonal and other changes.
If you have a cat, try to hand over litter box duties to someone else. Toxoplasmosis, a parasitical infection passed on by infected cat feces (also by undercooked meat and infected unwashed raw vegetables), has the potential to cause brain damage and other medical problems in your unborn child. Cats also frequent gardens and sandboxes, so wear gloves, and wash your hands thoroughly after working outside.
Given the transformation your body is going through and the accompanying aches and pains, you have every right to be cranky. In fact, when you factor in your physical discomforts with the spectrum of emotions you're experiencing as motherhood approaches, you've got a license to be hell on wheels. Of course, no one is happy when that happens (just ask your partner), so take steps now to reduce your stress level and achieve some balance.
Stress and Stress Management
It's easy to get stressed out over what may seem like an overwhelming amount of preparation for your new family member. Your body is already working overtime on the development of your child; try to keep your commitments and activities at a reasonable level to prevent mental and physical overload.
Controlling outer stress is especially important when your pregnant body is under the physical stress of providing for a growing baby. And added psychological stress can make the discomforts of pregnancy last longer and feel more severe.
Some traditional stress control methods, such as relaxation techniques involving certain strenuous yoga positions or martial arts, are not appropriate for pregnant women. You should also not try fad diets, herbal preparations, or over-the-counter medications (which are generally not good stress control methods, in any case). When in doubt, check with your health care provider.
Anxiety may also impact your unborn child's health. An increase of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), a stress-related substance produced by the brain and the placenta, has been linked to preterm labor and low birth weight. Research has also suggested a possible connection between first-trimester maternal stress and congenital malformations.
As you rush to get everything just so, remember that your little one is not going to care if the crib matches the dresser, but he will feel the effects of your excess tension. Keeping the ups and downs of pregnancy in perspective is important. So is taking steps to decompress when you feel the pressure building.
Effective stress management involves finding the right technique for you. Relaxation and meditation techniques (for example, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga), adjustments to your work or social schedule, or carving out an hour of me time each evening to decompress are all ways you can lighten your load. Exercise is also a great stress control method, but be sure to get your doctor's approval regarding the level of exercise appropriate for you. (Review Chapter 1 for more on exercise and pregnancy.)