I recently learned about the book Stress Solutions for Pregnant Moms: How Breaking Free from Stress Can Boost Your Baby’s Potential, by Susan Andrews, PhD. It is hot off the presses (as of May of this year), and is chock full of helpful guidelines for pregnant moms to help assess your daily stress levels, checklists of warning signs of too much stress, a formula to calculate how much stress reduction and relaxation you personally need each day to keep in balance, and a pretty comprehensive resource guide to lower cortisol levels.
Frankly, even if you’re not female, a mom, or expecting, this is an excellent resource, since stress is way too prevalent in our everyday lives! And as we age, and continue to fully engage in life, cortisol levels can rise, due to stress, and give you the fabled gut (often referred to as the glorious “beer gut”.) We need more ways to manage our stress. And, of course, acupuncture and reiki are excellent ways to bring us back into our body, rather than function at the surface “fight-or-flight” mode that stress can bring out in us! And, the author states something that I’ve seen something of very often in my practice, “To a large extent, the negative consequences of stress are directly due to a busy mind.” (p. 28) Acupuncture and reiki are vital ways to quiet the mental chatter in our minds, which help us to embrace our lives more fully.
I treat a lot of pregnant patients, and although the joys of new motherhood abound, there is often a lot of worry: is my baby healthy, developing normally, arriving on time? Or perhaps there’s morning sickness, lower back and hip pain, swollen ankles, the challenge of self-esteem while gaining weight more than usual, among other things. There’s emerging evidence that links too much stress during pregnancy to a higher risk for childhood emotional, physical, and behavioral problems, including preterm birth, ADHD, and learning disabilities.
We are only starting to recognize now that effects of stress is harmful to our own bodies, and, possibly even more so to the lives in utero, who are vulnerable and still developing. In fact, the author mentions that the “information in this book is equal to – if not more important than – the well-recognized warnings for expecting mothers to avoid alcohol and stop smoking. Yes, dealing effectively with stress, especially while you are pregnant, is that crucial to you, your baby, and our future.” (p. 4) Hefty words? Most definitely! True? Yes. Because it is the social norm to cut ourselves from smoking and alcohol during pregnancy, but we are still expected to push through our workday, perform, excel, and still be highly productive, at the expense of our sanity!
One of the things I found interesting was that the book mentions a study from the Department of Psychology at Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, which reported a relationship between a pregnant mother’s high or chronic levels of stress and symptoms of ADD/ADHD, childhood anxiety, and other behavioral problems developing as her child gets older. They found that the mothers who reported more anxiety during the early part of their pregnancies were more likely to have overly active, hard-to-manage, and anxious children. “None of the other factors – such as smoking during pregnancy, the child’s birth weight, the mother’s educational level, and whether or not the mother was anxious after the birth (postnatal anxiety) – predicted the development of childhood problems as well as prenatal stress and anxiety did.” (pp. 76-77)
So, what does a pregnant mom-to-be do to combat stress? The book suggests working with breathing, music, stopping the mental chatter (they suggest prayer, meditations, daily check-ins with oneself, to start), physical activity (exercises, yoga, and enjoying nature), and pampering, to start. And, speaking as a licensed acupuncturist and reiki practitioner, get thee to the table and get your qi and energy rebalancing on!
It all starts with awareness. Like Schoolhouse Rock would say, “Because knowledge is power!”
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