by Dr. Michael Roizen & Dr. Mehmet Oz
Finding the “Om” in “Mom”
Staying calm and stress-free throughout pregnancy
We think your mantra should be “just say know.” As you progressively understand what’s going on inside and around you, you can relax. Most of the time, your job is to just get out of the way and let this remarkable process work naturally. The most important thing to keep in mind is this: Most pregnancies turn out absolutely fine. Yes, absolutely fine.
Women’s bodies are designed to carry children safely and effectively. That doesn’t mean everything will be smooth sailing, but it does mean that the odds are greatly in your favor. If you can learn how to maximize your chances that nature runs the course it’s supposed to, then you increase those odds even further. So of all the things we want you to learn, finding the “om” in “mom” may be your most important.
Staying calmIn fact, staying calm during pregnancy has been shown repeatedly to have a positive influence on your child’s health. So we want you to take the pressure off of yourself and not to try to do it alone. The key is to have some support, regardless of whether you’re married (about 40 percent of children are born out of wedlock), in a relationship or flying solo. Your mother, sisters, friends, or even the internet buddies you meet on pregnancy websites like Health4Mom.org can all be part of your support system. Pregnant women have always relied on other women to support them and that social support has been linked to improved fetal growth.
Managing your pregnancy really comes down to one goal: managing your stress. We’re not just talking about stress management in the traditional bubble-bath way but in the big-picture way. How does your body cope with the stress of housing and growing what’s essentially a biological hitchhiker? How does your baby adapt to potentially stressful situations that he’ll face in utero? (“Jalapeno attack, nine o’clock!”) How do you calm your mind in the face of the normal and natural anxieties that often arise during these 9 months? How do you tell your mother-in-law that, no offense, but you prefer not to name your child Horatio Horace Humphrey?
Managing stressIt may help to think of pregnancy and stress as a hot-air balloon ride. The balloon fills up with air, which stresses the balloon as it stretches, just like the pressures of life. But the air is also what helps you get off the ground to see the world in ways you’ve never seen it before — to elevate you to a higher level of experience and appreciation.
Now, the challenge is to make sure that you have the right amount of air. Too much air (too much stress) and you lose sight and can’t see through the clouds; too little air, and you never get off the ground to experience the beauty of your journey. As much as we claim we want to ease stress in our lives, we also don’t want the opposite: to stay anchored to the ground and never see the world or enjoy the opportunities around us.
Following are our top tips on managing stress.
Tackle the problems head-onBeing the center of attention to all your family and friends can be a wonderful thing, but it can also be stressful as you try to manage the questions, issues and the family squabbling that come as surprising side effects of pregnancy. While massages and music can certainly help reduce the load, the only way to really manage the stressors is to deal with them and move on.
Diminish new mommy stressIf this is your first child, chances are that you feel a little anxious about how healthy the baby is going to turn out. Instead of obsessing about the big picture, you can reduce some of your anxiety by dealing with lots of little pictures by taking a baby basics class, make and keep regular play dates with other moms-to-be and plan for child care post-birth.
Beat long-term work stressIf you’re worried about how to deal with your job, it’s best to have the talk with your boss sooner rather than later. When you’re ready, tell your employer about your prenatal visits. Many women tell only one friend until after the first trimester is completed.
Ask how you can help manage the burden that will come when you’re on maternity leave. Because it won’t be easy for your coworkers, who may have to cover for you while you’re away, start lining up options a few months in advance. This kind of planning helps ease workplace worries and, in turn, makes it easier for you.
Deal with the short-termBesides the big picture of dealing with your job, there are also plenty of little nags that can eat at you during the day: you’re worried about resting, eating right, and so many other issues during a time when nobody may even know that you’re pregnant. Use your lunch hour to create 15-minute relaxation periods to calm and recharge you.
Stash healthful snacks in your desk to keep up your energy levels. Keep water on hand so your reflex response to irritation becomes sipping something that is good for you. Confide in one close colleague, if possible, before you tell the whole crew. To have one person who can understand why you need to go to the bathroom so often, for instance, can help ease the anxiety that comes from trying to hide your pregnancy from the entire office for the first few months.
ChillStress is detrimental to health regardless of gender. In pregnancy anxiety depletes the immune system. And in a situation that’s already fragile because of the immune changes your body’s going through, the added stress of, well, stress compromises your immunity even further. Moreover, stress puts you at risk of preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy) and increases your risk of going into preterm labor.
Now is a perfect time to try meditation and deep breathing. Find a surrogate worrier; someone who can sweat the small stuff. This is a great task for a husband, friend or mom who insists on helping with something. Find a buddy who’s been through it all before. Her experience and assurances will help take the edge off during some of your more worrisome moments.
Share this article: