COVID-19 can increase the stress level of pregnant women. Here is some advice to help reduce your stress level.
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April 21, 2020 | Being pregnant can, even under normal circumstances, be a source of stress and anxiety for certain women. With the current COVID-19 situation, this stress can increase considerably. Here are a few pieces of advice to get through this difficult period.
It is normal for pregnant women to feel stressed, right now. The uncertainty surrounding this virus and the social distancing measures that have been imposed create a lot of unease. Pregnancy monitoring, for one, has been considerably modified.
The current situation is the perfect recipe for increased stress levels: novelty, unexpectedness, feeling a lack of control and feeling threatened. It is, however, possible to learn to cope with this stress.
Managing stressful thoughts
It is important to separate real issues (Who will take care of my other children during my childbirth?) and sometimes unfounded worries (What if I got COVID-19 and transmit it to my baby?).
To achieve this, answer the following questions:
Is this fear based on facts?
How likely is it that this fear will become true?
Does this concern help me find a solution to a problem or does it paralyze me?
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. This will help you find the right solution while feeling in control.
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.” Concentrate your energy on what you can control and try to let go of what you cannot control.
Having a positive attitude is essential. Remember that you can manage your stress. If you need some convincing, just think of other difficult situations you have successfully managed. Another strategy is to think of three things that went well during your day.
Finally, be patient. Managing stress requires some practice. It is perfectly normal that it takes a little while before your anxiety level goes down.
Beware of Information Overload!
A study conducted in Québec has revealed that people who consume negative news produce more stress hormones than people who are exposed to neutral news. Too much information can exacerbate your perception of a threat and become paralyzing. Experts recommend that you should only watch the news once a day and for no more than two hours. You should also make sure that your news sources are reliable and credible.
Stress Management Strategies
Eliminating all sources of stress is impossible. Certain activities are helpful in reducing its negative effects.
- Adopting Health Habits
It is even more important while you are pregnant. The most important one is eating well. Physical exercise is a good way to get rid of your stress. Walking, stationary biking, and online yoga classes are a few examples of things you can do while in self-isolation and that are safe during your pregnancy. Finally, do not neglect your sleep.
- Talk About It
Share your feelings and concerns with your partner or someone close to you, a friend, a colleague or a family member, for example. While in self-isolation, you can use the phone, text messages or applications such as FaceTime or Skype. Ideally, you will talk to someone who has a positive influence in your life.
- Take Time to Relax
Try yoga or mindfulness techniques. There are some relaxation videos available online. Do not hesitate to take time alone if you can or if you need it.
- Do Things That Feel Good
Some activities such as reading or drawing can be very relaxing. Singing at the top of your head can also have a relaxing effect. If you can find some time for it, look into new hobbies: cooking, learning a foreign language or arts and crafts.
- Tackle Projects That You Were Postponing
Accomplishing something that is concrete can be very satisfying. You could, for example, prepare dishes ahead of time that will come in handy after you give birth. Preparing your baby’s room and clothes could also take your mind off of things.
If those strategies do not contribute to reducing your stress level and you still have difficulty functioning normally, talk to a mental health professional. Many offer remote services. You can also call the Info-Social 811 line. You will be able to talk with a psycho-social worker who will address your concerns and direct you to the appropriate resource, if necessary.
Sources: Centre de toxicomanie et de santé mentale (CAMH), Association des médecins psychiatres du Québec, Centre d’études sur le stress humain (CESH)
Kathleen Couillard—Naître et grandir
Scientific review: Nicole Reeves, psychologist, CHUM Birthing Centre