The Importance of managing stress in pregnancy
How can you do this?
It is important to be aware of your body’s upcoming changes and know that some of these can present very early on, due to hormonal differences. The release of the hormone, relaxin, has a direct effect on the connective tissues of the joints (ligaments and tendons), helping the joints to relax, aiding the labour process. However, for some, this increase in joint movement can also increase friction at the joint surfaces - encouraging neighbouring muscles to go into a protective spasm. This is often seen in cases of SPD (symphysis pubis dysfunction). Being aware of this early in your pregnancy and focusing on strengthening major muscle groups such as your glutes and spinal stabilisers, can be hugely beneficial. Often, the best and easiest way to do this is through a Pilates class.
Do you know what type of connective tissue you have?
It is also very advantageous to be aware of your connective tissue type. But how would you know this? Some people are naturally more ‘mobile’ than others, tending to have more natural range of movement in their joints, usually due to increased collagen and elastin in their tissues. When this occurs in multiple joints, it can be known as ‘benign joint hypermobility syndrome’. Generally those with a looser type of connective tissue struggle more with the changes pregnancy presents and will benefit most from regular strengthening work. If you are unsure of your connective tissue type, an osteopath can examine you and advise accordingly.
Stress to the pelvic floor
The increased weight (up to 8kg!) placed on the pelvic floor by the foetus, placenta and surrounding tissues and fluids means your pelvic floor has a lot of work to do. Pelvic floor exercises are essential even in the early stages of pregnancy to maintain their strength and assist during labour. Many women find themselves forgetting to do these simple exercises, because they can be a tad boring. Osteopathy can help check you are doing these exercises correctly and help you fit them into your day, effortlessly – so no excuses!
As if these physical changes aren’t enough to contend with during the challenging months of pregnancy, the body has another gift for us – increased stress hormone levels. This hormone, cortisol, actually has a role in helping the foetus develop. However, on average a pregnant woman can expect her cortisol levels to rise by 2 to 4 times. It is therefore advisable to focus on keeping a healthy body and mind throughout these months. Regular exercise such as walking, swimming and yoga are gentle enough on the joints, but still great forms of cardiovascular exercises that will maintain muscular strength. Additionally, regular activity encourages the release of mood-enhancing and stress-busting chemicals called endorphins.
It wouldn’t be natural to go through a pregnancy without feeling some increase in stress from time to time, but if you do feel your stress levels rising for prolonged periods, be sure to make time for some activities you love such as spending time with friends.
Avoid stressing about your stress levels! There are many ways to manage the varied types of stress you may feel during your pregnancy. Make time to be kind to yourself.
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