You’re pregnant, working full-time, taking care of family and friends, dealing with a pandemic, and struggling to balance it all while feeling exhausted and trying to survive morning sickness. Sound familiar? If you’re nodding your head going, “Yes, OMG I’m dealing with all of this” you’re not alone, but you’re probably feeling pretty stressed. Could it be possible that all these high levels of stress are causing your difficult pregnancy symptoms?
What are normal symptoms in pregnancy?
There are normal discomforts that come with pregnancy – morning sickness, fatigue, headaches, back pain, heartburn, and more. You’ve probably heard your friends, family, and doctors saying that what you’re feeling is just par for the course. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes there’s a different underlying cause that’s not being addressed, especially when difficult symptoms continue beyond an expected time or become debilitating.
What is the impact of stress?
Experiencing high levels of stress over a longer period of time is called chronic stress. This condition can actually cause a lot of the same symptoms associated with pregnancy, such as:
- Nausea and digestive issues
- Difficulty concentrating
- Aches and pains
- Feeling irritable
- Mood swings
- Constantly thinking or worrying. Can’t shut your brain off
- High blood pressure
In addition to all this, chronic stress in pregnancy can cause preterm labor and impact your baby’s health.
These symptoms can often be mistaken for normal pregnancy ailments. But they can also, in turn, cause more stress and create a cycle of anxiety tied to physical health issues. What you feel is valid and there is a reason behind it.
If you’re experiencing difficult pregnancy symptoms due to chronic stress, there are ways to relieve these symptoms, feel healthier, and enjoy your pregnancy.
You’ve seen the words repeated in articles and said multiple times in your OB or Midwife’s office – folic acid, folate, folic acid, folate. These words are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. So, what is the difference between the two and what’s the craziest hidden benefit of folate vs folic acid for mom and baby?
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What is folic acid and folate?
Folate and folic acid are names for vitamin B9, an essential vitamin our bodies need for healthy cell and DNA growth. When we consume vitamin B9, our bodies need to convert it into the active form of B9 called levomefolic acid as it enters our bloodstream. While both names refer to the same vitamin, there is a key difference.
Folate is a naturally occurring form of B9, while folic acid is a synthetic form.
So, which is better?
Because folate is natural, our bodies convert most of it into that active form in our bloodstream. We need to get the true benefit of the vitamin. However, the body cannot break down and convert most of the folic acid in the bloodstream. So, it stays there for longer until it can get processed in the liver. This results in a possible build up of folic acid in the body, which can cause health issues like increasing the risk of cancer.
I wonder why they even sell it, especially to pregnant women.
The benefit of folate far exceeds that of folic acid.
Why do I need folate during pregnancy?
Pregnant people need folate especially to prevent birth abnormalities like neural tube defects, which have been linked to low levels of vitamin B9.
You can get folate through a supplement and by eating dark, leafy greens like spinach and brussel sprouts.
Pregnancy can be stressful. While some pregnant people feel calm throughout all three trimesters, others are not as lucky. If you’re like me, struggling to relax and feeling the physical symptoms of stress, you may be wondering what steps to reduce stress while pregnant you can take.
Stress can make us feel horrible in general. It can cause headaches, nausea, difficulty concentrating, and more. During pregnancy, stress can lead to the same symptoms that may be written off as common pregnancy ailments. But you don’t have to accept this suffering. There are plenty of steps you can take to reduce your stress and the symptoms that come with it.
Step 1: Find Your Triggers
There are many factors that can lead to moderate and high levels of stress like work, family, finances, environment, grief, food, and big life changes such as pregnancy.
Identifying where your stress is coming from is key to undoing it and reducing stress while pregnant. Sit down, make a list of everything that’s on your mind. Reflect on your environment, relationships, and career. What is making you feel anxious?
Step 2: Practice Stress Reduction Techniques
Stress will not go away on its own. Instead, it will fester and increase the severity of symptoms over time.
So, it’s important to practice stress reduction techniques like mindfulness and self-care. That’s why I created my 5 Day Pregnancy De-Stress Challenge. Every day starting October 18, participants will receive a self-care activity that will let them indulge in relaxation and ease pregnancy discomforts from stress (It’s not too late to sign up! Click here to join or sign up below).
Step 3: Make a Plan
Incorporating stress reduction techniques and self-care will help minimize and cope with symptoms of stress. However, the root of the issue (your stress trigger) may still exist. Perhaps your trigger is a situation that isn’t easily fixed or is long-term. That’s okay. It’s natural to be overwhelmed. But, you can still make a plan either with your partner, family, health coach, care provider, etc to take actionable steps for coping or working toward solving what’s causing your stress.
So, here it is – three steps to reduce stress while pregnant. De-stressing isn’t always easy and doesn’t happen overnight. But learning to put your well-being first, can make a difference.
If your stress leads to feelings of depression or severe anxiety, it’s never too late to consult a maternal mental health professional for help.
Common Plus Size Pregnancy Discomforts
Pregnancy, while a wonderfully joyous time, can also be full of stress and physical discomforts. Our bodies are drastically changing by the moment to accommodate the little life growing inside. If you were expecting that gorgeous pregnancy glow, only to be spending a lot more face time with your toilet, you are not alone. I thought I would feel like a goddess, but instead I had extreme nausea, fatigue, and aches and pains. Also, as a plus size mom my discomfort was even higher because of the extra weight I gained during pregnancy. What I didn’t know then was that there are solutions that could have helped ease these discomforts. So, here are 3 common plus size pregnancy discomforts and the remedies to help you.
Ah, yes. The oft-spoke about morning sickness. Some are lucky to not experience much nausea or vomiting in the first trimester. If you’re not one of those people (I feel you), here are some things you can do:
- Eat small, frequent meals. (Tip: we often crave carbs when we’re nauseous. Opt for whole wheat or whole grain options to avoid simple, sugary carbs. Plus, whole grains have more fiber! See below for why that’s an added bonus)
- Take vitamin B6. Several studies have shown that this essential B vitamin significantly decreases nausea and vomiting in pregnant women. In fact, vitamin B6 makes up 50% of the ingredients of a popular prescription for nausea and vomiting for pregnant women, Diclegis. **Ask your doctor before taking any supplements**
- Wear motion-sickness wristbands.
- Sip clear fluids. Sugar-free flavored or plain seltzer is a great go-to. I LOVED using my S’well bottle during pregnancy. It kept my drink cold all day long. Luckily, S’well is having a Labor Day Sale: 25% off sitewide! Valid 9/2-9/6. Take advantage while you can!
Baby is growing, which means you are too! Our muscles are being stretched and pulled in all different directions and the baby is getting heavier every week, so it’s only natural to be feeling achy. You don’t have to grin and bear it. You deserve to be as comfortable as possible. Here are my suggestions:
- Prenatal yoga. If you can, prenatal yoga classes help keep our muscles strong, our bodies balanced, our stress lower, and our muscles stretched. **Ask your doctor which types of exercise are right for you and your pregnancy**
- Prenatal massage. Get pampered, mama! After the first trimester, it is generally considered safe to get a prenatal massage from a qualified masseuse. Or ask your partner or friend to give you a light massage.
- Belly support. As your belly grows, we can start to feel more back and ligament pain. Buying a belly band or having your doula or midwife assist you with belly wrapping (either with cloth or tape) can help your body better support your baby’s weight, and ultimately, help ease those pains.
- Drink more water. Hydration helps those crampy muscles.
- Warmth. A warm bath or compress on the area that’s bothering you could help give you relief
- Maternity pillow. This is worth the investment. The further along we get, especially in the third trimester, the more uncomfortable we may feel and the harder it is to sleep at night. Having a maternity pillow to cradle your belly and cushion between your legs, taking the pressure off your spine, can make your nights, and days, more comfortable.
Our babies need a lot of room, which means our intestines have much less room. Constipation can cause A LOT of discomfort in your lower belly. The bloating, the cramping – the struggle is real. Here are my tips to get things moving:
There are many solutions and alternatives to try to ease common plus size pregnancy discomforts. Sometimes it’s a matter of trial and error, but the most important thing is helping you be as comfortable as possible.
Isolation can be a real trigger for depression, especially since so many of us are now practicing social distancing and self quarantine because of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Pregnant and new moms, in particular, can be at-risk of prenatal and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). Just because we’re stuck home, doesn’t mean we have to do it all alone!
While things will return to normal eventually, here are five things you can do today to help prevent isolation depression and anxiety.
1. Virtual Support
Many birth workers and care providers are adapting to the current situation by providing virtual support via web chat. There are apps that provide chat and over-the-phone access to therapists. You can look for a pregnancy or postpartum support group online, like this one from The Nesting Place.
Birth and postpartum doulas are also offering online care. I’m still able to chat with clients, show them newborn care basics, help with lactation, and provide emotional support and encouragement. If you’re interested in getting a postpartum doula virtually, contact me.
You can also talk to friends and family members via Skype, Facetime, Facebook chat, or on the phone to avoid feeling alone.
2. Get Some Fresh Air
If you’re able, sit outside in your backyard or balcony for a while. Get some fresh air and Vitamin D. Just getting outside, without running into other people, can be so refreshing and uplifting. If you live in an apartment and can’t leave, but the weather isn’t too chilly, try opening the windows for a little while. Let in the sunshine. Take in its warmth for a moment. Nature can offer some relief.
Get those endorphins pumping! If you’re pregnant or in postpartum and cleared for gentle exercise, stream some prenatal workouts on YouTube. Prenatal yoga and meditation can be calming. You don’t have to exercise all day, but even twenty minutes can make a big difference in how we feel. If you’re new to yoga, check out this YouTube workout for beginners.
Reading is a total immersive experience that’s good for your brain! Stories can transport you out of your current environment. According to a study by Emory University, reading activates neurons in the brain that create a sensation of not just reading about the action of the book, but experiencing the sensations it is describing. You are figuratively and biologically put in the shoes of another. This is called grounded cognition.
Reading can also help to calm the mind and help it focus if you’re feeling anxious.
5. Find and List Resources
Sometimes just being prepared helps us feel more calm and in control. Do some research on local and other online resources you may want to use during this time like restaurants that are still doing delivery, your care providers’ emergency numbers and assistance programs in your area. You don’t have to use any of these if you don’t need to, but having a list of people to call may help you feel more connected. Many of us are isolated at this moment. It’s important to remember that there are networks of people in every community that are still out there to help you.
Sending you love through this difficult time!