Pregnancy is a wonderful, special, and magical experience to be cherished.
Until you’re pregnant, right? And then reality sets in and, although it is all the above, it is also stressful, uncomfortable, painful, and emotional. You must suddenly learn to cope with all the pregnancy symptoms that you experience as well as the changes in day-to-day lifestyle and all the changes your body is going through!
Sometimes, the last thing you’re able to do whilst pregnant is relax.
Relaxing while pregnant has a lot of physical and mental benefits, both to you and your baby, but it is also important to try to relax more when pregnant because your pregnant body is working harder than normal.
Learning how to relax during pregnancy and practicing certain relaxation techniques can also help you when it comes to dealing with contractions and labour further down the line, too.
Why you should relax more when pregnant
Pregnant women often worry about whether they’re doing everything right, what they’re going to do when the baby’s born, how they’re going to cope, as well as stressing about difficult it is being pregnant at times – all the changes in your body, aches and pains, mobility issues etc. can affect you.
An increase in stress releases an increase in a hormone called cortisol into your bloodstream.
Cortisol is a perfectly normal and helpful hormone that helps regulate things like your blood pressure, blood sugar, suppresses inflammation and helps control how your body uses fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
But an increase in cortisol levels over time can lead to a weakened immune system, increased blood pressure, impair your sleep cycle by increasing cortisol levels in the evening when they’re normally at a lower level, and can keep your body in a continuous state of ‘high alert’ – which isn’t good or healthy.
Aside from the fact that relaxing more whilst you’re pregnant will help deal with tiredness, stress, and anxiety, relaxation also helps to combat negative thoughts and improve mental wellbeing during pregnancy. Negative thoughts, overwhelm, anxiety, emotional distress, depression, these are all common mental health issues that affect women in pregnancy and relaxing more, while it may not eradicate these issues entirely, can help reduce them.
Prolonged stress and an increase in cortisol levels can affect your baby too. Cortisol can travel through your bloodstream and into your baby via the placenta. This can lead to an increased chance of premature birth, underweight baby, preeclampsia, postnatal developmental delays, and miscarriage.
Now, we’re not talking about the usual increase in stress levels that practically all pregnant women experience – normally, this does not pose a significant risk. The risks mentioned above are more associated with prolonged, severe stress. But there’s no harm in reducing your overall stress levels during pregnancy and practicing a little relaxation – it can only benefit you and your baby after all.
Tips for relaxing during pregnancy
We’ve compiled the following list of ways to help you relax during pregnancy in the hopes that you find some of them useful, allowing you to destress and chill out as often as possible.
Exercise during pregnancy
Exercise is well known to help you destress and improve your mental health – not to mention keeping you fit and healthy, physically.
But exercise has numerous benefits during pregnancy too. Exercising when pregnant can help reduce back pain, bloating, swelling, and constipation. It can increase your energy levels and improve your mood. It can help you to sleep better at night. It can help you prepare for labour by staying in shape and can even help to shorten your labour. Exercise also helps lower the risk of gestational diabetes and needing a C-section.
Now, it may not be safe to exercise during pregnancy if you are in a high-risk category, and we would advise speaking to a medical professional before starting any new exercise regime. But walking and swimming are fairly safe methods for getting your daily exercise in, as well as yoga and Pilates.
Pregnancy massages, aromatherapy, reflexology, home spa treatments
There are numerous complimentary therapies available that can help you relax and many of the outlets that provide these therapies have specialist pregnancy services available too.
Aromatherapy can help reduce stress and anxiety during pregnancy as well as increase relaxation. Just be careful about which oils you use during pregnancy as many are not suitable for use when pregnant – seek a professionally trained aromatherapists opinion if you’re looking to use some at home.
Reflexology uses pressure points on your feet that correspond with different areas of your body, even specific organs, and can help to relieve anxiety, stress, and other issues commonly associated with pregnancy.
And, of course, who doesn’t love a good, gentle massage? Many professional massage parlours offer pregnancy massages from fully trained maternity masseuses as a service too.
There are also many ways to enjoy a relaxing home spa treatment – face masks, a nice bath, a few scented candles, some nice soothing music – the options are endless – literally whatever helps you relax.
Talk about your pregnancy problems
Being open and talking through your pregnancy worries with your partner, family, friends, medical professionals, can help lower your anxiety levels. Not only that, but it can often lead to getting a little extra help that will continue to lower your stress and anxiety over time too.
There are plenty of helplines, mums’ groups, online chat forums etc for pregnant and new mums, so if you’re unable to talk to anyone close to you, reach out there instead. Your midwife or healthcare professional should be able to point you in the right direction.
Mumsnet.com is a great resource for information from parents for parents and there is a multitude of topics being discussed at any one time, so feel free to reach out on there for someone to talk to or advice on anything you’re worried about. For example, here’s 139 results under pregnancy relaxation.
Eat well during pregnancy
Healthy eating during pregnancy can help improve your mood as well as the obvious benefits of improved health for you and your growing baby.
By eating certain protein rich foods, you can increase tryptophan levels, which is an amino acid that helps with growth and development of your baby during pregnancy. Tryptophan also produces niacin, which is integral to the production of serotonin – your body’s natural mood stabilizer, which helps reduce anxiety, depression, heal wounds, maintain healthy bones, and improve your overall mood.
Eating a well-balanced, nutritional diet during pregnancy will help you produce the nutrients your baby needs and help the baby grow in a healthy way. A good diet also reduces your (and your baby’s) risk of certain health conditions and complications during pregnancy.
Check out our healthy recipe page for great tasting and healthy dishes to whip up during pregnancy.
Go on, you deserve it!
Treats help give you an instant boost to your mood so make sure you treat yourself every now and again.
Related to the above tip but worthy of its own, dark chocolate is great for increasing serotonin levels – a little piece of dark chocolate with 85% or higher cocoa content every day can help improve your mood and decrease your stress levels.
Watch a funny or feel-good movie with a friend or by yourself. It can help lighten your mood.
Hang out with friends and laugh together.
Enjoy a nice warm bubble bath.
Even a slice of cake or an indulgent treat won’t do you any harm in moderation.
The mental health benefits of getting outdoors in nature are well known. The great outdoors can help boost your mood, lower anxiety, reduce depression, improve wellbeing, make you feel more relaxed, and more.
But getting outdoors during pregnancy is not just good for your mental health – it has many benefits to your physical health too. Being outdoors in nature more often will give you more exposure to the sun, which will increase your Vitamin D intake. It will give you multi-sensory stimulation, you’ll breath cleaner air, environmental microbe exposure can help with digestion and the immune system.
Getting outdoors can help improve your sleep patterns too, as the exposure to natural light can help improve your body’s internal clock functionality, helping you regulate your sleep cycle better.
Maybe you used to jam as much as you possibly could into your days, weeks, or months before you were pregnant. Maybe you hit the gym 5 times a week. Maybe you were able to carry a week’s food shop up a flight of stairs by yourself.
But be realistic with yourself. Be realistic about how much you can do or whether you’re feeling up to doing something.
It is perfectly acceptable to say no when you’re pregnant (or otherwise!). If you’ve been invited out by friends but you’re not feeling up to it, it’s ok to turn them down – you need to take care of yourself.
It’s also perfectly ok to ask for help. Need a hand with the shopping or don’t feel like you can cope with doing a weekly shop, just ask if someone would mind doing it for you. Need something doing but you’re unable to do it yourself? Ask for help. If you’re pregnant and you already have children, it’s ok to ask for help looking after them.
Everyone around you will understand. It will be fine.
And, if you are struggling with stress and anxiety in pregnancy, it is ok to reach out and ask for help. Talk to a medical professional, such as your midwife, or friends and family. Or there are plenty of charities out there that can help and have a wealth of information available, like Tommy’s – the pregnancy charity, who’s aim is to make the UK the safest place in the world to give birth.
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