Top Tips for Relaxing During Pregnancy

by Rallie McAllister and Jennifer Bright Reich

book coverPregnancy is an amazing journey, but it also can be a nerve-wracking one, filled with questions and concerns. Where can you get trusted, reassuring advice? The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy and Birth is written by a credentialed group of women medical experts. These moms enjoy talking about the celebrations of pregnancy, not just surviving its challenges. If a tip works for a doctor juggling her busy practice and home life, it more than likely will work for you, too!

Pregnancy Is Stressful!

Studies rank pregnancy at number 12 on the list of life's most stressful events. And of course the rest of your stress isn't going away anytime soon.

It's perfectly natural to worry about your growing baby. In fact, it's great training for parenthood. You might worry about your new role as a mother, how having a baby will impact your relationship with your partner or how you'll pay for college in 2028.

Decreasing Stress During Pregnancy

But stress isn't going to do you any favors in pregnancy. Ironically, stress can worsen just about every pregnancy symptom: aches and pains, headaches, heartburn, hives and nausea. Plus stress will suppress your immune system, which is already weakened by pregnancy. (Hello, cold and flu!)

There are many ways to decrease stress, such as taking deep breaths, listening to music, going for a walk, talking with a friend, sipping (decaf) tea, reading a book, gazing at a sunset and having a massage.

Take a moment to come up with a list of your top three stress relievers. If possible, come up with some you can do at the same time, such as listening to your favorite artist while taking a bubble bath and doing some deep breathing. Then when you feel stressed, that's your go-to place.

Medical Moms Share Their Tips

When I was pregnant with my first baby, I was living at the Farm, a commune in Tennessee. They have been delivering babies there with midwives for more than 35 years, and they have a C-section rate of less than 2 percent. We expected birth to go right, and so it did. I think that is key: When you expect something to go right, it more likely will.

- Stacey Marie Kerr, MD

Meditation is a huge part of my life. It gives me a buffer from reality. I have a fairly intense life, and I do a lot of listening. Sitting quietly in meditation allows my brain to rinse out like clothes in a washing machine. The chance to sit quietly and to learn to be an observer is a helpful skill in pregnancy -- and also in parenting. It helps you to be more receptive to what your kids are trying to say.

- Nancy Rappaport, MD

When I got pregnant with my first child, I was in my residency training. My husband and I weren't actually planning to get pregnant at that time. Because I was in the second year of a three-year residency program, I wasn't able to alter my work schedule. But I did try to rest as much as I could and take the best care of myself possible. Having a little time to myself is the best stress reliever for me. So I made time to exercise even if it was just taking a walk or doing yoga. That was very relaxing for me.

- Elissa Charbonneau, DO, a mom of an 18-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter and the medical director of the New England Rehabilitation Hospital in Portland, ME

During my pregnancy I tried not to worry too much about anything. This approach has served me very well. My approach to life is that I don't like having huge expectations. I like for life to surprise me! So before I got pregnant, I didn't try to imagine what it would be like to be pregnant, and before my baby was born, I didn't try to imagine what it would be like to be a mother. I figured I'd know soon enough.

- Ayala Laufer-Cahana, MD

During my pregnancies, I tried to minimize sources of anxiety as much as possible. One important thing that I did to help ease anxiety and relax during my pregnancies was to choose practitioners I felt could best serve me and meet my needs. I placed myself in the hands of people I felt most confident with in terms of their professionalism, clinical skills, and bedside manner. For example, if women see doctors in a large group practice, they aren't sure who exactly will be delivering their babies. I chose a midwife, and so I knew who would be delivering my baby. That took away one source of stress.

- Lauren Feder, MD

When to Call Your Doctor or Midwife

During pregnancy, your emotions might be on a wild roller-coaster ride. It's normal to have worries, doubts and fears. More than 70 percent of pregnant women experience mood swings while they're pregnant, especially during the first trimester. However, if you feel depressed for more than two weeks, call your doctor or midwife.

Excerpted from The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy and Birth

Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH is a board-certified family physician and nationally recognized health expert. Her syndicated newspaper column, Your Health, appears throughout the US and Canada. Dr. McAllister has been the featured medical expert on more than 100 TV and radio shows. She has three sons.

Jennifer Bright Reich is co-founder of Momosa Publishing. She is a writer and editor with more than 15 years of publishing experience. Jennifer has contributed to more than 150 books and published numerous magazine and newspaper articles. She has two sons.

Copyright © Rallie MaAllister and Jennifer Bright Reich. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.