Too much stress can lead to a preterm birth

Trying not to feel stressed when you're pregnant can feel impossible, since your pregnancy will probably be one of the most stressful times in your life. But it's not healthy to feel anxious for nine months straight, and there are a few ways you can minimize the stress you feel. A nice walk or meditation can put you at ease, and the support of friends and family can do a lot to comfort a troubled mind.

Staying calm is important to your health and your child's, too. According to a recent study from Emory University's Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, chronic stress may lead to preterm birth. Researchers wanted to explain why minority and low-income women experienced greater rates of early births than mothers from a Caucasian or more affluent background, and discovered a difference in the level of stress hormones among the groups.

The stress hormone cortisol and inflammation are associated with preterm birth, as well as conditions like hypertension, diabetes and even miscarriages. While cortisol usually stops inflammation from getting out of hand, the body will quit responding to the chemical when it endures constant exposure.

Those women who reported low stress levels were able to control inflammation, while highly stressed minority and low-income mothers were found to have trouble managing the problem.

"This health disparity appears related to the exposure of minority and low-income women to chronic stress, which wears on the health of these women prior to pregnancy as well as during and after pregnancy," noted Elizabeth Corwin, Ph.D., associate dean for research at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.

However, researchers stated the further study would be required to explain why 30,000 more African-American babies are prematurely born than Caucasian infants.

Stress may lead to other problems in your child
The Emory study also noted that chronic stress can lead to behavioral problems during a child's early years. The University of Edinburgh recently linked the condition with kids suffering from depression, according to the Telegraph. While a placental barrier exists that protects your child from hormones during fetal development, this filter can be faulty.

Curiously, eating licorice was also found to reduce the barrier's effectiveness. The university's study found a connection between mothers who ate large amounts of the candy and increased rates of anxiety in their children.

While you should try and minimize the amount of stress you feel during your first trimester, the source reported that your child's at most risk during the later stages of your pregnancy. Researchers found that children have a 16 percent greater chance of enduring post-traumatic stress-like symptoms if exposed to high levels of stress during the second trimester, and a 30 percent greater chance during the third trimester.

However, scientists may have found a molecule that can let doctors know when you're suffering from unhealthy levels of stress and let them treat it accordingly.

How did you manage stress during your pregnancy? What did you worry about while you were expecting? Please let us know!