by Beth Heller, MS RYT
As I’ve said before, it took me seven years and five pregnancies to get two kids. So, while pregnancy was a joyful time for me on some levels, it was also a time of stress and sleepless anxiety. In fact my business partner Tami will often joke that my pregnancies were some of the most stressful times of her life. Honestly, though, without yoga, massage and acupuncture I think I would have bitten my fingernails to the quick waiting for Jackson and Calvin to arrive safely. What I didn’t know then was that seeking relief for anxiety through holistic means was also good for my boys. A growing body of clinical evidence now suggests that prenatal stress, depression and/or anxiety is linked to adverse health outcomes for both moms and babies including preterm birth, preeclampsia and even future risk of chronic disease and obesity (1).
Women, especially women who have struggled to conceive, may feel guilty about experiencing anxious emotions during this “blissful” time. Yet preparing for a new baby, no matter how hard one had to work to get it, can be stressful. Changes in the body during pregnancy, including the strains of a growing belly and nighttime muscle cramps, can also disrupt sleep, which increases stress. Rather than worry about worrying, we suggest you take the bull by the horns and enjoy a 360 degree self-care program during pregnancy. And honestly, it will never again be as easy to justify self-care like acupuncture, massage and yoga as it is when your efforts are a “double-dip” – good for mom and great for baby.
Here are several strategies for decreasing maternal stress and improving overall well-being during pregnancy:
1. Get acupuncture. A 2010 study in Obstetrics and Gynecology found that acupuncture treatment alleviated symptoms of stress and depression in pregnant women and women experiencing infertility (2, 3). Acupuncture has also been shown to be effective at managing morning sickness, back and pelvic pain and labor pain. Make sure, however, that you see a practitioner who is experienced in treating pregnancy.
2. Do prenatal yoga. Compared to controls, women who did prenatal yoga experienced significant reductions in physical pain from baseline to postintervention compared with women in the third trimester whose pain increased. Women in the yoga group showed greater reductions in perceived stress and trait anxiety in their third trimester than women from the control group (4) The same women also experienced better sleep and less wakefulness (5).
3. Get prenatal massage. Research shows that women who received prenatal massage reported decreased depression, anxiety, and leg and back pain. Cortisol levels decreased, which decreased excessive fetal activity; the rate of baby prematurity was also lower (6).
4. Seek expert prenatal nutrition counseling. There are specific nutritional strategies for managing weight gain, avoiding conditions like Gestational Diabetes and Pre-eclampsia and improving digestion (less heartburn, avoid constipation). At Pulling Down the Moon we target our prenatal nutrition consults based on trimester.
Our Prenatal Passport is an excellent way to surround yourself with support and expert prenatal wellness care. The Prenatal Passport includes your Initial Acupuncture Consultation, one Pregnancy Massage and a two-session Prenatal Nutrition Package as well as a free 3-session package of our “Divine” Prenatal Yoga class visits for just $372.00 – (Divine yoga currently available in Chicago only) which represents a savings of almost $150! The Prenatal Passport also make a great gift. Gift certificates are available at our online store shop.pullingdownthemoon.com.
1. Entringer S et al. Prenatal stress and developmental programming of human health and disease risk: concepts and integration of empirical findings. Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2010 Dec;17(6):507-16.
2. Smith CA. 1. SMith The effect of acupuncture on psychosocial outcomes for women experiencing infertility. J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Oct;17(10):923-30. Epub 2011 Oct 6.
3. Manber et al. Acupuncture for depression during pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Mar;115(3):511-20.
4. Beddoe AE et al. The effects of mindfulness-based yoga during pregnancy on maternal psychological and physical distress. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2009 May-Jun;38(3):310-9.
5. Beddoe AE et al. Effects of mindful yoga on sleep in pregnant women: a pilot study. Biol Res Nurs. 2010 Apr;11(4):363-70.
6. Field, T. (2010). Pregnancy and labor massage therapy. Expert Review of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 5, 177-181.