10 Truths About Stress & Pregnancy
There are a lot of myths surrounding pregnancy. Women who carry weight only in front are having a girl. Eating fewer citrus foods before conception guarantees a boy. Lots of nausea means the baby will have a lot of hair. But the biggest myth is the way we describe the pregnant woman: glowing
Think about the words we tend use when we describe pregnancy: radiant, blissful, serene, Madonna-like.
But is that accurate? Here are words that a pregnant woman posted on Google, when asked to describe how she felt: shocked, stressed, nervous, excited, worried, fearful, joyful, heartburn, gassy, constipated, nauseated, crazy, painful, tired, clumsy, fat, and anxious. Funny thing but "radiant" didn't appear once.
The frustrating thing is that pregnant women tend to post and blog about all the good stuff. In other words, you don't see a lot of Facebook posts about hemorrhoids.
Well, here's the scoop. Pregnancy can be tough. I work with many women who got pregnant after trying for a long time and they have high expectations of radiance and serenity. And seem shocked by the nausea and fatigue.
So here are some of the truths about the stresses of pregnancy, and what you can do in the face of whatever difficulties you may be facing ...
1. It is totally normal to feel ambivalent about being pregnant, even if this was a highly planned baby. Becoming a parent can change a lot of things in your life and it is to be expected that moments of regret for the good old days are going to happen.
2. Feeling nauseous, tired and having to pee all the time aren't the only common symptoms. Insomnia is extremely common, leading to fatigue and irritability. Leg cramps, heartburn, unbelievable gassiness, and back pain are frequent complaints as well. The one good thing is that they are temporary.
3. Many pregnant women expect to feel happy and fulfilled all the time. The fact is, anxiety and depression are very common during pregnancy. There are many effective ways to feel better including exercise, acupuncture, and even couples massage. Cognitive-behavior therapy is highly effective during pregnancy as well.
4. Your partner may or may not act as invested in the pregnancy as you are. Until he/she can feel the baby kicking, it is a totally abstract experience for the person who is not carrying the baby.
5. New research has shown that baby boomers may not be as excited about becoming grandparents as their children would like them to be. They are too busy and vibrant in their own lives. So if the grandparents-to-be aren't dropping everything in their lives with offers to move closer and baby-sit, don't take it personally.
6. Your single friends may not express much, if any, enthusiasm, about your pregnancy. (This may also be true about your friends experiencing trouble getting pregnant). We tend to bond with people who have similar experiences and your pregnancy means you are moving out of their comfort zone.
7. It can be challenging for many women to feel out of control of their bodies during pregnancy. You start popping out in all sorts of places, in addition to your belly, and this can bring up some old or not so old body image issues. The key is to remember that your body is building a baby, and when construction is over, you get your body back.
8. People are intrusive. They may touch your belly without permission, ask about the gender of the baby, and offer unsolicited advice about baby names. Don't get offended, be clear about your personal boundaries, and try to focus on feeling flattered that they are interested in your baby.
9. Remember that your boss may be conflicted about your pregnancy. He/she may be personally happy for you, but since their first priority is the department or company, your maternity leave likely poses a managerial challenge. Especially if you have vocalized uncertainty about coming back to work after the baby is born. Don't feel offended if important assignments go to others or if he/she seems uncomfortable around you. A lot of men seem generally uncomfortable around pregnant women. Guess because it's proof that you had sex!
10. Even though you may be focusing a lot of your time and attention on the baby during your pregnancy, you might well be tired of that and long for the times you could be unaccompanied and unrestricted. Instead of focusing on what you can't do during the pregnancy, focus instead on what you can: movies, binge watching TV shows, sleeping late, uninterrupted dinners, you name it.
Pregnancy is in fact a miracle. I still miss the feeling of my daughters' kicks and hiccups. But I don't miss the nausea and insomnia!
Try to focus on what you can enjoy during this amazing period in your life, remember that the unpleasant symptoms will disappear with the baby's arrival, and don't feel guilty if you aren't feeling marvelous.
Alice D. Domar, PhD, is a practicing psychologist and the author of the new book, Finding Calm for the Expectant Mom (Tarcher, August 30, 2016). She is an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology, part-time, Harvard Medical School, the director of integrative care at Boston IVF and the executive director of the Domar Centers for Mind/Body Health.
Photo credit: Peacock Photography.