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Stress, Pregnancy and COVID-19

These are stressful times for everybody. Pregnancy and childbirth under normal circumstances can be stressful enough. Over the last few weeks we have been inundated with information about the pandemic COVID-19 virus. Generally I am a very calm person when it comes to things like this. However, I have even found myself feeling on edge. Toilet paper and infant formula shortages. School and restaurant closures. Loss of income for some. Panic is contagious. Add all this to being pregnant or having just given birth and the stress shoots through the roof.

So much is unknown about this virus and how it affects pregnant women and nursing babies. Uncertainty and conflicting/changing information can be very unnerving. What we DO know is that stress can have adverse effects on everyone but even more so in pregnancy. Fetal cortisol (stress hormone) has been shown to increase along with maternal cortisol. You can read more here.

I don't want to make you feel more stressed by sharing this with you but to provide you with some tools to help minimize your stress and help you cope in these difficult times. They are tools I use all the time with my clients.

Breathe: Nice deep slow breaths with your exhale longer than your inhale and a pause at the end of the exhale. Doing this with your eyes closed can boost the effect of the breath work by shutting out a potentially overstimulating environment.

Reframe the experience: Someone told me once that our body's sensations are the same whether we're nervous or excited. She suggested that when we're nervous about something we could find a way to be excited about it instead. Nervous = negative. Excited = positive. Not long after that conversation I was to go to a business meeting in which I knew no one. I was very nervous because talking to strangers puts my stomach in knots. I decided to apply this principle. I thought about how exciting it would be to share about my business with other people and the potential of gaining new clients as a result. It was a much more positive drive to the meeting and I was able to be excited and nailed my presentation to them rather than stuttering in agony. I am not suggesting that there is anything positive about COVID-19. However, if we can focus on something positive it will reduce our stress. Even just one word can make all the difference: I have to stay home vs I get to stay home to work. Did you notice the shift in emotion as you read that last sentence?

Massage, Chiropractic and Acupuncture: These modalities can be very helpful for relaxation. Thankfully these providers are still providing their services here in Helena.

Gentle Exercise: The weather is fantastic right now to get outside, even if it's just a 10 minute walk. The fresh air and exercise will do wonders for your mental health.

Eat Well: Thankfully in spite of the shortage of some items at the grocery store, there is still plenty of fresh produce and other nutritious foods. Now more than ever it's important to nourish your immune system.

Ask for Help: This is especially important if you have a newborn. I have availability in my schedule for postpartum support and would be happy to include you in my support.

Get more Sleep: With so much closed and the fact that you may be working from home, hopefully there will be more time for rest and sleep. I know we have enjoyed the later mornings with school being out.

Hire a Doula: Perhaps more than ever a doula can lower your stress level through pregnancy and birth. My main focus for every client no matter their situation is to help them stay calm because fear causes increased perception of pain. It is very reassuring to have someone continuously at your side who understands the process and is comfortable with it. We are very fortunate here in Helena that the nursing management at St. Peter's hospital values the role of the doula. In some areas, hospitals, as they restrict visitors,

are not allowing doulas to attend their clients on the labor and delivery units during this national emergency . I am so glad that our hospital recognizes that we are not "visitors". Doulas are valuable members of the birth team.

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