How stress related to COVID-19 can affect your pregnancy

For most expectant moms, pregnancy can be an exciting time—and a slightly stressful time. Now, the coronavirus (COVID-19) is creating added stress for moms before, during and after pregnancy.

You may have questions or concerns about delivering your baby or bringing your baby home during this crisis, or you may be upset that your family and friends aren’t able to see you and your baby because of social distancing guidelines. Feeling isolated and fearing the unknown are issues facing millions of women right now. You may be wondering how to keep yourself and your baby safe, how to get enough food safely or what to do if you or your partner has lost a job. You are not alone in feeling scared or stressed.

How can stress affect your pregnancy?

High levels of stress that continue for a long time may cause health problems, including:

What are the signs of stress during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, the symptoms of stress can include:

  • Changes in how much you eat
  • Not sleeping well
  • Crying or tearfulness
  • Feeling nervous
  • Not acting like yourself
  • Not being able to concentrate
  • Feeling overly afraid or worried about your pregnancy or delivery

What can you do to relieve stress?

Babies born too soon or too small are at increased risk for health problems. If possible, take steps to reduce the stress in your life. Here are some ideas:

Taking care of yourself

  • Take a shower every day and change from pajamas into daytime clothes every day.
  • Open your curtains or blinds to bring sunlight into the room.
  • Drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated.
  • Eat healthy foods, get plenty of sleep and exercise (with your provider’s OK and while keeping at least 6 feet distance from others).
  • Take time to enjoy the outdoors safely.
  • Cut back on activities you don’t need to do. For example, ask your partner to help with chores around the house. 
  • Make a list of the things that you are thankful for in your life.

Try out new things

  • Try a new recipe or enjoy a special healthy food treat.
  • Try relaxation activities, like prenatal yoga or meditation. They can help you manage stress and prepare for labor and birth.
  • Try a new hobby, such as playing an instrument, learning a language, or reading. You also may enjoy decorating the nursery or making blankets, clothes or handmade toys for the coming baby.

Finding support during and after pregnancy

  • After you bring your baby home, use video chats to introduce your baby to the family.
  • Join an online support group for pregnant women and new parents.
  • Take a childbirth education class online so you know what to expect during pregnancy and when your baby arrives. Practice the breathing and relaxation methods you learn in your class.
  • Consider online therapy, which may help reduce your stress, anxiety or depression.

Adjusting to the new normal

  • Avoid watching the news or reading posts on social media throughout the day. Instead, only catch up on the news one or times a day, like in the morning after you wake up or after you eat dinner.
  • Talk to friends and family over the phone or through online video chat. Pick a time that works for everyone and enjoy a meal “together” using video.
  • Focus on the things that you can control, like taking care of yourself and wearing a mask in public when necessary.
  • Ask a neighbor to help with your grocery or diaper shopping. Tell them they should leave the shopping bags outside your door to avoid contact.
  • Be patient with yourself. The COVID-19 crisis is a new experience for everyone. Take each day as it comes.

Try the following relaxation exercise, recommended by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, then breathe out for 8 seconds. Repeat this pattern three times.

How can you get help?

Go to all your prenatal care and postpartum appointments, even if you are feeling well. Your provider may want to talk to you by phone or by telemedicine instead during this time. Telemedicine is a video visit with your provider that uses your phone, tablet or computer. If you are feeling stress, anxiety or depression, talk to your health care provider right away.

Having answers to your questions can help decrease stress and anxiety. Here are some questions to ask your provider:

  • Have your office hours changed?
  • Can I talk to you by video?
  • Can I attend maternity classes online instead?
  • How can I be sure that I’m safe when I visit your office or go to the hospital?
  • Have the rules at the hospital for labor and delivery changed because of COVID-19?
  • Can I still have my partner or a support person with me when I deliver?
  • How can I safely breastfeed my baby?

This is not how you thought your pregnancy and delivery would be. Added stress due to COVID-19 is understandable. You don’t have to face it alone, even during physical distancing. Learn more at marchofdimes.org/COVID19

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