Stress is a word that is overused and misunderstood. Stress can range from being overwhelmed while trying to find an outfit to wear to procrastinating on a research paper. It can come from seven different areas: life changes, chronic stressors, job stressors, hassles, frustration, conflict, and cataclysmic events (Huffman, 2012). In the following, these topics will be discussed: stress, how stress affects the mother during pregnancy, how stress affects the unborn child, and ways to reduce stress during pregnancy.
“Stress is defined as a nonspecific response of the body to any demand made upon it; the arousal, both physical and mental, to situations of events that we perceive as threatening or challenging” (Huffman, 2012). “Stressors may vary from life events (e.g. divorce, serious illness or death of a relative or friend) to daily hassles (e.g. domestic affairs, financial or relational problems, and queuing)” (Mulder, E.J.H.; Robles de Medina, P.G.; Huizink, A.C.; Van den Bergh, B.R.H.; Buitelaar, J.K.; Visser, G.H.A., 2002). Stress is everywhere, so it may be hard to diagnose. Signs of stress include: increased heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and muscle tension, while simultaneously decreasing digestion and constricting blood vessels (Huffman, 2012). Fortunately, the human body can respond to stress. Current research has shown that people have two major brain-body pathways for dealing with stress. “The first alarm reaction is controlled by the sympotho-adreno-medullary (SAM) system. The SAM system is responsible for the body’s initial, rapid-acting stress response. Stressors trigger a cascade of effects that begin when the brain’s hypothalamus activates the sympathetic nervous system, which stimulates the medulla (inner part) of the adrenal glands. The adrenals, in turn, secrete catecholamines, which activate bodily changes necessary for ‘fight or flight’ ” (Huffman, 2012). The second pathway is called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis, which involves more direct communication between the brain and the endocrine system. The HPA axis is the bodies delayed stress response (Huffman, 2012).
PTSD is one of the most serious type of stress that can negatively affect your baby. PTSD occurs when you have problems after seeing or going through a painful event, such as rape or abuse. An expecting mother suffering from PTSD may experience anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, strong physical reactions to situations, people, or things that remind them of the event, avoidance of places, and guilt. PTSD occurs in as many as 8% of women during pregnancy (Will, 2012). Although PTSD can be extremely difficult to cope with, it can be treatable if the expecting mother chooses to consult with a doctor or with a psychiatrist.
Stress can be overwhelming for anyone, but it is especially dangerous for pregnant women. The hormones produced by stress can weaken the immune system, while chronic stress can result in reduced...