Stress Management and Childbirth Preparation
Although pregnancy and childbirth are exhilarating experiences, there's no getting away from the fact that they can be downright stressful at times (especially the childbirth part). It's not just first time Moms-to-be who get stressed out during pregnancy and worry about labor and delivery - even veterans can become anxious, particularly if they've had a negative pregnancy or birth experience in the past. And of course don't forget the Dads! Men often feel responsible for their female partners' well-being, even in the delivery room where all they can really do is be supportive and perhaps "coach" a woman through childbirth. This lack power to control the situation can be very stressful for a man to cope with. That's why men and women alike benefit from using certain stress management techniques during this special time.
Stress Management Tips
There are a number of ways of dealing with stress during pregnancy and childbirth. One of them is to be well-informed about the changes your body is going through and about what you can expect to happen during labor. Knowing what to expect helps many women to feel more in control of their pregnancies and birth experiences. You can read about pregnancy and childbirth online (the information here on pregnancy-info.net is a great place to start). You'll also find plenty of stress management articles on the net which are specifically aimed at pregnant women and their partners. Last but not least, you should consult your pregnancy doctor about your worries.
On the other hand, too much information about potential pregnancy complications which may never affect you can be unhelpful. You need to strike the right balance between being aware of potential risks and problems, and dwelling on them. Only you can really know if you have found this balance - but if you find yourself spending significant parts of your day worrying about pregnancy related issues, then you know you've tipped over into the realm of the "unhelpful."
Stress Management Exercises
An effective method of minimizing stress and preparing for childbirth is to take a birthing class. Courses in different birthing methods such as the Bradley method, the Lamaze birthing technique and hypnobirthing all include stress management exercises as well as relaxation techniques. These techniques don't have to be reserved solely for the delivery room - you can use them throughout your pregnancy. Some popular pregnancy relaxation techniques are massage, yoga, breathing exercises, muscle relaxation techniques, and aromatherapy. There's really no such thing as a technique that's best or most effective in providing pregnancy stress relief, because every woman is different. You might have to try a few different methods before you find one, or a combination of several, that work for you.
Assessing Your Stress Levels
Sometimes, when we're stressed, we get so caught up in the moment trying to keep on top of everything that we don't realize we're stressed out. There's a lot of pressure on women these days to be fantastically capable and good at everything - they feel that during pregnancy they have to work, still look good, eat healthily at all times and then give their babies the healthiest possible birth experience. Some women mistake stress, which often arises from unreasonable demands placed on pregnant women, for feeling dissatisfied as a result of being unable to achieve all their goals for pregnancy and childbirth. Unfortunately, there's no definitive stress test, but your doctor or a psychologist will be able to ask you a series of probing questions, to which your answers should give an indication of your stress levels. Generally speaking, if you spend a lot of time feeling overcome with worry, doubt or fear, or if you find that your mind races with thoughts about all the things you have to do, then you are probably suffering from stress.
At the beginning of a pregnancy, particularly during the first trimester, many women take things very slowly. They often don't want to take a pregnancy for granted until it has passed the 3-month stage - as the pregnancy progresses, some women find that they have a ton of pregnancy related tasks they need to get done (taking a birthing course, decorating a nursery, etc., choosing a hospital to give birth in) and not enough time to do it all (at least that's what they think). That's why it's a good idea to draw up a schedule for completing pregnancy tasks, and to share this schedule with your partner. Taking joint responsibility for these jobs will help to minimize your stress as childbirth approaches.