Stress During Pregnancy

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
August 10, 2023
Stress During Pregnancy

Moderate stress during pregnancy won’t hurt your baby, but big events could have a lasting effect. It’s important to seek help. Here's what you should know.

Pregnancy is full of everyday stress. You’re uncomfortable, nauseated for weeks, or you’re tired and your back hurts. It’s a change and can bring up all kinds of feelings.

You might be afraid of losing the baby or dread labor and delivery. If you’re taking pregnancy leave or quitting a job, it’s easy to stress about finances or your career. You might be worried about how tending an infant will affect your relationship with your partner or other children.

It’s a period that tests your mental health, and any previous issues may arise again. About a fifth of all pregnant women may have an anxiety disorder, some research suggests, which raises their risk of postpartum depression. If you have a history of depression but are stable during pregnancy, your chance of postpartum depression is about 20 percent, according to other research.


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Normal temporary stress isn’t all bad; a tight deadline can sharpen you mentally and ward off a cold for a while. It’s normal to experience some stress during pregnancy; your body is going through changes, and as your hormones change so does your mood.

Yet, pregnancy stress doesn’t actually increase your blood pressure, as people say. It’s true that chronically high blood pressure raises your risk of preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication that affects your blood pressure and can trigger premature delivery. But those short-term spikes during stress don’t.

Some stress could even be good for your baby, according to a Johns Hopkins study that followed participants from mid-pregnancy to the child’s second birthday. If a mom had mild-to-moderate stress during her pregnancy, her baby had more advanced toddler skills than if a woman’s pregnancy wasn’t stressful.

On the other hand, a big stress, or chronic grinding stress, could affect the birth or a baby’s body. A review of studies found that significant stress doubled the chance of a miscarriage. Other research links significant stress to preterm births and low birthweight.

Major stresses may affect your child’s future. Exposure in the womb to a mother’s stress hormones may account for as much as 15 percent of the emotional and behavior problems seen in children. One study suggests a link to teen depression.

Beyond living in a war zone, disaster area, or in poverty, a major stress might include:

  • Untreated serious anxiety or depression
  • A death in the family
  • Divorce
  • Abuse
  • A serious accident or crime
  • Unexpected loss of your job or home

Don’t ignore signs that stress is affecting your body, for example, if you find yourself overeating or sleeping more poorly than usual. Talk with at least one person you trust, even if there’s no solution at hand.

If tasks overwhelm you, ask for help and accept any offers. Do the things you know help you calm down: Listen to music, take warm baths, walk near trees, watch a comedy, read a novel, or pray.


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August 10, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Janet O'Dell, RN