Stressed Out and Pregnant? Why This May Heighten the Chances of PPD

Chronic Stress in pregnancy may lead to PPDI’m a stress magnet. Anything that I can stress about, I do. And when I was pregnant with Bella and the twins? I stressed about it all.

Hindsight – I regret that. I wish I’d lived in the moment and let what I worried about happening in 7 months happen in 7 months, then deal with it. I had PPD/A after both pregnancies, and am slowly learning through grief and loss counseling to also cope with being anxious and worried. I’ve learned that it isn’t helpful to stress over things that may never happen, can’t be changed, or are a long ways off.

If our own mental well being isn’t enough, a study by Ohio State University shows that chronic stress during pregnancy prevents the brain benefits of motherhood, perhaps linking to postpartum depression.

“We think that (chronic stress) makes the stressed mothers more vulnerable. They don’t have the capacity for brain plasticity that the unstressed mothers do, and somehow that’s contributing to their susceptibility to depression.”

Although rats were used in this test, it’s findings are similar to what moms experience.

Pregnant rats who were repeatedly stressed in tests showed a lack of maternal/reproductive experience when their babies were born. They also showed less physical attnetion to their children, and seemed often lost and unsure of what to do with their babies. The pregnant rats showed classic signs of stress, including lower than normal weight gain and enlarged adrenal glands. The pups they had were also lower birth weight.

The brain neurons don’t interact the same way in a stressed out mother the way they do in a woman with less stress. When this starts in pregnancy, it prevents those instincts and abilities to multitask that a mother needs in order to care for both herself and her child.

Although there are many other reasons for postpartum depression in women, chronic stress is the strongest predictor linked to that.

So what’s a mom to do? Obviously stress happens during pregnancy. We can’t avoid it. High risk pregnancies being even mores stressful, working while pregnant, dealing with other children, running a home, preparing for life to yet again change. It’s all normal.

But for chronic stress? Talk to your doctor, watch for signs you are constantly feeling overwhelmed and pushed to the limits. Take time each day to do something relaxing. Exercise. Find a counselor that can listen to you and work with you on things to do to ease your fears and worries.

While this study may have done the opposite for most of us (don’t stress or you’ll suffer the consequences probably isn’t a very relaxing read) long term it may encourage others to get the help and support they need during a pregnancy in order to be the best mom they can be, especially in those first few hard months.

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Diana blogs on raising a toddler daughter and the loss of her twin boys on the aptly named Hormonal ImbalancesSmaller glimpses into her day are on TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest.

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