Image credit: @carriesymonds Instagram
Like many other people around the world who have been pregnant through this pandemic, the last couple of months must have been stressful for mum-to-be, Carrie Symonds. Her partner, Boris Johnson, tested positive for coronavirus and spent some time in ICU whilst recovering. At the same time, Carrie experienced symptoms of coronavirus herself and was forced to self-isolate.
“I’ve spent the past week in bed with the main symptoms of coronavirus. I haven’t needed to be tested and, after seven days of rest, I feel stronger and I’m on the mend.”
Among all the other emotions we are all experiencing at the moment as we go through lockdown life, the worry of suffering from too much stress can be really difficult for pregnant women.
“Being pregnant with Covid-19 is obviously worrying. To other pregnant women, please do read and follow the most up to date guidance which I found to be v reassuring.”
What is stress?
There is a difference between feeling ‘stressed’ at this time of high anxiety and experiencing symptoms of stress, although they often come together.
Stress is a mental and physical response. The body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode. It then releases a complex mix of hormones and chemicals, including adrenaline, to prepare for a physical reaction. That heart pounding, fast breathing sensation is the adrenaline.
In the modern world, the ‘fight or flight’ mode can still help us survive dangerous situations but these are much less common nowadays. Our body now experiences stress in situations when our bodies are not in direct physical danger but faced with excessive worry and panic. When blood flow is going only to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee, it can make it hard to ‘think straight’. If we are kept in a state of stress for very long periods of time, it can be detrimental to our health. For more information about stress and things you can do to manage it, please visit the Stress Management Society website, it has lots of information that can help.
Being concerned about whether anxiety or stress will effect your baby is understandable, but it can also create a vicious cycle of thoughts. If you feel anxious during your pregnancy, you may begin to worry if it this is affecting your baby and so become even more anxious.
Will stress harm my baby?
It is very unlikely that your baby will be affected by stress or anxiety, if you get the right treatment and support. So try to focus on asking for help and finding ways to manage your symptoms. The first step is to talk to your midwife or doctor about how you are feeling.
There are several things that can be done to help you manage stress. The support you should receive will depend on the symptom you are experiencing s and how severe they are. Some pregnant women may feel guilty about asking for support during the pandemic. Try not to let this stop you contacting your GP or midwife, it is important to focus on finding ways to help you stay well so you can take care of yourself and your baby.
Using breathing techniques can help you to stay calm and manage symptoms of stress. This exercise is taken from the Stress Management Society website, which includes lots more helpful exercises:
- Sit or stand in a comfortable, relaxed position with your spine erect.
- Inhale slowly through your nose to the count of 5. Imagine a ball or balloon in your belly inflating
- Hold the breathe in the ball or balloon in your belly for 5-10 seconds.
- Count slowly to 8 as you exhale.
- Repeat this several times.
As you breathe, let your abdomen expand outward, rather than raising your shoulders. This is a more relaxed, natural way to breathe and helps your lungs fill themselves more fully with fresh air.
Tommy’s Midwife Sophie says…
"Living through a global pandemic is of course a huge additional worry on the minds of pregnant women, and this is on top of home schooling, work duties, taking care of relatives, self isolating and all other normal aspects of daily life. We know it’s a struggle right now and it’s normal to feel a bit overwhelmed by it all. But please know, that your Midwife, and our Midwifery team here at Tommy’s, are all here to support you during this time. Please get in touch with your Midwife or Maternity Unit immediately if you are really struggling with your mental health and worrying about managing ongoing stressful triggers. There is plenty of help and support available to you. Maternity services are still running, 24 hours a days, 7 days a week, 365 days a year- so please don’t avoid us, or worry that we are busy enough at the moment without you calling. You are the reason we are here-day, night, weekend and bank holiday- let us help you in any way that we can! Sending out a big virtual hug to anyone who needs it right now."