5 ways to survive stress in pregnancy

We all dream of floating calmly through pregnancy, but many women and birthing people feel stressed or worried at times. Try our practical tips to help you relax in pregnancy.

During pregnancy, it’s vital to take care of your mental health as well as your physical health. Up to 1 in 5 women have mental health problems during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth. Stress, anxiety and depression are pretty common.

Here are 5 things you can do to improve your mental health and help you relax.

1. Meditation

Do you ever find yourself caught up in your thoughts and worries? Or maybe you’re just going through the motions of the day and have forgotten to enjoy the little things around you? Stop for a second and focus on your feelings, body sensations and the world around you. 

Meditation can include mindfulness, breathing exercises and visualisation. It can help you live in the present moment and block out worries (like the endless ‘to do’ list in your head). It can also help to reduce the stress and low mood you might feel while you’re pregnant.

2. Pregnancy yoga

Yoga is based around mental and physical wellbeing. Look for a pregnancy yoga class and take it slowly.

Yoga in pregnancy is a great way to stay active, strengthen your body and ease aches and pains through stretching. Yoga can improve your mental health and may even help with labour.

Tommy’s researchers have shown that weekly yoga sessions can help reduce anxiety and depression in pregnancy, too. 

“I did a pregnancy yoga course through all three of my pregnancies from as early as I could and it’s the one thing I always recommend. It helped me bond with my babies and relax.”


3. Being kind to yourself

Even small changes can add up to help you feel more relaxed. Try to take time for yourself each day, to rest and free your mind of worries. You might want to go for a run or sit down with a book and a cup of tea. Writing down your thoughts may help you work through your feelings. Do what works for you. 

Some people like to listen to calming music or a hypnobirthing CD at bedtime to help them sleep. You could also try the NHS guide to relaxed breathing.

4. Talking about it

Many people say that talking helps to lower their anxiety and stress levels. Having a chat with someone you trust can help. This could be a friend, family member or a healthcare professional.  Antenatal or parenting groups can also be a good place to meet and chat to others who may have some of the same feelings or worries.

Your healthcare team can tell you about groups in your area. Organisations like PANDAS have online and face-to-face groups for parents affected by mental health problems, too. 

5. Keeping active

Physical activity can improve your mood and may help to lower stress levels. Sometimes, you might not feel like working out, if you’re feeling sick or tired. But gentle walks or swims can be so good for your body, your baby and your labour.

It’s safe to work out as long as you’re having a straightforward pregnancy. Check with your midwife or doctor if you’re not sure what’s safe for you to do. 

More information and support

NHS UK has tips for mental wellbeing.

Mind has ideas for looking after your mental health during and after pregnancy.

1.    Corrigan L, Moran P, McGrath N et al (2022) The characteristics and effectiveness of pregnancy yoga interventions: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2022; 22(1): 250.

2.    DHSC (2020). Physical activity guidelines: UK Chief Medical Officers’ report. Department of Health and Social Care www.gov.uk/government/publications/physical-activity-guidelines-uk-chief-medical-officers-report   

3.    McCarthy M, Houghton C, Matvienko-Sikar K (2021) Women’s experiences and perceptions of anxiety and stress during the perinatal period: a systematic review and qualitative evidence synthesis. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 2021; 21: 811.

4.    MIND. Relaxation. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/relaxation/relaxation-tips/ (Page last reviewed: November 2021. Next review due: 2024)

5.    MIND. Postnatal depression and perinatal mental health: How can I look after myself? https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/postnatal-depression-and-perinatal-mental-health/self-care/ (Page last reviewed: April 2020. Next review due: 2023)

6.    NHS Inform. Tai chi, Pilates and yoga. www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/keeping-active/activities/tai-chi-pilates-and-yoga (Page last updated: 29/11/2022)

7.    Royal College of Psychiatrists. Mental health in pregnancy. www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mental-health/treatments-and-wellbeing/mental-health-in-pregnancy?searchTerms=planning%20a%20pregnancy (Published: Nov 2018. Review due: Nov 2021)  

8.    Royal College of Psychiatrists. Anxiety and generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mental-health/mental-illnesses-and-mental-health-problems/anxiety-and-generalised-anxiety-disorder-(gad) (Published: May 2022. Review due: May 2025)

9.    Traylor CS, Johnson JD et al (2020) Effects of psychological stress on adverse pregnancy outcomes and nonpharmacologic approaches for reduction: an expert review. Am J Obstet Gynecol MFM. 2020; 2(4) :100229.

Review dates
Reviewed: 04 February 2024
Next review: 04 February 2027