"Stress will harm my baby."
Stress is a condition of being physically or emotionally overloaded. A scary experience, a bitter argument, or a too-vigorous workout can all produce stress, which causes our bodies to release hormones that can lead to sweaty palms, quickened breathing, and an elevated heart rate. It can also trigger emotional outcomes, such as sorrow or panic.
Many pregnant women worry that stress is harmful to their growing baby, but the facts are not so clear. Doctors report that some of their patients have faced extremely stress-producing experiences (such as the loss of a loved one) and then gone on to have normal deliveries, while other women under no excessive stress delivered prematurely. "Much of the data on the effects of September 11th are now coming out," says Siobhan Dolan, MD, medical advisor to the March of Dimes. "They may show that the stress of that day was more harmful to women in their first trimester than in later stages."
Chronic stress, as opposed to one very stressful event, is most likely to cause late-pregnancy problems. "It may force some women to forego regular meals. Others may turn to cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs, all of which can complicate a pregnancy," says Dr. Dolan.
Some research shows a link between stress-related hormones and both preterm labor and low birth weight babies. Moms-to-be are wise to reduce their stress by exercising in moderation, practicing yoga or meditation, and asking family or friends to help with chores.