Stress; a healthy dose keeps us on alert, often assisting us in narrowing our focus to accomplish tasks. However, problems can arise when stress becomes prolonged. This type of stress is known as chronic stress. The causes of stress vary from person to person and manifest differently as well. However, chronic stress is most commonly experienced as the perception of having little or no control. Constantly elevated stress levels mean a constant release of stress hormone, known as cortisol. High cortisol levels take an emotional and physical toll on the body and can lead to adverse health outcomes like an increased heart rate, high blood pressure, trouble sleeping, anxiety, weakened immune system, and in the case of pregnancy-specific outcomes, premature birth.
According to March of Dimes, the most common sources of stress for pregnant people are negative life events like divorce, poverty, serious illness/death in the family, financial issues and racism as well as pregnancy related stress due to experiences like previous pregnancy loss. Though the effects of stress on pregnancy are not yet completely understood, some studies have shown high stress levels during pregnancy may affect baby’s brain development or immune system. So, knowing this, you’re probably wondering what you can do to reduce stress during pregnancy. Well, the first and arguably most important step is to identify your primary stressors and talk to your partner, friend, or healthcare provider. The second step, hire a doula. Now you might be thinking, I have my partner, my friends and/or family and that seems plenty, how does a doula factor in?
Two words actually, social support! When studied, a good social support network has shown to minimize the effects of stress. Your social support network may be composed of a partner, wonderful friends and family or it may be small and not as efficient or supportive as you’d like. Regardless of where you fall, a doula is a constant presence in your life during your pregnancy, labor and birth who will provide continuous one-on-one emotional and informational support and physical comfort. The doula you hire does not work for your healthcare provider, your birth center, or your hospital. They are there to be a source of information, comfort and reassurance to you, an additional person to listen with compassion and validate your concerns, fears, and offer words of encouragement. The presence of such support, in conjunction with other support or on its own, can improve your ability to cope with stress and lower some of the risks mentioned previously.
For more information on what doulas do, click here