Managing Stress During Pregnancy

Health Writer
Medically Reviewed
December 6, 2020

Stress during pregnancy becomes a cause for concern when you’re unable to control it or it’s all you think about, says Tracy Scott , a health coach at Parsley Health in New York City. Signs include: heart palpitations, feeling like you can’t breathe, frequent crying spells, racing thoughts that just won’t quit, and GI distress, says Scott.

While research highlights the negative effects of prenatal stress during pregnancy, it’s also not a crystal ball. Plenty of healthy babies are born to super stressed-out moms. Plus, whether you or someone you love is dealing with stress, the good news is that it can be counteracted with simple habits. Below are some stress-relieving methods Scott uses with pregnant members at Parsley Health.


Meditation seems to top every self-help list, but that’s because it works. For example, a small randomized controlled trial found that expectant moms who participated in a mindfulness training program were 50 percent less likely to give birth early than women who didn’t go through the program. Scott recommends the app Expectful , which offers guided meditations for all three trimesters to help you connect with your baby (and yourself).

Practice prenatal yoga.

Prenatal yoga helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, strengthens the connection between your mind and body, and bolsters one's bond with their baby, says Scott. A 2015 research review found that women who practiced prenatal yoga had lower pain, anxiety, depression, and stress levels, and were less likely to be diagnosed with pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia.

Pinpoint your stress triggers.

Identify what’s currently bothering you, and brainstorm several practical, simple solutions. As Scott says, “While there is always an element of the unknownI used to feel like I was only as good as my last sonogram!try to stay focused on what is true and what you can control.” For example, you can purchase a comfy pregnancy pillow to help you sleep, or add more veggies to your diet.

Minimize unhealthy habits.

When stress strikes, what are some less-than-helpful things you do? Maybe you lash out at a loved one, isolate yourself, forget to eat, and zone out on your phone. Pay attention to how you typically react to stress during pregnancy, and aim to reduce these unhealthy tendencies.

Journal your heart out.

Make journaling part of your daily routine, as it’s a great way to process emotions and make worrisome thoughts feel more manageable. Simply carve out 10 to 15 minutes, jotting down anything that’s on your mind or heart.

Have your doctor on speed dial.

When you’re pregnant with your first child (or, let’s face it, your fourth), it’s easy to let every change rattle you. Parsley Health members regularly note that having a healthcare team they can contact at any time is a huge stress relief on its own.

Connect with others.

Social support is critical for expectant moms (and, of course, everyone!). Discuss your worries with your partner or a trusted friend, says Scott. She also suggests joining a moms-to-be support group (virtual or in person). “If it is local to your area, it becomes an immediate group of people to meet up with post-baby—a nice Mom tribe,” she adds.

Increase physical intimacy.

According to Scott, some women’s sexual desires spike during pregnancy, making it a good time to physically connect with your partner and decompress. Not in the mood? Harness the power of touch by cuddling on the couch or holding hands.

Final thoughts

Try not to let studies on stress further stress you out. While stress can become harmful, small healthy habits do make a significant difference in easing emotional distress and relaxing your brain and body.

And, as one researcher notes, “A secure bond between the mother and child after the birth can neutralize negative effects of stress during pregnancy.” So, says Scott, if an unusually stressful time arises during pregnancy—like a pandemic! —cultivating your connection with your newborn can be incredibly powerful.

“This is also good news for adoptive parents or parents who used a surrogate,” adds Scott. “In the event there was some sort of emotional trauma that the parents-to-be were not aware of, the post-birth secure bond is a bigger indicator of future well-being.”

Health Writer

Margarita Tartakovsky is a Florida-based writer with 10+ years of experience in mental health and wellness. She’s written for websites such as Psych Central, Healthline, and Spirituality and Health. She’s passionate about helping readers feel less alone and overwhelmed and more empowered and hopeful.

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