The Effects of Stress During Pregnancy: Second of a Series

HeartYesterday, we reviewed the research on the effects of stress on pregnancy. As was mentioned, the results can leave one feeling confused and more stressed! Despite this, there is a general trend in the research that does allow for a some relatively straightforward truths.

The main question is, does stress negatively effect pregnancy? The answer is, yes, if the stress is unusually intense. That is, intensely stressful experiences like the death of a loved one, abuse, or trauma, tend to be associated with premature birth or low birth weight. These outcomes have, in turn, been linked to difficulties later in life for some children (e.g., learning disabilities). However, it is also true that these types of experiences are difficult to avoid. Given this fact, it begs the question, what benefit is gained from knowing that intense stress can negatively effect your pregnancy? While we cannot control traumatic events in our life, we can turn to resources both internal and external in response to these stressors. Stress reduction techniques are within our control and have been proven to be effective.

The answer to our question also leads us to another common wisdom gleaned from the research. If you are pregnant and are under low or moderate levels of stress,  there is no need to worry – it will only make you more stressed! Pregnancy, by its very nature, typically brings with it low to moderate levels of stress. And rightly so. For the majority of us who live in a modern urban atmosphere where we feel as though life is within our control, watching nature take over our body to produce life can be anxiety provoking. Miscarriages, morning sickness, birth complications, childbirth, and birth defects, are just some of the fears expecting parents have to deal with. If these very common stressors were the cause of significant pregnancy complications then nearly everyone could expect negative consequences. Fortunately, this is not the case. While the average stress that accompanies pregnancy need not, in and of itself, be a source of worry, dealing with this stress will make for a more pleasant and rewarding pregnancy. Therefore, here again, stress reduction techniques are recommended.

Anatomy of Sex Ed (Episode 96)

Doctors Brian and Giuseppe talk about how kids learn about sexuality at school and at home.

When is the best time for parents to talk to their kids about sex?

What do children need to know?

Do abstinence-only programs work? What about “the birds and the bees” talk?

Find out what we think on this week’s episode!

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Website of the Week Website of the Week: Children Now-Talking with Kids

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Note: Posts on Family Anatomy are for education only. If you need to talk to someone about family or mental health issues, you can get a referral from your family doctor.

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Anatomy of Three Things (Episode 167)

three-thingsDoctors Brian and Giuseppe discuss three recent stories about parenting, relationships, and mental health, including:

  • A teen’s perspective of her dad’s online surveillance
  • Choosing to live a child-free lifestyle
  • Are depressed kids bully magnets?

Find out about the latest news in this week’s show!

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Leave us a comment, or you can e-mail suggestions or questions to [email protected]. Vote for The Family Anatomy blog at Blogger’s Choice!

Note: Posts on Family Anatomy are for education only, and are not intended to replace professional or medical advice. If you need to talk to someone about family or mental health issues, you can get a referral from your family doctor. Doctors Brian and Giuseppe discussed kids in general in this episode, but every child is unique; your experience may vary from that discussed in this episode.

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Part 1: What Does It Really Mean?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been in the news with great frequency as of late. We’re told that up to 30% of the soldiers who return from Iraq and Afghanistan experience it. We’re also told that the recent mass murders by a psychiatrist at a Fort Hood military base may have been in part due to his repeated exposure to the stories recounted to him by soldiers and that he may have suffered from vicarious trauma.

There has been a great deal written and said about PTSD. However, at the end of the day, is it simply an unusually stressful experience that makes you very upset for a long while? Although there is some truth to this, what the stressful situation is and what being “very upset” looks like is much more specific and requires the experience of a qualified professional to recognize.

There are many stressful situations in the course of a day that we all deal with in various ways. These experiences are a normal part of living. The stressors that result in a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are unusual because of their intensity and the fact that the person affected typically fears for their life. Experiences that qualify as extremely stressful could include witnessing a killing, being raped, badly beaten or mugged, or being in a potentially deadly car or plane accident. These experiences are clearly not the same as losing your job or being late to a meeting because your car will not start.