4 Tips Nurses Can Use to Reduce Stress in Pregnant Women

Pregnancy inherently involves a certain level of stress, whether it is a first pregnancy or an experienced mother. While pregnancy has many joyful aspects, there are some that rather unpleasant. Morning sickness can derail her daily routine, and she will often feel tired or have headaches. She may be worried about exercising too much or too little, and there is always the constant anxiety surrounding the question of whether or not the baby will be healthy when it is born.

As a nurse, especially in obstetrics, you will most likely come across women that are dealing with the stress of pregnancy. While some women have it worse than others in terms of risk, pain, or discomfort, no pregnancy is 100% stress-free, even if that stress is just because her swollen feet don’t allow her to wear her favorite shoes.

If you work with expecting women on a regular basis, here are a few ways you can help reduce stress for them.

Remind Her to Rest

Prior to getting pregnant, most women have a routine that involves work and other demands. Many women fill several rolls in their lives, and the added physical and emotional stress of pregnancy may cause some expecting mothers to feel pulled in too many directions.

While many women can do it all, it’s important to remind pregnant women that they shouldn’t do it all. After all, it’s not just them anymore; the baby has certain needs and the woman’s body may not be as physically capable of handling everything she did before.

Remind your pregnant patients that they need to rest often. They should cut back on housework and take more time to simply sit and do something relaxing like reading, watching TV, or knitting. Their body is working overtime by building a baby, so even though it feels like they aren’t doing anything, there are mechanisms at work and burning a ton of calories. Doing more physical movement than necessary may delete them too soon of energy.

Encourage Her to Eat Well

A healthy diet is a particularly important aspect of pregnancy. Because their body is using up extra nutrients and calories to help the fetus grown, the mother will need to increase their intake of certain vitamins and minerals.

The infamous pregnancy cravings are a real phenomenon, and generally, it’s ok to indulge them occasionally. However, care should be taken to limit the intake of junk or fast food, since these offer limited nutrition. Instead, a balanced diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids should be used. The omega-3s will help with mood, especially as hormonal changes during pregnancy can lead to depression. These women should also stay hydrated by drinking plain water throughout the day. This will limit headaches, which could contribute to stress.

Finally, remind your pregnant patients that weight gain is expected and normal. Even though it might cause stress, gaining a bit of weight is good for the baby, since it will ensure they have a safe and healthy environment to grow.

Encourage Her to Exercise

Stress is a natural response to pregnancy, and unfortunately, this can often lead to bouts of depression and anxiety for the mother. Fortunately, exercise has been proven as one of the most consistent ways to reduce all of these negative emotions. It releases dopamine and endorphins, which encourage a positive feeling throughout the body.

If a woman already has an exercise routine before she becomes pregnant, she can generally continue this routine for a few months into pregnancy. Then she may need to reduce the intensity. If she has not exercised before conception, she should begin a gentle routine. A brisk 15-minute walk each day can do wonders to raise serotonin levels, which will help with mood and sleep. An ideal exercise for pregnant women is swimming since it is low impact and works the entire body.

Have Her Practice Mindfulness

Meditation, mindfulness, yoga, even practical Cognitive Behavioral Therapy strategies can be extremely helpful for managing stress while pregnant. There are several books out there on the topic, each with different approaches, so encourage new moms to look into these ways of coping with stress. Getting into the practice of mindfulness may also help during labor, as it allows the woman to ride the emotions she is feeling as if they were waves instead of fighting them.  Mindfulness can increase relaxation to the mind and body, so even if the stressors are still present, she will be able to cope with them healthily.

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Dr. Jenna Liphart Rhoads is a registered nurse and a nurse educator. She earned a BSN from Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing and an MS in nursing education from Northern Illinois University. Jenna earned a PhD in education with a concentration in nursing education from Capella University where she researched the moderation effects of emotional intelligence on the relationship of stress and GPA in military veteran nursing students.