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Stress and pregnancy

5-minute read

Key facts

  • Being pregnant can bring up a range of emotions for you, including feeling anxious or stressed, but this is completely normal.
  • Stress is a normal reaction to a major change (such as pregnancy).
  • Too much stress can be overwhelming and could even lead to health problems both for you and your baby.
  • There are many strategies you can use to manage stress during pregnancy.
  • If you are struggling with significant stress during pregnancy, discuss it with your doctor.

What can cause stress in pregnancy?

For some people, finding out that they are pregnant can be a stressful experience. You might feel like you have lost control or don’t have enough resources to manage what you’ll be experiencing. Stress can come from having a pregnancy that is unplanned, or becoming pregnant after previous negative experiences with a pregnancy, birth or parenthood, such as a miscarriage or the death of a baby.

It can be stressful while waiting for the results of your antenatal tests, and dealing with the physical changes of pregnancy or a complicated pregnancy.

Your situation at home may cause you stress, such as being a single parent or teenager and wondering how you will manage. Relationship difficulties, which could include family violence, may also have an impact.

Pregnancy can lead to practical challenges, such as financial difficulties, moving house and job changes.

Emotional stresses such as grief, past anxiety, depression or other mental illness, can cause more stress during pregnancy, as can drug and alcohol problems.

If more than one of the above are happening to you at the same time, you could experience even more stress.

How can stress affect my baby and me?

Chronic (ongoing) stress can affect your health or wellbeing, and can include experiencing headaches, problems sleeping, fast breathing and a racing pulse.

Some people might also experience:

Chronic stress could also cause problems for your baby. These can include effects on your unborn baby’s growth and the length of your pregnancy (gestation). They can also increase the risk of problems in your baby’s future physical and mental development, as well as behavioural issues in childhood.

How can I reduce stress during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, It’s important to look after your mental wellbeing as much as your physical health. When you are feeling well, content and happy, you are better able to manage stress. When your stress is managed, it is not likely to have any serious effects on you or your baby.

To reduce stress, you could try the following:

  • Pay attention to the triggers that make you stressed and notice what happens when you feel stressed.
  • Try to slow down, rest and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet to help keep you and your baby healthy.
  • Talk to someone you trust about your concerns and how you’re feeling.

Physical activity and relaxation can also help to reduce stress:

  • Take part in regular exercise that is suitable for pregnancy.
  • Do yoga, meditation, breathing exercises or relaxation through classes or using apps, videos or podcasts.
  • Engage in a favourite distraction activity such as reading, watching TV or a hobby.
  • Spend time with people who make you feel calm.

You don’t need to cope on your own. Try to ask for help when you need it and accept people’s offers to help you.

Resources and support

If you need more help to manage your stress, you can contact:

Sometimes the health professionals you talk with may not have enough time to answer all of your questions or talk through all of your concerns. If you need to discuss any issues further, call the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby helpline on 1800 882 436 to speak to a maternal child health nurse for advice and support.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2022

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Being a teenager and finding out you are pregnant can put enormous stress on a young person and their family so it’s important to be supportive.

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Anxiety and pregnancy

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Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

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