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Relax! Your Baby Will Thank You!

Part 2 of a 2-part series.

Pregnant and Stressed? How to Tell continued...

Among the most important decisions, he says, is to pay attention to good nutrition.

"Not eating well during pregnancy is a primary way to increase your stress load and whatever effects that may have on your baby," says Hobel.

Not only is it important to eat nutritiously, he says, but also to eat frequent, small meals.

"If you skip breakfast, for example, you can develop accelerated ketosis [a fat burning process seen in starvation] which can be very stressful on your baby. So something as simple as eating breakfast is a great way to reduce some of the risks related to stress," says Hobel.

He says smoking can also place undue stress on both mother and baby.

"The body has a very potent stress reaction to even a single cigarette. So by not smoking during pregnancy you automatically reduce the risk of many stress-related effects on your baby," says Hobel.

Likewise, he says, avoiding excessive travel -- with risks that include fatigue, dehydration, and missing meals -- is another way to protect your baby, particularly during the first trimester.

"You don't have to avoid travel, but you should pay a little extra attention to things like getting more rest, making sure to drink enough fluids if you are flying, and carrying nutritious snacks for sustenance during the trip," he says.

Also important, he says, is to tend to any infections that occur during pregnancy, including gum disease or UTIs (urinary tract infections), both of which can add more stress to your load.

Pregnancy Stress Protection: What to Do

While a little bit of precaution goes a long way, as the saying goes, "life happens." And that means that no matter how we try to avoid it, some stress is bound to creep into our lives.

When it does, most women can diffuse the effects if they have a good support system in place.

"It can be a spouse, your mother, your best friend, your clergyman -- anyone that you can talk to and seek comfort in, is going to help alleviate your stress," says Young.

He says studies show that just voicing your stressful feelings is a tremendous source of relief, particularly if your stress is linked to worries about your pregnancy.

"Every pregnant woman has some stressful thoughts and fears during pregnancy. But if you talk it out, voice your concerns, tell someone how you feel, you release that stress and both you and your baby can benefit," says Bruce.

Rebarber agrees and adds that learning to delegate and to embrace the changes that pregnancy brings are two more important ways to reduce stress.

"You have to slow down just a little bit and find a small window of opportunity within each day to take a deep breath, relax, and do something comforting for yourself -- all of which can help keep tension from building," says Rebarber.

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