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Mothers ... at Last

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"It's normal to feel this way, but these negative emotions may have consequences for your baby," says Catherine Monk, Ph.D., a prenatal stress researcher and practicing psychotherapist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. Maternal stress has been linked to preterm delivery and low birth weight, and can affect fetal heart rate. What's more, 4-month-olds whose mothers were depressed or anxious during pregnancy had higher levels of stress hormones themselves, which could make them vulnerable to stress in the future. If you're having trouble managing your emotions during pregnancy, talk to your doctor and try these tips.

1. Go ahead — worry. Allow yourself 15 minutes of worry time: Write down your feelings, then put the list — and your concerns — aside for the rest of the day. "This can be enough to exorcise the negative emotions," Monk says.

2. Create a "things I love" list. Maybe there's a favorite CD that makes you mellow or a dishy talk show you can't resist. When you're feeling down, try one or two of the activities on your list, even if you think you won't enjoy yourself. "You might be faking it at first, but your brain will still respond by releasing pleasure chemicals," assures Monk.

3. Walk it off. Research shows that walking, yoga, and other forms of exercise are excellent de-stressors.

4. Rub it in. Enjoying a prenatal massage for 20 minutes twice a week has been shown to lower stress hormones and reduce anxiety. Plus, regular massage during pregnancy has been linked with lower rates of premature birth and fewer obstetrical problems.

5. Talk it out. If you're still feeling down or stressed, consider short-term professional counseling. Go to asrm.org, the Website of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine; click on "For Patients" and then "Find a Doctor."

 

Originally published on December 11, 2007

 

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