Pregnant women stress out.

It’s a shocker, I know. And if I was pregnant, this would just stress me out even more. Via the Guardian:

Most expectant mothers suffer stress during pregnancy, potentially putting at risk their baby’s development in the womb, according to a survey. A poll of more than 1,100 pregnant women by the baby charity Tommy’s revealed that almost 90% endured stress prompted by an array of causes. Worries range from money to food, work pressures and relationships.
Women are also struggling to deal with concerns over a range of ‘taboo’ topics they feel they cannot confess to publicly, according to the survey, conducted to mark the start of Tommy’s pregnancy health month. The taboo topics include fears of developing post-natal depression, and that they may not want or love their baby.
Two-thirds lamented their partner’s failure to appreciate how tired they were, and being told it was ‘just their hormones’ whenever they became upset.
Maternal health specialists say women should try to reduce stress or risk complications such as limited growth of the unborn baby, premature delivery or, in cases of prolonged high stress, miscarriage.

To say there’s a threat to the development of a pregnancy because the woman stresses about things that everyone stresses about seems a bit silly to me. People stress out. And baby receptacles aren’t too easy to come by these days. We have, you know, lives and stuff.
However, it was good to address the fears (or “taboos”) that women may have but feel guilty about saying because of expectations to be the oh-so-thrilled mother-to-be, and the “hormonal drama queen” stigma that’s attached to pregnant women. Has anyone had similar experiences?

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49 Comments

  1. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    “To say there’s a threat to the development of a pregnancy because the woman stresses about things that everyone stresses about seems a bit silly to me. People stress out. And baby receptacles aren’t too easy to come by these days. We have, you know, lives and stuff. ”
    I think this is overly dismissive of the negative effects that stress can have on a person’s body, and on the bodies of developing fetuses.
    Just because we live in a world where everyone experiences alot of stressors, this somehow means that the stress pregnant women experience doesn’t have negative effects? Chronic stress is one of the biggest negative effects on premature birth and low birthweight in low income women.
    Rather than dismissing the fact that stress can have particularly negative effects on developing fetuses because they have less developed response systems, why not advocate for more targeted ways to reduce the stress that pregnant women experience (e.g., encouraging more help from the partner, stress reduction mindfulness programs, etc.).

  2. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    “Worries range from money to food, work pressures and relationships. ”
    These are all factors that can negative effects on a person’s stress response system. When they are chronic, they can lead the system to burn out.
    When you can’t afford food or sturggle just to pay the grocery bills, that is a serious stressor.
    When you are frequently in conflict with your partner, this is a serious stressor that has a long-term negative impact on health.
    If you are continually stressed at work, this can have very negative impacts on health.
    Why is unreasonable to assume that these also have negative effects on birth outcomes?

  3. eastsidekate
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    My partner’s eight months pregnant, and I’d say the article is spot on (although the link to birth defects seems a little iffy– pretty much everything is linked to birth defects). Most of those stressors are enhanced by the pregnancy:
    Money: We’re already living from paycheck-to-paycheck. Babies are expensive. Childcare is expensive. And the fact that my partner’s (who makes 2/3 of our income) is going to take a huge pay cut during her 6-week maternity leave stresses both of us.
    Work: Some bosses (say, hers) treat pregnant women and mothers different than other employees. There’s the expectation that work comes before all else. Raises and promotions for women who only work 50 hour weeks on account of needing to pick up the kids from daycare are non-existent.
    Daycare: The main licensed daycare provider in our area has a 18-month waiting list, and costs $1200/month. My monthly take home pay is $1150.
    And of course, there is the idiotic, rosy picture of childbirth that the media sells us. When my partner talks to other mothers, they actually fess up to all of the crappy things about being pregnant. Oh, and they insist on describing how birth is the worst thing in the world, which isn’t particularly reassuring.
    I guess the one thing that the article misses is that most, if not all of these stressors are driven by problems with our society. If we had access to affordable child care and were able to take advantage of reasonable maternity leave policies, a lot (but not all) of the stress I’m feeling would certainly go away. And those aren’t things that have anything to do with me and my hormones– those are the result of our government and society failing working families.

  4. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, one last post, regarding why stress is linked to birth outcomes:
    Maternal stress and fetal responses: Evolutionary perspectives on preterm delivery, Ivy Pike
    Abstract
    New epidemiological and neurohormonal evidence provides insights into the persistent public health issue of preterm delivery and its long-term health consequences for the newborn. Mechanisms linked to preterm delivery may originate early in gestation as a result of maternal cues signaling a stressful intrauterine environment. When these signals are present, the fetus responds with a series of facultative responses, including accelerated organ maturation. If these responses are unsuccessful and the environment remains insufficient, a series of feed-forward mechanisms initiate the hormonal cascade that leads to birth, and thus, early expulsion from a stressful environment. The internal environmental cues are delivered via glucocorticoids (stress hormones) in the circulatory system, but fetal responses and the initiation of the final terminal pathway to birth are regulated by placentally derived corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). The potential costs of early expulsion from a stressful intrauterine environment are high and include an increased likelihood of perinatal and infant mortality. Permanent alterations in organ and metabolic functioning may occur, suggesting considerable fitness trade-offs. There is some evidence that preterm parturition is a maternal adaptation to limit the energetic costs of individual pregnancies in the face of poor condition at the time of conception. Moreover, nutritional stress is not the only indicator that signals a stressful environment: maternal psychosocial stress, and thus her response to an assessment of the social environment, also signal an insufficient internal environment to the fetus. The epidemiological and neurohormonal evidence for these relationships and mechanisms responsible for regulating such delicate negotiations are explored. In turn, the implications of such findings are examined from life history and public health perspectives. Am. J. Hum. Biol. 17:55-65,

  5. dhsredhead
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Is this really news? I thought it was common knowledge that pregnant women and their partners were stressed out. While stress can have an effect on an unborn fetus, I always like to remind people the worse health problems a baby can have are usually caused by genetics something which is almost impossible to control.

  6. Vanessa
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    UCLA, good point. Wasn’t my intention to be dismissive, just looking at it from the standpoint of pregnant women being told how to feel for the good of the fetus when it’s obviously not that easy. Not all women have the resources or time to go to a stress reduction class, but no doubt this should be addressed. Definitely.
    And as eastsidekate says, it seems everything a pregnant woman does these days could cause potential problems. But I’m no doctor : )
    And great point, eastsidekate. How could a pregnant woman not be stressed?

  7. lilianna28
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    You’re dead on, Vanessa. I cannot escape the irony that, when I was pregnant, I was stressed about the idea that I might eat something / drink something / breathe in something / bend the wrong way and it would be harmful to my baby. I had a woman tell me, 2 days before my 20 week ultrasound, that when she went to hers with her second child, she found out the child had no brain and had to be induced. Horrible, i felt bad for her, but JESUS CHRIST I couldn’t sleep for two solid days. SO… that stress? ALSO BAD FOR BABY? It’s no win.
    I also this eastsidekate is so right too, what is the point of studies like this if we don’t examine the social structures that create this new stress- and, I’m assuming this stress as an issue is a NEW problem because, if it isn’t, well, the population seems to be moving along just fine with all the stress.

  8. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    “UCLA, good point. Wasn’t my intention to be dismissive, just looking at it from the standpoint of pregnant women being told how to feel for the good of the fetus when it’s obviously not that easy”
    No worries – i definitely see your overall point. Women are bombarded with 100 conflicting messages about what they “should” do when pregnant and are viewed as being solely responsible for the kids outcome. Which seems pretty stressful in and of itself.

  9. Silenced Is Foo
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Quite the opposite for me – my wife WANTED me to remind her that she was being hormonal. Her emotions would run away with her, and she told me she needed me to keep telling her that it was just the hormones, and that her problems were all in her head.

  10. suissesse
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    When my sister was pregnant, she found that she was being treated as a sick person. I’ve never been pregnant, but I assume that if you are, you want what’s best for all involved. Being told that a thousand things can go wrong, being forced to take exams and have things inserted and machines ticking and all that, that can be pretty stressful.
    On the other hand, my friend has had two home births. Her mom is a midwife and helped deliver both the girls. She didn’t seem too stressed before the births.
    Women have been having babies for a few years now, you’d think that the medical establishment would just leave us alone (joke, but a bit serious, too).

  11. lilianna28
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Suissesse, my partner used to tell me “hundreds of thousands of years, hon” every time I had one too many freak outs about pregnancy.
    It’s a shame that we’ve medicalized pregnancy and birth to the heights it has been taken to. Instead of assisting in births, doctors “perform them”. Pregnancy is an “illness” at worst or an “irregular condition” at best despite the fact that pregnancy is how the species has survived… it’s odd.

  12. froggyness
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    It’s not that stress can’t affect gestation and foetuses, but it’s STUPID to admonish women to “reduce stress or risk complications!” It’s scientifically interesting to know what the effects of stress and their mechanisms might be, but that kind of recommendation isn’t about health, it’s about blame.
    It amounts to an injunction to worry about whether you’re worrying too much, which will make a nice addition to all the other things pregnant women are supposed to do.

  13. isfa
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    I am pregnant and very stressed out. One of the reasons I am stressed out is my limited access to health care. As a full-time student, I am on my school’s insurance plan. This requires me to use the campus health center for all non-emergency care unless specifically referred elsewhere. For my new (and first) pregnancy, the health center won’t see me for anything related to the pregnancy- I have to go to the covered provider. But, the covered provider won’t see me until the beginning of the second trimester. In the mean time, the ONLY access to non-emergency medical advice I have is the internet. Let me tell you- that is not where you want to go for medical advice. I had no idea there were so many things to worry about, let alone to worry about worrying! I didn’t know that I couldn’t take Advil, or Sudafed, or that I needed to be taking a prenatal vitamin immediately. As I await my first doctor’s appointment, I am very scared that despite being a fairly well-educated person, I may have inadvertantly harmed another being or caused medical risk to myself. There are so many things women are expected to just know when they get pregnant, and so much conflicting information, that this alone is probably a major source of stress for women who (like me) are under-insured. I understand the need for these studies, and the need to educate the public about all these things, but seriously- how are we supposed to not feel stressed out when pregnancy is a physically, emotionally and mentally stressful experience?

  14. eastsidekate
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    One more point:
    suissesse: On the other hand, my friend has had two home births. Her mom is a midwife and helped deliver both the girls. She didn’t seem too stressed before the births.
    Yay midwives!
    Our six-months of experience with an ob/gyn consisted of the doctor trying really hard to find something wrong with our daughter so that she could intervene. The two months with a midwife have seen none of that. I’m not saying that some mothers aren’t better off having the “traditional” Western clinical approach, but as lilianna28 says, it seems a bit unhealthy to treat pregnancy like a disease.
    Oh, and hang in there isfa! If it helps, think of all the perfectly healthy babies that were born 50, 100, or 1000 years ago, before we were so hyper-critical over everything a pregnant mom does.

  15. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    “It’s not that stress can’t affect gestation and foetuses, but it’s STUPID to admonish women to “reduce stress or risk complications!” It’s scientifically interesting to know what the effects of stress and their mechanisms might be, but that kind of ecommendation isn’t about health, it’s about blame”
    Is it useless and only about blame? Isn’t that the same advice we give men who work too much and are stressed at work?
    Massages, breathing exercises, meditation, stretching, showers, swimming, exercise, sex, relaxation classes, movies, reading, etc. All great ways to reduce stress and minimize negative effect of stress on health.

  16. Posted August 30, 2007 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Oh isfa, I’m sorry that’s been your experience. You know what you might do (speaking of midwives) is to see if you can find one in your area that will see low-income/no-income patients for a little money or free; many midwives will do this, and it would probably relieve a great deal of stress for you to have someone to talk to. Try calling a few of them in your area (Google or phone book); if they can’t see you, they may know someone who will. You could also call local doulas, childbirth educators, and LaLeche League organizers to get help, support, and information. Meetup.org is also an excellent resource for finding other expectant moms/experienced moms in your area. Just having those women to talk to can make a world of difference and help you feel safer.
    More than likely, you’re fine. Most pregnant women are! Your body knows what it’s doing. But being isolated and without support is a big stressor in pregnancy.
    Which is why I hate these kinds of articles, because all they do is make moms feel more stressed and guilty, without addressing the underlying issues. Like an article I saw on the news yesterday “How you may be endangering your health when the air is bad outside.” Um, no. I’M not endangering my health; the assholes who put crap in the air are! I refuse to feel guilty for breathing, dammit.

  17. Niquey13
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    While I agree that pregnancy should not be OVERmedicalized I do think it should be treated as a sickness at least to a degree. Just because something is normal and occurs often does not mean it isn’t dangerous. Pregnancy takes a huge toll on even the healthiest womens bodies. Yes, women have been giving birth for hundreds of thousands of years but let’s also remember that millions of women have died from pregnancy complications. Not only is stress harmful to the foetus it is also harmful to the pregnant woman. I certainly hope when/if I get pregnant (currently trying) that I will be treated with caution in the sense of someone who is in a dangerous situation. I don’t want to be poked and proded like I’m diseased but I hope my doctors/midwives will monitor me for potential problems. While pregnancy isn’t an illness it is in a sense a medical condition that is often unhealthy and harmful to a woman’s body.

  18. lilianna28
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    isfa, you haven’t done a single thing wrong, and you don’t need to stress about it. Purge yourself from the internets, or visit my favorite site in the whole world, mothertalkers.com – post a diary about what you’re going through and in one day you’ll have progressive moms from all walks of life giving you support. Seriously, the stats? Will drive you nuts.

  19. lilianna28
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Niquey13, I will respectfully disagree. Pregnancy, and giving birth, is something that can be assisted with medical help, but it is NOT an illness. It is a Natural Condition that a woman’s body is genetically prepared for. It is a biological occurrence. What medical advances have done is take the naturally occurring consequences of some pregnancies- which is, sadly, death and complications, and lessened those complications. I’m not suggesting we should abandon medical help and go back to pre-penicillin conditions, but there is a lot of money to be made when pregnancy and birth is treated like an extensive medical procedure.
    I was glad to have doctors on hand when I needed an emergency c-section. Birth, for me, became a medical procedure. Looking back on choice I made (epidural, pitocin) I wonder if I didn’t create the need for the procedure with all of previous steps I’d taken.
    And for all the US medicalization of birth, our infant mortality rates SUCK. So something isn’t quite working.

  20. Matthew
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    At lunch at work, I always sit with the middle-aged women. I’m the only guy at the table. Hearing their horror stories when my wife and I were expecting was actually okay, given the counter-balance of the midwife. I just can’t recommend getting in touch with a midwife enough (sadly, as a guy, my advice isn’t always taken with so much weight with regards to childbirth. But dammit, I know what I’m talking about)… though sadly, the one in my lunch group who’s pregnant is likely not going to follow my advice.
    We were given a book, and we asked the midwife’s opinion. The book was, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” and was the worst book we read on the subject. It was more like “What to Fear.”
    Sigh. We refused most tests and had a home birth, nothing went wrong, healthy baby and healthy mother. Sore back for me from getting the pool (which we didn’t use) ready, but that’s a small price to pay.
    Two things sell, I guess. Sex and fear. Stress affects everybody’s health, and having a child in North America today is extra stressful (thankfully we’re up in Canada with a full year parental leave). Of course it’s going to have a negative effect both on women’s health and consequently the health of the fetus. This study just gives one more thing to fear and adds to stress. Makes my neck ache just thinking about it.

  21. Erica B
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    A midwife that doesn’t monitor you for potential problems is not doing her job. However, she is more inclined to treat the process as something to be watched, and only intervened in as needed; a physician is more inclined to “meddle”. I had a midwife who was in practice with two OB/GYN’s, which meant if anything had gone wrong (say, requiring a c-section), a doctor familiar with my case would be on call; luckily nothing did, so she was all I needed. I LOVED it that way. I even did it without an epidural the second time (saved $1000, woohoo!), which was remarkably empowering. I digress, though.
    I agree that having the typical money etc. stresses is a big “duh”. Why on earth would those go away, or be lessened, for women who don’t happen to be currently pregnant?
    The emotional stresses that impending motherhood causes, however, are immense. You worry about losing your current lifestyle, you worry about whether you will be depressed, you worry about whether your partner will lust after you anymore, you worry about the best car seat to buy, you worry about whether you are worrying too much… meanwhile, everyone is treating this like a beautiful miraculous experience and telling you what a blessing it is and aren’t you full of joy, while you’re feeling nauseous and you have to pee and you feel anything BUT joyous with this weight killing your back and these worries bouncing around your mind and the hormones magnifying every little emotional swing…
    Fuck yes it is stressful, and I felt ashamed to not be overjoyed by pregnancy, and guilty. I loved my daughter, but all the stress and guilt got me depressed, which made me guiltier, and it wasn’t a great experience. Luckily the second time through my midwife worked with me to avoid a repeat of post-partum depression, so I was on Zoloft before and after my son’s birth. That helped, as did accepting my “crazy” emotional state and also knowing more what to expect and being willing to discuss my feelings with my spouse. Getting rid of the taboo on “baby blues” is key to coping with those blues.

  22. mirm
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    UCLA
    “Is it useless and only about blame? Isn’t that the same advice we give men who work too much and are stressed at work?”
    Men are advised to control stress to help their own health. Pregnant women are told to control stress to help the health of the fetus. The article only mentions “their baby’s development in the womb” not a woman’s own health.
    That’s blame.

  23. eastsidekate
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    We were given a book, and we asked the midwife’s opinion. The book was, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,”
    OMG… that book is so bad, that it’s almost funny, except for the fact that it’s still being given out. Not only does it monger fear, but it also contains lots of inaccuracies, and strikes me as misogynistic and painfully heteronormative. It’s sorta like Plain Facts, only for child birth, with a few accurate bits sprinkled in just to throw you off.

  24. Posted August 30, 2007 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Being pregnant was definitely stressful. I actually remember telling someone that pregnancy had made me more passionately pro-abortion than anything else. No one who doesn’t want a child should have to go through that.
    When I was moving cubicles at work once, I kept count. Literally two thirds of the 67 people at my location stopped by to remind me not to lift anything heavy. The moment I got pregnant, everyone forgot that I was an adult, capable of taking care of myself and my unborn child. The second guessing of every move a pregnant woman makes (Should you be getting this flu shot? Yes. Did you ask your doctor? Yes. Really?)is ridiculous. How can they treat us like small children without giving us any actual support? How can you tell someone not be stressed about the fact that stress is bad for their baby?
    Also, let’s keep it in perpective. Sushi, stress, alcohol, cat litter, lifting boxes, cough syrup, microwaves? All significantly less risky than driving for both you and your fetus.
    Ista, have you tried Planned Parenthood? And congratulations!

  25. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    “Men are advised to control stress to help their own health.”
    And more generally because they are perceived as provider, that they owe it to their family to stay healthy, and that if they die what will happen to their family?
    ” Pregnant women are told to control stress to help the health of the fetus. The article only mentions “their baby’s development in the womb” not a woman’s own health.
    That’s blame.”
    There are two different issues here.
    The first one, which motivates many health psychologists, is the clear link between chronic stress and poorer birth outcomes, especially in low SES communities. Their goal is to help reduce the amount of stress women feel – both because this has negative effects on their health and because of the effects on the child (something the women obviuosly care a great deal about.
    For example, one of my labmates focuses on stress and birth outcomes among women in Crenshaw, what stressors impact birth outcomes and health during pregancy (e.g., perceived racism, family stresses), and what interventions can help reduce infant mortality and prevent low birth weight.
    This seems pretty pro-women to me.
    There is nothing “blaming” about studies finding a link between stress and infant mortality/outcome, or about studies on interventions to reduce that stress and therefore promote offspring health.
    The second issue, which I think is important, does involve blame – the general tendency for people to hold women, but not men, responsible for their children’s health and welfare. Some people may use studies like this to assign blame. But that doesn’t mean that the studies that focus on infant outcomes are blaming. Rather, they identify important factors that predict greater health in offspring and what interventions promote this health, which is important to parents.

  26. Erica B
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    @Av0gadro — I saw the same thing at work!!! It was amazing, I went from a capable “tough” engineer, to the fragile blithering pregnant lady. Everybody else knew better than me how to gestate. Even the men. (Well, the fathers, at least.)
    - – - – -
    Consider that the vast majority of the influence on a baby is from the mother during those nine months of gestation. Reducing stress to reduce the toll on your own body is standard advice for either sex. Reducing stress to reduce the toll on your baby, that’s obviously only going to be told to women.
    Telling that to a woman that’s post-partum (e.g. “your child will now suffer if you stress out”) now that will qualify as blame :)

  27. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    There you go – what Eric B said, more succinctly than I :-) .

  28. mightyninjamom
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    When I was pregnant with my first child I had hyperemesis for the first six months, so I really didn’t stress about ANYTHING, but that’s because I was puking too much to care. I also slept for 14 hours a day, so that helped.
    When I felt better, the DH and I were invited to a dinner party, and I was the only pregnant lady there; most of the couples already had children and were politely asking me how I was. I confessed that I was worried because in general I don’t like children. There was a pause, as if no one could quite believe I’d just admitted that. And then a good friend totally broke the ice by saying “Well you want THIS one, don’t you?” We all laughed and I actually felt a lot better just for admitting what was, until then, a secret fear. Surprisingly, to me at least, I didn’t feel judged at all. But then again, 98% of the women there had already had kids, and I’m sure they had gone through something similar.

  29. mightyninjamom
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and second the “Yay” for midwives. I managed to stay healthy enough for two homebirths, and they were hard, but great.

  30. Posted August 30, 2007 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    1) throw away “what to expect”…it’s garbage…ugh…
    2) i recommend “girlfriend’s guide to pregnancy” (judy iovine, i think). it was a little cheekier, honest, and i found it useful. (the alternate title was “what your doctor won’t tell you”) when i was feeling the worst and craziest, it made me laugh out loud…it is actually a tad bit heter relationship focused, but way better than the other crap…
    and on guilt and stress…
    ever notice that EVERYONE is an expert on YOUR pregnancy? holy crap, seemed i was being chastized for everything i ate, drank, wore, and even dying my hair…
    your body suddenly becomes public property, everyone touching your belly and asking you questions about your cervix…give me a break…how the hell is the condition of my cervix the business of the cashier at the grocery store???…and if i had to listen to one more person tell me how WONDERFUL it was to be pregnant, and how INCREDIBLE it was to grow life inside me and how BLESSED i was to be going through this…i swear i was gonna punch someone…it is really easy to feel guilty if you aren’t enjoying every minute of this freakin science experiment your body goes through…by six months i already felt like i would be a horrible mother b/c i HATED being pregnant…i mean who doesn’t get upset and stressed when you feel out of control of your own body? from puking for months straight, heartburn, mood swings, things spreading and swelling, aching boobs, and having to get up to pee twenty times a night…to the big scary finish…it amazes me that people actually willingly do it more than once…
    it’s amazing the human race didn’t die out long ago…

  31. isfa
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for all the great tips- the website and the tips about midwifery! I will definitely explore that.
    I also want to second Avogadro on how being pregnant is making me even more pro-choice. I cannot fathom undergoing the ups and downs of pregancy under force.

  32. mightyninjamom
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    ouyangdan, I hear you. I had so many people ask me if I was keeping a pregnancy journal, or commemorating it in some other way, and chide me when I said no.
    I would give them my best glare and just say, “what about this do I want to remember?”
    I had a good friend who wasn’t hyperemetic, but still had pretty bad morning sickness, and when yet another nurse told her to try saltines, my friend told her “I know what every kind of food looks like thrown up.”
    Priceless.
    isfa: I’m glad someone already mentioned seeing a midwife and referring you to La Leche League. I was lucky to be able to form some good friendships from my childbirth classes as well, and it was nice to be able to call someone else who had a newborn and compare war stories and tactics. If you are able to find a midwife, see if she can fit you into a Bradley class – they’re not just for homebirthers, and the other moms make a great support system.

  33. Mina
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    “It’s a shame that we’ve medicalized pregnancy and birth to the heights it has been taken to. Instead of assisting in births, doctors ‘perform them’. Pregnancy is an ‘illness’ at worst or an ‘irregular condition’ at best despite the fact that pregnancy is how the species has survived… it’s odd.”
    …and if a woman or girl bleeds out after a difficult labor and her heart stops beating, she’s “dead.” How odd and unnatural is that terminology?
    “I understand the need for these studies, and the need to educate the public about all these things, but seriously- how are we supposed to not feel stressed out when pregnancy is a physically, emotionally and mentally stressful experience?”
    Right on.
    “Yes, women have been giving birth for hundreds of thousands of years but let’s also remember that millions of women have died from pregnancy complications.”
    Likewise, some pregnant women and girls want to improve their chances of raising healthy children, rather than calling the infant mortality rates of 1000 years ago as “perfectly healthy.”
    Now I’m wondering, is there any correlation between the “childbirth shouldn’t be medical” attitude and the number of relatives who died in infancy one has?
    “What medical advances have done is take the naturally occurring consequences of some pregnancies- which is, sadly, death and complications, and lessened those complications.”
    Exactly.

  34. Scarlet
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    How on earth are you supposed to avoid stress? Most of us have medical problems that are more or less directly caused (or worsened) by stress. But most causes of stress are beyond our control, especially when they relate to money. It’s all nice and well to get massages and relaxation classes, but you have to be able to afford them. (And even if there was some way to have them for free, they don’t make your REAL problems disappear, you’ll probably still worry about paying the rent 5 minutes after your wonderful and relaxing massage). So, yeah, stressing women by telling them that stress is bad for the fetus is really helpful. Like they’re not being told to be careful about a zillion potential disasters already…

  35. mightyninjamom
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    I don’t think anyone can deny the benefits of emergency medicine and surgery for saving a mother’s life, when the pregnancy and/or birth is risking it.
    However, there is a difference between intervening when necessary, (like the example of a woman bleeding out) and then there’s intervention in what is an otherwise normally progressing pregnancy and/or labor that CAUSES the need for emergency medical care.
    Let’s also not forget that the US does not exactly have a stellar ranking in the world for infant and maternal mortality rates.

  36. Posted August 31, 2007 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    I have asthma, and people at work sometimes question me when I take my inhaler, wanting to know if that’s okay for the baby. I usually say “Any ill effects there might be from the medication pale in comparison to the ill effects of not getting enough oxygen, so yeah, it’s okay.” I sometimes need to tell people that they can rest assured that they are not more concerned with the welfare of my unborn son than I am.
    I certainly noticed a dramatic increase in fetal movement when taking a vacation after a particularly stressful two weeks at work, and although there were probably other factors involved, I’m certain that the intense stress was not good for the health of the fetus. So I decided I wasn’t going to treat my work as though it was a matter of life and death.
    I have noticed the hormonal swings affecting my mood, and accepting that has made a huge difference. I don’t beat myself up for feeling like my marriage is going to end or that I’m going to be a terrible mother–I just accept those feelings, know that they don’t reflect reality, and wait it out until sanity has returned. The way I look at it, it would be unnatural not to have those reactions when I’m making the greatest change in my life that I will ever make.

  37. Posted August 31, 2007 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Also, has anyone seen this story?
    http://www.usnews.com/usnews/biztech/articles/070826/3mommy.htm
    The use of the word “mompreneurs” really pisses me off. Talk about sexist and belittling!

  38. AnneThropologist
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Oh, great. In addition to stressing about medical care, stressing about maternity leave, stressing about money, and stressing about eating right and exercising – now I have to be stressed that my stress is stressing my baby. THAT will help relieve my stress!
    For those of you who have read too many birthing horror stories, I seriously recommend Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Go midwives!! It’s a very uplifting, empowering, and informative read.
    I was flipping through a book at Barnes and Noble the other day and saw this quote,
    “There are millions of pregnancy Hare Krishnas out there, and unfortunately, the world is their airport.”
    I can relate.
    I had a woman stare at me as I was buying a six pack of beer the other day (I had a few friends coming over). She asked me if I should REALLY be buying that, and I smiled sweetly and said, “You’re right – I’d better get the 12 pack. I’m drinking for TWO!” :)

  39. Q
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Pregnant women are stressed out? Well, might as well get used to it. It’s not like it’s going to get any better once the child is born.

  40. SarahMC
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Annethropologist, that is awesome, haha!
    I’ve probably divulged this one before, but I’ve been told to quit smoking by a complete stranger on the street; he THOUGHT I was pregnant. I wasn’t.

  41. Taina
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    AnneThropologist- you are the 3rd person to recommend that book to me…hmmmm now I am curious to read for myself…
    But basically, I just wanted to say that I am currently pregnant (yay!) and I have to say that all these “rules” about what is and is not safe is more stressful than the pregnancy itself. I mean, yes I stress over money (or lack thereof) and birth, but it seems like every book I read focused on all the negative things.
    Luckily for me, my OB/Gyn is super sensitive and progressive, and just says go with the flow. Mixed emotions during pregnancy are perfectly normal, and women have felt them through out time. No need to stress out over stress now, too.
    Time to get a massage to clear my mind :)

  42. Rachel@WY
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    So, I’m currently pregnant and feel great. But it would be so sweet if there was a site out there for pregnant women to chat/read/vent about some of these “taboo” topics. For instance, did you ever really think about what it would be like to not drink AT ALL for 9 months? Suddenly your friends are not quite as cute/charming/funny as they used to be. But bitching about the alcohol prohibition is sooo not acceptable in the happy happy joy joy online pregnancy world. And yet half of the pregnant women I’ve seen online spend most of their time bitching about “hormonal issues,” which I have yet to experience. Is it just me or is there some kind of conspiracy afoot to rekindle the every-thought-and-emotion-you-have-is-hormonally-inspired motif?

  43. BabyGirl
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Hey there. Add me to the list of expectant moms! I feel the same way as everyone else. My boyfriend and I are expecting in November, the same time our lease is up and we have to move. We were all set to buy a house in June and the deal fell through and I’ve been stressing ever since about having to take another cheap apartment and not having a real nursery for my baby. Every time someone asks if I’ve decorated my nursery yet, I want to cry. I feel guilty for not being able to provide my baby with the best of everything. Logically I know that all my baby will need from me is my love, breast milk and a clean diaper, but it still hurts like hell and makes me feel inadequate.
    I’ll also 3rd, 4th and 5th everyone’s comments about midwives and the Gaskin book. I’ve also heard great things about La Leche League’s “Womanly art of breastfeeding.”

  44. Posted August 31, 2007 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Women are also struggling to deal with concerns over a range of ‘taboo’ topics they feel they cannot confess to publicly, according to the survey, conducted to mark the start of Tommy’s pregnancy health month.

    It ain’t just a matter of “feeling” that those topics can’t be discussed. It’s the reality that admitting to anything other than the perfect mother image will cause you trouble, from social disapproval right on up to a visit from whatever government agency is charged with protecting children.
    After our daughter was born, my wife suffered from PPD, and at one point in a conversation with the visiting nurse the hospital sent to do a follow-up a few days after both were back home, admitted that she was anxious about bonding with our daughter.
    This caused DYFS (Division of Youth and Family Services) to show up unannounced at our door to discuss “some allegations which had been made”. (“We received an allegation that the mother was not bonding with her child”) Thus began our 6 month adventure with a government bureaucracy designed to yell at parents.
    I won’t go into the full story here now, but… “feel they cannot confess” seems too light a phrase. These topics are taboo, and those taboos are enforced by government action.

  45. ekf
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    What a fertile bunch we are — I’m pregnant too! I can’t stress about how stressed I am. What a fucking ridiculous idea. I also don’t stress out that I’m not following the “Best Odds Diet” in What to Fear Next When You’re Expecting, nor do I stress out because I had a ham sandwich and wasn’t 100% sure that the meat was fully steaming before I ate it. There are risks to pregnancy, and worrying about every one of them will drive you nuts.
    I am stressed about what I’m going to do when the baby comes — will I go back to work, which only makes a certain amount of economic sense, or will I stay home, which will require some belt tightening but might allow me to do some of the things in my life that I love to do (like get my small business off the ground) but can’t because of work. I can’t control that stress, though, and frankly — I do feel like I’m more emotional these days, so I’m more prone to crying and worrying. I can’t really control that because some study tells me it might hurt fetal development. So does the fact that I live in a smoggy city. Given that my kid is already huge for its gestational age, I don’t think being developmentally behind is going to be a problem.
    As for books, I hated the Girlfriend’s Guide and What to Expect, as well as most other books that made a preposterously big deal out of how, for example, you might get more constipated during pregnancy (another source of stress, I might add) or other mildly inconvenient but not terribly interesting aspects of pregnancy. What to Expect seemed especially bad, because it would give you just enough information to know that a situation (preeclampsia, for example) might be serious, but nothing about what the symptoms were or what factors might make someone more or less at risk for the condition.
    I very much liked the book “Conception, Pregnancy and Childbirth,” by Miriam Stoppard, which had great pictures of both the developing mother’s body and the developing fetus on an every-four-week basis, talked about different birthing options in a non-judgmental way, was a little heteronormative but still talked of “partners” some and acknowledged that some women are going it alone, too, talked about not only what the major risks to pregnancy are but also what symptoms characterize such problems and why they are unlikely to be experienced by most women. It was one of the few books that I felt treated me like a grown, intelligent person and not a giggling schoolgirl who’d freak because pregnancy might make me fart more (Oh noes!).

  46. Mina
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    “How on earth are you supposed to avoid stress? Most of us have medical problems that are more or less directly caused (or worsened) by stress. But most causes of stress are beyond our control, especially when they relate to money. It’s all nice and well to get massages and relaxation classes, but you have to be able to afford them. (And even if there was some way to have them for free, they don’t make your REAL problems disappear, you’ll probably still worry about paying the rent 5 minutes after your wonderful and relaxing massage).”
    So true, no matter if one is pregnant or not!
    “We were all set to buy a house in June and the deal fell through”
    That sucks. Did your lenders freak out or something, what with the current market mess?
    “Every time someone asks if I’ve decorated my nursery yet, I want to cry. I feel guilty for not being able to provide my baby with the best of everything.”
    As if a normal newborn’s even able to see a whole room’s worth of decorations? Especially if they’re in pastels instead of having bold color contrasts? From what my parents said, a mobile and crib toys got me more alert but the wallpaper made no difference.
    “It’s the reality that admitting to anything other than the perfect mother image will cause you trouble, from social disapproval right on up to a visit from whatever government agency is charged with protecting children.”
    Meanwhile, the version I heard was that those government agencies don’t bother intervening for “less than perfect” cases because they’re too busy intervening for some of the “barely keeping the kids alive” cases and ignoring the rest lest they be accused of oppression or something. OTOH no doubt this varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

  47. Posted September 1, 2007 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Mina -
    I think the general problem is that those agencies operate in a scattershot manner, with the level of intrusion in particular people’s lives being determined more by random chance than anything else. Also, in our case this was immediately after DYFS had been grumbled at loudly by the state legislature after the newspapers uncovered some truly horrific foster child horror stories. (we were dealing with them in Jan. 2004) So institutionally, they were in “overreact if possible” mode. Still doesn’t change the fact that basically one admission of fairly typical motherly worries to a nurse took us six months to straighten out.

  48. Mina
    Posted September 1, 2007 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    “Also, in our case this was immediately after DYFS had been grumbled at loudly by the state legislature after the newspapers uncovered some truly horrific foster child horror stories. (we were dealing with them in Jan. 2004) So institutionally, they were in ‘overreact if possible’ mode.”
    That sucks. Wouldn’t overreaction hurt families like yours, spread case workers out too thin, and still increase the odds of abuse and neglect cases falling through the cracks?
    “Still doesn’t change the fact that basically one admission of fairly typical motherly worries to a nurse took us six months to straighten out.”
    Yeah, there have to be better ways to offer support that what they did.

  49. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted September 4, 2007 at 3:53 am | Permalink

    Not a central point to this discussion, but:
    “Oh, and hang in there isfa! If it helps, think of all the perfectly healthy babies that were born 50, 100, or 1000 years ago, before we were so hyper-critical over everything a pregnant mom does.”
    I mean, yeah, and also many, many babies and mothers have always died in childbirth or due to pregnancy, For whatever reason, humans have not evolved so that pregnancy is a terribly easy or safe ordeal. I don’t know that the western clinical approach is the best, but I thanmk god for things like modern antiseptics and surgical methods.

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