Pregnancy: Can work stress affect baby-to-be?

Studies have shown that stress may play a part in maternal health and therefore in foetal health and well-being. For example, women who stand for more than 4 hours at a job without a break have a higher risk of early labour.

It is difficult to quantify stress. There are often so many other contributing factors (age, smoking, alcohol) that it is difficult to study the true effect of stress on pregnancy. But pregnancy puts a considerable demand upon a woman's emotional and physical state, so it is important to keep to a minimum, if possible, anything that could potentially negatively impact the pregnancy.
The benefit of bed rest and "taking it easy" is also debatable. Most studies say this does not offer significant benefit in larger samples of women. But if your job is stressful and you work long hours on your feet, "rest" is precisely what you need.
If anything should happen, you will (probably unnecessarily) blame yourself, so it is wise to cut take precautions if you know your job is stressful.

Try to:    

  • Work regular hours, and relax on weekends. While many women are "competing" with men in the business world, the men aren't going into the labour ward with you. Relax whenever you can.
  • Take your weight off your feet as often as possible during your working day.
  • Take short breaks – ten minutes every hour or so – and stretch or walk a little outside your office.
  • Get enough sleep at night. Even if you aren't pregnant, studies show that people who get sufficient sleep are far more effective at work.
  • Take up yoga or some other form of gentle exercise that allows you to get rid of excess energy and teaches you stress reduction techniques.
While stress has become a part of everyone's daily life, being an expectant mother puts you in a more responsible position. For the sake of your health, and that of your unborn baby, take it easy. The difference will be apparent in no time!