Stress and Pre-term Labor

This image was posted in the Incompetent Cervix Awareness group on Facebook and I felt compelled to share. During my physical therapy, one of the surprising tidbits I picked up was just how important it was for me to destress, as tension is often held in the pelvic floor (for both pregnant and non-pregnant women) which can lead to premature dilation/ early delivery in women who are pregnant. 

I remember at our first prenatal appointment with this baby, the doctor looked specifically at Grant and said, "This is going to be a really really tough pregnancy for your wife. Your job is to make it less stressful." and we kind of laughed it off. Come full circle, it has been a tough pregnancy- perhaps in a different way than she had imagined, but letting go of the stress, trying to keep light-hearted and positive and practice things like meditation has helped me along the way. 

Aside from the stress of being in the hospital for 21 days now and away from Grace, we have been battling getting our rental in Palo Alto sublet, renovating the new home in Los Altos we closed on the day before I was admitted, and being so far away from so many of our friends. It also didn't help getting a message from a high school friend this morning who sent a picture of the garage door of our new home wide open- and finding out my husband flew to San Diego for work this morning (a trip I thought had been cancelled with current circumstances) so I had to scramble from my hospital bed to get someone to close it. Stress could be at an all time high, but I really feel like this experience has challenged me to make the active choice in relinquishing what I could, and not let the negativity or stress of others affect me. I've been blessed to be able to so heavily rely on my mother and have the support of my girlfriends for those times when I just need to vent frustrations and be a bit crazy. And sneaking extra lemons & cucumbers from my hospital lunch tray into my water bottles has made the stay feel more like a spa...errrrr, or not... :)

Scientifically, stress-related "Corticotropin-releasing hormone plays an important role in the etiology of preterm delivery associated with maternal or fetal stress." (Am J Obstet Gynecol 1999;180:S264-6.) Managing hormonal reactions can lead to longer gestation by not putting activating the body into panic mode. According to the March of Dimes, high levels of stress can cause a dangerous increase in blood pressure and heart disease- as well as increasing the risk for a preterm baby (born before week 37) and low birth weight (under 5.5 lbs). Maternal stress can lead to fetal stress, which is why patients like myself are monitored every few hours usually. Maternal stress while pregnant has also been linked with anxiety and attention problems for the child later in life.

Typically, most of my medical decisions are based on hard data-driven science, weighing odds and risk factors and unfortunately there is not tons of conclusive evidence on leveraging stress-reducing techniques to prolong pregnancy, but I honestly believe my personal choice to be as stress-free as possible and prioritize the health of my baby has helped my body stabilize and keep this baby cooking. Food for thought at least.