Stress and Pregnancy
It’s quite natural during pregnancy to experience some stress
about this huge life-changing experience – ranging from anxiety about
childbirth to worries about the financial implications or readiness for
parenthood. Stress is “a state of tension that occurs when there are too
many demands in the environment or when we experience or anticipate
experiencing a situation that is perceived as threatening, unpleasant or
unfamiliar” (Nejad & Volny, 2008).
When we experience stress the sympathetic nervous system (in the
central nervous system) arouses and activates the stress response, more
commonly known as “fight or flight” designed to protect us from danger –
although in modern society the stress response is more likely to be responding
to juggling our family responsibilities and work demands than it is from
Regardless of the stressor the body kicks into action, and part
of that involves increasing and sending more glucose into the bloodstream,
ensuring a quick source of energy to mobilise the body to take action i.e.
fight or flee.
So, when you are stressed your blood glucose levels rises,
increasing the risk for gestational diabetes.
The Good News
However, just as the body has the natural ability to arouse and
prepare for action through the sympathetic nervous system, it also has a
‘recovery’ mechanism that calms this response and returns us (via the central
nervous system) to balance, reducing the affects of stress – this is called the
parasympathetic nervous system, or more commonly the Relaxation response.
The good news is this relaxation response can be deliberately
activated, and in doing so gives us a that combine stress control with health and wellbeing
Some people are more at risk of developing gestational diabetes
(e.g. when there’s a history of type-2 diabetes in the family) but basically
diabetes occurs in a person when there is too much glucose in their
The hormone Insulin has the role of getting glucose from the
bloodstream into the muscles and other tissues so it can be used as
energy. During pregnancy insulin production needs to increase fourfold
(Auckland district health board), and sometimes insulin resistance can occur –
this is when the placenta hormones that nourish the baby block the normal
action of insulin so the body can’t effectively use the insulin it’s making and
therefore high levels of glucose remain in the blood.
So, in gestational diabetes, insulin resistance or the mothers
body not making enough insulin leads to high glucose levels, which increase the
risk of pregnancy complications (such as pre-eclampsia and pre-term birth), and
the baby can become very large which impacts delivery (e.g. higher need for
c-sections and risk of shoulder dislocation). The baby is also at
higher risk of developing problems including respiratory distress syndrome
(breathing issues), prolonged jaundice, and low glucose levels after separating
from the placenta (Auckland District health board; diabetes.org.nz).
Gestational diabetes usually disappears after the baby is born –
however having had gestational diabetes increases the risk by 50-60% of
developing type-2 diabetes (diabetes.org.nz)
Deep relaxation has been scientifically proven to reduce blood glucose levels
The current recommended practices in New Zealand for the
treatment of Gestational Diabetes centre around exercise and nutrition.
However, international research around diabetes has proven that regular deep
relaxation and stress management can also be very effective in treating
diabetes. In studies of patients with Type-2 Diabetes (also
attributed to high levels of glucose in the bloodstream) regularly
listening to relaxation audios and using stress management techniques significantly
reduced blood glucose levels (McGinnis et al, 2005; Surwit et al, 2002).
In fact lead researcher and medical psychologist Richard Surwit,
from Duke University Medical Centre, says that using deep relaxation alongside
the standard educational care for diabetes can be as successful at reducing
glucose levels as you would expect to see from some diabetes-control drugs.
Hypnosis is an effective way of getting deep relaxation
So together with the appropriate nutrition and exercise,
adding 20 minutes of deep relaxation into your daily routine can have a really
positive impact, not only on your glucose levels but also by lowering blood
pressure (high blood pressure can also lead to complications during pregnancy)
Hypnosis, a safe and naturally occurring state, has been proven
as an extremely effective method of producing deep relaxation in both the mind
and body. Going into the hypnotic state not only slows our brain waves
into alpha and theta states (like when we go through the sleep cycle at night)
but it also triggers the physiological relaxation response in the
parasympathetic nervous system. from this deep relaxation are numerous –including lowering both
glucose levels and blood pressure; and with the relaxation response activated
your bodies energy can be diverted to restoring, healing and replenishing – I’m
sure you can imagine how wonderful that is for both you and your baby!
You can get this deeply calming rest from hypnotic relaxation
audios, or by seeing a Clinical Hypnotherapist who can help you manage and
increase your capacity for coping with stress and set up instinctive responses
that you can trigger whenever you want the mind and body relax instantly. addresses conscious and unconscious fears and anxieties about
childbirth, as well as relaxation and pain control methods.
Hypnosis reduces the risks, use it for self-care and prevention
So just as you’re likely to be prioritising taking folic acid,
getting adequate exercise and eating well, consider adding quality deep
relaxation of the mind and body into your daily routine for self care and
prevention of pregnancy and birth complications – maximising your chances for
the best possible outcome for you and your baby.
Auckland District Health Board (Sept 2013)
McGinnis, R. A., McGrady, A., Cox, S. A., & Grower-Dowling, K. A. (2005) Diabetes Care, v28 pp2145-2149
Nejad, L., & Volny, K. (2008) Bethel, CT: Crown House Publishing
Surwit, R.S., van Tilburg, M. A. L., Zucker, N., McCaskill, C. C., Parekh, P., Feinglos, N. M., Edwards, C. L., Williams, P., & Lane, J. D. (2002) . Diabetes Care, v25 pp30-34 Diabetes Clinic, National Women’s Health, Auckland City Hospital