What are the factors leading to mental stress during pregnancy?

As pregnancy is a time of heightened vulnerability, many pregnant women use the internet to access information from online sources.1 However, the use of digital media by pregnant women could have a negative effect on their psychological well-being.1 Digital media use during pregnancy has been associated with higher self-criticism, higher negative affect and lower quality of life.1 Confusion over different information found online is also a problem and thus, high quality research-based information should be accessible to women during pregnancy.1

Late pregnancies (> 35 years) can also affect women’s physical, social and psychological well-being.2 Studies have shown that pregnant women over 35 years of age were worried about their own and their developing babies’ health, work and career, and felt discriminated against for their age and pregnancy.2 These issues can increase anxiety in pregnant women.2

What are the consequences of severe stress?

Stress during pregnancy increases the risk of preterm delivery (< 37 weeks), and postpartum depression.3,4 Stress and anxiety during pregnancy is also associated with negative consequences on the foetus and subsequent development.5 Thus, it is crucial for pregnant women to learn the right ways of managing stress and anxiety during pregnancy.

What are the ways of managing stress and anxiety during pregnancy?

Pregnant women are encouraged to practise yoga, meditate, and exercise regularly.5,6 Yoga is a mindful activity that can be easily modified for pregnant women, while meditating helps to clear the mind and lower stress levels.5,6 Exercise releases dopamine and serotonin, which reduces stress levels, anxiety and depression.7 It is also important to eat healthily with a well-balanced diet and take probiotics to reduce anxiety and stress during pregnancy.6,8 This helps with stress management during pregnancy.


Healthy Eating during Pregnancy

What are the dos and don’ts of pregnancy diet?

There is a serious risk of pregnant women falling ill from consuming raw or unpasteurised milk.9 Unpasteurised milk can carry dangerous bacteria such as E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella which can cause foodborne illness.9 Hence, any unpasteurised milk or milk products should be avoided.9

A healthy pregnancy diet is important for pregnant women to help their developing baby’s growth.10,11 The aim should be a balanced diet for pregnant women with all the 5 food groups.11 Some of the foods to avoid during pregnancy are foods that are high in fat and sugar. These foods are high in calories which can contribute to weight gain during pregnancy or increase cholesterol levels.10,11

High-protein diets during pregnancy are not recommended as it could increase the risk of negative effects on the developing baby.12 Greasy and oily foods should be avoided as they are more difficult to digest.13 Medical professionals do not recommend herbs for pregnant women since herbs do not have an established safety profile from research.14 Although herbs are natural, not all herbs are safe for consumption during pregnancy and may contain agents that are contraindicated in pregnancy.14

Pregnant women experience distinct physiological changes and stress with unique physical and psychological demands.5 Thus, it is important to understand and prepare for these changes by practising mindfulness and adopting a healthy lifestyle to help improve stress management during pregnancy.


1. Smith M, Mitchell AS, Townsend ML, Herbert JS. The relationship between digital media use during pregnancy, maternal psychological wellbeing, and maternal-fetal attachment. PLoS ONE. 2020;15(12):e0243898
2. Aldrighi JD, Wall ML, Souza SRSK, Cancela FZV. The experiences of pregnant women at an advanced maternal age: an integrative review*. Rev Esc Enferm USP. 2016;50(3):509-518.
3. March of Dimes. Stress and pregnancy. Available at:
https://www.marchofdimes.org/stress-and-pregnancy.aspx Accessed on 13 August 2021.
4. Scheyer K, Urizar Jr GG. Altered stress patterns and increased risk for postpartum depression among low-income pregnant women. Arch Womens Ment Health. 2016;19(2):317-328.
5. Curtis K, Weinrib A, Katz J. Systematic review of yoga for pregnant women: Current status and future directions. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;715942. doi:10.1155/2012/715942.
6. American Pregnancy Association. Stress during pregnancy. Available at:
https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/stress-during-pregnancy-10335/ Accessed on 5 July 2021.
7. Davenport MH, McCurdy AP, Mottola MF, et al. Impact of prenatal exercise on both prenatal and postnatal anxiety and depressive symptoms: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2018;52:1376-1385.
8. Browne PD, Bolte A, Claassen E, de Weerth C. Probiotics in pregnancy: protocol of a double-blind randomized controlled pilot trial for pregnant women with depression and anxiety (PiP pilot trial). Trials. 2019;20(440). doi:10.1186/s13063-019-3389-1.
9. Food and Drug Administration. The dangers of raw milk. Available at:
10. National Health Service United Kingdom. Have a healthy diet in pregnancy. Available at:
https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/have-a-healthy-diet/ Accessed on 7 July 2021.
11. Pregnancy Birth and Baby. Healthy diet during pregnancy. Available at:
https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/healthy-diet-during-pregnancy Accessed on 7 July 2021.
12. World Health Organization. High-protein supplementation during pregnancy. Available at:
https://www.who.int/elena/titles/high-protein-pregnancy/en/ Accessed on 13 August 2021.
13. University of California San Francisco. Coping with common discomforts of pregnancy. Available at:
https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/coping-with-common-discomforts-of-pregnancy?p=1 Accessed on 7 July 2021.
14. American Pregnancy Association 2. Herbs and pregnancy. Available at:
https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/is-it-safe/herbs-and-pregnancy-1003/ Accessed on 7 July 2021.
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