Pregnancy is a time of great excitement and happiness but for many parents-to-be it’s also a time of heightened emotions and anxiety about making sure you do what’s right for you and baby.
This is particularly true now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite reassurances that pregnant women are at no greater risk of becoming seriously unwell with COVID-19 than any other healthy adult, without doubt coronavirus raises additional concerns during pregnancy.
We’ve teamed up with Laura Pheasant of Glowing Bumps for useful advice to reduce your anxiety levels in pregnancy.
Laura says, ‘Stress and anxiety can increase the release of cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone. Whilst we need cortisol, too much over a sustained period of time can have negative effects, influencing many of the bodily functions which are important for maintaining a strong immune system and creating a healthy baby’.
So what does cortisol do?
- It controls blood sugar levels – too much can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes
- It influences how the body uses protein, carbohydrates and fats
- It can raise your blood pressure if you are stressed or anxious
- It helps to regulate healthy sleeping patterns
- It controls inflammation – but critically, too much over a period of time can exacerbate inflammation which isn’t good for you
Reducing and managing your stress levels during pregnancy and keeping your cortisol levels under control is important both for your long-term health and the health of your baby.
What can you do to keep cortisol levels under control?
- Exercise regularly – aim for at least 30 minutes on at least 5 days a week.
- Make daily meditation and relaxation techniques part of your routine
- Prioritise sleep – it helps to boost your immune system – and try to get to bed earlier if you feel more tired
- Establish and maintain a good daily routine with mealtimes, exercise and relaxation time as structure is good for body and mind
It’s also important to maintain a healthy pregnancy diet.
Make sure you have a well-balanced diet during pregnancy, choosing nutritional food to reduce your body’s cortisol levels.
Colourful fruit and vegetables, such as tomatoes, oranges, blueberries, carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, peppers, broccoli and green leafy veg will boost your vitamin C intake naturally and are great for reducing inflammation.
Olive oil, oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, pilchards and nuts such as almonds and walnuts are also good choices.
Make sure you have a good daily fluid intake of between 1.5-2.5 litres.
Laura’s top diet tips for controlling cortisol, maintaining a strong immune system and reducing inflammation during pregnancy:
- Start the day with a drink of hot water with lemon (vitamin C), sliced ginger (anti-inflammatory) and a little honey (antioxidants)
- Sweet peppers have more vitamin C gram for gram than some citrus fruits and also have anti-inflammatory properties. Eat them raw in salads, or slice them in half and roast them whole, stuffed with tomatoes, olives, a sprinkling of herbs and a spoonful of olive oil.
- Ensure you eat lots of broccoli for vitamins A, C and E and remember that frozen broccoli is packed with nutrients and can be healthier than fresh. Always have it in the freezer, along with petit pois or peas.
- Turmeric is another food with anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties. Add it to recipes whenever possible.
- Oats and bananas both have the probiotic properties essential for boosting the growth of healthy gut bacteria to support your immune system.
- Increase your chances of a good night’s sleep by having your last drink of water approximately 90 minutes before going to bed to reduce the need to get up for a wee in the middle of the night.
- Eat a good-sized breakfast, such as a bowl of porridge with fruit or eggs on toast, a moderate sized lunch, an afternoon snack and a lighter supper