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Stress during pregnancy: Is Meghan Markle's health at risk?

Now To Love logo Now To Love 12/2/2019 Fiona Wright
Meghan Markle posing for the camera: High levels of stress during pregnancy can have dire health consequences. As her family dramas are thrust into the spotlight, we investigate why there is concern for Meghan Markle and her unborn baby. © Getty Images High levels of stress during pregnancy can have dire health consequences. As her family dramas are thrust into the spotlight, we investigate why there is concern for Meghan Markle and her unborn baby.

Pregnancy is an exciting, challenging and often stressful time as your body changes and you emotionally and mentally prepare for the new life you are set to bring into the world.

For Meghan Markle, reportedly now in her third trimester, this should be a time for relaxation and calmness.

a woman standing in front of a brick wall: As she enters her third trimester, friends are concerned for Meghan's emotional well-being. (Image: Getty Images) © Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd As she enters her third trimester, friends are concerned for Meghan's emotional well-being. (Image: Getty Images)

But due to a heartbreaking and very public rift with her father, close friends are concerned for the duchess's emotional well-being and the strain she is under.

The latest incident to cause a rise in Meghan's stress levels, sees her father, Thomas Markle, revealing to the media a very personal five-page letter she penned shortly before her wedding to Harry in May 2018.

In the letter, Megan addresses the heartbreak over interviews Thomas gave to the press, as well as his fabricated stories against Prince Harry: "Your actions have broken my heart into a million pieces — not simply because you have manufactured such unnecessary and unwarranted pain."

For Meghan in the latter stages of her pregnancy, this stressful situation with her father could lead to dire consequences for not only her own health, but it poses serious health risks for her unborn baby too.

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Causes of stress during pregnancy

The causes of stress during pregnancy can differ widely. For some mamas-to-be, being pregnant is stressful in itself as they struggle to cope with the physical changes. For others, there can be bigger factors at play, such as a fall-out with family (like in Meghan's case), a relationship breakdown, a passing of a loved one and a culmination everyday stresses like, battling traffic and managing a household.

Symptoms of stress

Stress can cause many physical, emotional, mental, and social symptoms, including:

• Headaches

• Problems sleeping

• Fast breathing and a racing pulse

• Obsessive thoughts

• Worry or anxiety

• Anger

• Eating problems (too much or too little food, or the wrong types of food)

• Trouble relaxing or winding down

Severe, long-term stress can cause the following complications when left untreated:

• High blood pressure

• Gestational diabetes

• Weakened immune system

• Severe depression

a man smiling for the camera: Meghan's in the middle of a heartbreaking rift with her father, Thomas Markle. (Image: Getty Images) © Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd Meghan's in the middle of a heartbreaking rift with her father, Thomas Markle. (Image: Getty Images)

How stress can affect your unborn baby

Chronic stress can have an effect on your unborn baby's physical and mental development. Emotional stress stimulates the release of cortisol hormone, which increases with the severity of stress.

In extreme situations, the following could occur:

• The baby could be born preterm, which could result in digestive problems, respiratory issues, low immunity and death of the infant in some cases.

• Full-term babies may be born underweight and have poor immune system. It can also cause hypoxia (inadequate oxygen supply during birthtime), which can lead to long-term developmental consequences in babies.

• Increased risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in later life.

Stress less

Finding ways manage stress and look after your emotional well-being can ensure a positive pregnancy experience and reduce the risk of health complications for you and your baby.

To reduce stress, try the following:

• Try relaxation techniques such as prenatal yoga or meditation or simply relax with a book or in front of your favourite TV show.

• Go for walk or do some light physical activity.

• Talk to friends, family or a health professional to work through your troubles and for emotional support.

• Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.

• Be aware of what is making you stressed and work through a way to calmly deal with it.

• Spend time with people who make you feel calm and ask for help when you need it.

Help and support

If you are unable to cope with stress, there is support and resources available to help:

• Your doctor, who can help you or refer you to a counsellor

PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia)

Beyond Blue

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