PregnancyPHFY_WEBWhile everyday pressure is a part of modern life, a high level of chronic stress can boost your odds of preterm labor or of delivering a low-birth weight baby. If you’re used to caring for others or giving 110 percent at work, making yourself a priority may seem unnatural or even selfish. But taking care of yourself is an essential part of taking care of your baby. Cutting down on stress — or learning how to manage it — makes for a healthier pregnancy.

How can I calm down?

Here are a few ways to manage your stress and reduce anxiety at work and at home:

  • Practice saying “no.” Now’s as good a time as any to get rid of the notion that you can do it all. You can’t, so learn to let your superwoman ideals go. Make slowing down a priority, and get used to the idea of asking your friends and loved ones for help.
  • Cut back on chores — and use that time to put your feet up, nap, or read a book.
  • Take advantage of sick days or vacation whenever possible. Spending a day — or even an afternoon — resting at home will help you get through a tough week.
  • Try deep-breathing exercises, yoga, or stretching.
  • Get regular exercise such as swimming or walking.
  • Do your best to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet so you have the physical and emotional energy you need.
  • Go to bed early. Your body is working overtime to nourish your growing baby and needs all the sleep it can get.
  • Limit “information overload.” Reading pregnancy books, surfing pregnancy Web sites, and listening to your friends’ pregnancy stories are fine — but don’t delve into all the scary things that might (but probably won’t) happen during your pregnancy. Focus instead on how you’re feeling and what’s happening to you now.
  • Join a support group. If you’re coping with a difficult situation, spending time with others in the same boat can ease your burden.
  • If you’re under unusual stress or feel like you’re at your breaking point, ask your healthcare provider to refer you to a therapist, who can better assess how strong your anxiety has become and what you may need to do to feel better. Listen openly to what she has to say. Getting help during pregnancy will protect you and your baby from unnecessary risks and reduce your chances of postpartum anxiety and depression.