I was one of those pregnant women who felt determined to prove that pregnancy wouldn't slow me down. Take the hike? You betcha! Paint the house? I'm all over it! Keep weightlifting? Of course!
While I definitely had my moments of complete pregnancy exhaustion, for some reason, during all of my pregnancies, I was hell-bent on preventing others from accommodating me for anything. In my mind, I felt like if I was going to have kids, I had to work extra hard to make sure no one could accuse me of slowing down.
But the truth is, science has an important lesson for those of us who have a hard time taking a break during pregnancy. While we may think that we need to maintain our normal workloads, keep our normal exercise schedules, juggle our other kids’ schedules and basically not change a darn thing while we add in the superhuman task of growing another human, science essentially begs us to do the opposite and put our freaking feet up once in a while.
We are operating on a lot of outdated theories that to be a 'good' mom, we should sacrifice everything for our kids.
Many studies done during pregnancy seem focused on what women are doing wrong while simultaneously telling them to relax ("Just relax, but here's 18 million studies about everything you're doing wrong!"). However, new research out of Sweden took a different approach. Instead of looking at a mom’s diet, how much exercise she got or if she took the wrong medication, it looked at her day-to-day stress levels. And the conclusion?
When pregnant women are able to relax more and stress less, the literal health of her entire family improves.
The study got into some pretty heavy themes, such as how deeply stressors like family disruptions, poverty and trauma (for instance, the death of a loved one during pregnancy) can lead to increased mental health disorders in the children of mothers who experienced them. The takeaway of the study, according to one leading health expert, boiled down to something pretty simple: Strategies, policies and programs with the purpose of making life easier for pregnant women leads to healthier, more successful children.
There's a long way to go to figure out and implement societal measures that can help reduce stress for pregnant women. But, on our end, it might help to reduce stress in areas that we can personally control, even if it means ordering in so you can take a nap.
The fact that studies are finally looking into practical ways we can support mothers through pregnancy and focusing not just on physical health, but mental and emotional health as well, is a really good sign. We are operating on a lot of outdated theories that motherhood is the ultimate sacrifice; that to be a "good" mom, we should sacrifice everything for our kids. But that’s not only untrue, it’s also a harmful way of thinking.
Without taking care of ourselves first and foremost, our entire family suffers. That includes during pregnancy. Take care of yourself during pregnancy and your kids will be better off for it.