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7 Tips to Help Moms Manage Stress

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What affects you, can affect your child.

Mothers hear this message a lot from MOMS Orange County, usually in connection with prenatal care, nutrition and health education. But what they sometimes overlook is the connection between their stress levels and the health of their babies.

During April, we recognize National Stress Awareness Month. Learning healthy ways to cope with stress is not just for the working professional trying to please a boss or meet a deadline. Mothers and pregnant women suffer from the same symptoms of stress as everyone else does, including difficulty sleeping, changes in eating habits, and relationship strains with family and friends. But it’s even more important for mothers-to-be to acknowledge their stress, strive for quality sleep, maintain a proper diet and connect with a support system.

If stress gets the best of you, you could experience severe side effects that put you and your baby at risk. Fortunately, these risks are avoidable by practicing stress-management techniques you can use for a lifetime.

At MOMS Orange County, a nonprofit organization serving low-income pregnant women for more than 22 years, we teach our clients some simple-yet-effective ways to bring down their stress to manageable levels. And these tips are not for pregnant women only. They apply to mothers following the arrival of their baby, families trying to support mothers and, really, anyone caught up in the cycle of stress disruption.

  • Practice deep breathing. Find a quiet place, even if it’s the bathroom, to be alone and concentrate on breathing deeply. This will trigger your body’s natural functions to reduce stress.
  • Talk with a friend. Your support system is there to nurture you. Don’t feel like it’s a sign of weakness to admit to stress and gain comfort from a friend. In fact, it’s a sign of strength.
  • Walk your way to relaxation. We recommend walking regularly for 30 minutes at an easy pace, preferably with a friend or group of friends for safety reasons. Make sure you carry water to stay hydrated, and walk after meals to use up glucose resources. Walking in the early morning or early evening will help you avoid the hot sun and possible sunburn, and wearing proper shoes will enhance your comfort level and reduce your risk of injury. Before you begin a walking program or any exercise routine while you’re pregnant, talk with your physician.
  • Engage in group-related activities. You are not alone. At MOMS Orange County, we offer Breastfeeding, Prenatal Education and Childbirth Preparation classes, where we discuss stress factors. It’s also a great opportunity to meet expectant couples and expand your support system.
  • Get referrals to support groups. You can get counseling at one of the 13 Family Resource Center collaboratives in Orange County. Plus, OC Postpartum Wellness offers free access to counseling after participation in focus groups.
  • Participate in programs for mothers. We encourage joining Mommy & Me groups where you can meet other new mothers and support one another. Mothers also can engage in local Zumba classes offered at churches and community centers, where kids also are welcome.
  • Stress doesn’t have to interfere with a happy, healthy pregnancy or family life. By educating yourself on stress-management techniques and using them to overcome stressful situations, you can care for your body and your baby during the special time of pregnancy and throughout your life.

With over 38 years of experience in maternal/child health, Pamela Pimentel, RN, CEO of MOMS Orange County, is an expert when it comes to mothers and babies. Since 2000, Pimentel has led MOMS Orange County in helping at-risk mothers and their families have healthy babies through the nonprofit’s services of providing access to prenatal care, health screenings, infant development screenings, health education and referral services through monthly home visits and group classes. Among her many awards and accolades, she has been honored as March of Dimes Nursing Executive of the Year, as the National Latina Business Woman Leader of the Year, and with Senator Lou Correa’s “Women Making a Difference” Award. To learn more about Pimentel and MOMS Orange County, visit www.momsorangecounty.org.

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