Stress Reduction

Mamas on Bedrest: If You Relax, So Will Your Baby!

June 6th, 2011

Most of us recognize that stress is not a good thing for a pregnant mama or her baby.  Prenatal stress has been associated with poor fetal growth, shorter fetal length, prematurity and low birth weight babies.  Most prenatal health care providers will counsel mamas under stress and try to direct them towards stress reduction programs and treatments. However, until now no one knew if the stress reduction interventions reach the baby, relaxing her, and reversing the negative consequences of maternal prenatal stress.

Nadine S. Fink, PhD, a perinatal clinical psychologist at Children’s Hospital in Boston, MA and her colleagues looked at the effect of relaxation on 33 pregnant mamas and their babies to see if babies were in fact affected (relaxed) by the techniques. Fink and her colleagues also tried to determine just how the relaxation was transferred from mama to her baby.

The study mamas were instructed in either Guided Imagery (GI) or Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). Both relaxation modalities showed changes in fetal behavior. Babies whose mamas engaged in the relaxation techniques were better able to adapt to stress as measured by fetal heart rate monitor variations. Fetuses in the control group (CG) had more fetal heart rate accelerations  an indicator of fetal stress. Interestingly, mamas in the PMR showed more uterine activity than mamas in the GI group or the CG.

Fink and her colleagues concluded that fetuses are able to relax when their mamas engage in relaxation techniques and that the most effective technique appears to be GI. Fink acknowledges that this is the first in what needs to be many more studies of this sort, examining the effects of relaxation on a large population of pregnant women and their fetuses before any clear conclusions can be drawn.

I cannot over emphasize the importance of coping with stress during pregnancy. In addition to the aforementioned effects on the baby, mamas who experience prenatal stress are at increased risk of developing complications such as elevated blood pressure, preterm labor and perinatal depression. If you are under stress do get help. Speak with your health care provider or social worker and find out about resources in your area. If you need further assistance, we are here to help. We can get you started with a Complimentary 30 Minute Bedrest Breakthrough Session. It’s completely free and a way for you to start gathering resources. To schedule your Complimentary 30 Minute Bedrest Breakthrough Session, send an e-mail to