How Does Cortisol Impact Mothers?

Dear readers,  Cortisol has been shown to negatively impact maternal mood and also a baby in the uterus.  When we are under stress and pregnant, our baby is bathed in stress hormones. 

The good news is there are many things one can do to reduce stress (and cortisol) during pregnancy.  Be sure to look for my comments below in ORANGE.

Keep Cortisol at Bay: How to Balance the Stress Hormone

Monday, April 06, 2009 by: Elizabeth Walling, citizen journalist
(NaturalNews) Stress is not a modern-day problem. It’s something mankind has been dealing with since our very existence began. Our bodies even come built with a specialized hormonal response to stress: our adrenal glands trigger a burst of hormones like cortisol to help us deal with periods of stress. This release of cortisol is meant to be temporary – perfect for chasing down game or outrunning an enemy.
Today, our lives are busy and stress is virtually constant. This lifestyle produces chronic high cortisol levels. So, while we may not have to worry about evading a grizzly bear, our modern way of life has its own risks. High cortisol levels are linked to a weakened immune system, insomnia, weight gain, high blood pressure, depression and more. Fortunately, we can take measures to balance our cortisol levels and regain our good health.

Budget Your Stress

This is especially important for new mothers, whether or not they are experiencing a mood reaction.  New motherhood is the perfect time to work through the need for things to be perfectly in order.  Scale back on stress-inducers.

It’s impossible for anyone to eliminate all stress from their lives, but we each have the choice of what stresses we are willing to deal with. In the same way you would prioritize your expense budget, decide which stress-inducers you are willing to handle and then discard the rest. If you feel like you are constantly running around, then you probably need to make a few cuts to reduce your stress. And if you find yourself dealing with a major stressor – like divorce, relocation, or a sick loved one – you may need to temporarily scale back even further.

Take a Break From Stress

Even after making cuts in your stress budget, you’re still likely to run across situations that cause your cortisol to jump sky-high. The best way to combat these stressors is to allow yourself some downtime. Here are some proven ways to put a check on your cortisol:

– Sleep it off. Eight hours of sleep every night is one of the most effective ways of lowering cortisol. Even if you didn’t sleep well the night before, a midday siesta can help make up for lost hours and normalize your cortisol, according to research at Pennsylvania State University.

– Listen to some soothing tunes. By spending time listening to your favorite songs, you can significantly lower your cortisol levels. 

This tip reminds me of a fascinating documentary recommended by Susan Stone, former PSI president (www.postpartum.net).  Susan suggested The Story of the Weeping Camel, which chronicled a mother camel who had a very stressful birth and then rejected her calf.  The treatment?  Music therapy!  See the film for yourself- it’s available to view online from Netflix.com.weepingcamel

– Massage the cortisol away. Well, no one had to tell you a massage helps you unwind, but several studies have shown regular massage therapy is an effective way to slash cortisol levels.

– Laugh till it hurts. Laughter can help reduce cortisol – by as much as 39 percent says a study from Loma Linda University. So pop in a DVD of your favorite sit-com or hang out with your buddy the wannabe comedian to melt the stress away.  While on Netflix, check out The Women, or Dan in Real Life.  What a riot!

– Eat regular, balanced meals. Skipping meals and low-calorie dieting can trigger the release of stress hormones. Instead, eat a healthy, balanced diet of at least three meals and one snack each day. Include whole carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats.

The postpartum period is a time to replenish nutrients lost to pregnancy and delivery.  Be sure to use a high-quality postnatal vitamin for a full 18 months postpartum.  For info on quality prenatal and postnatal vitamins, check out www.pregnancyrecovery.com.

– Avoid too much caffeine. You may think you need eight cups of java a day to function, but the truth is that caffeine is a stress trigger to the adrenal glands. Chronic high cortisol will cause fatigue and poor brain function over time, so in the long term those shots of espresso do more harm than good. Try sticking to less than three caffeinated beverages per day. 

Weaning yourself off by cutting caffeine consumption in half every four or five days will do wonders.  Coffee and soda both decrease pH levels, making the body more acidic, which negatively impacts mood.  It takes 27 gallons of water to neutralize the acid in one-12 ounce Coca-Cola!

One topic to add to this list is EXERCISE!  Get moving to reduce cortisol.

– The little things add up. Studies show simple things like chewing gum, spending time with loved ones, deep breathing exercises or spending a few minutes meditating can help reduce cholesterol levels.

For many, managing stress is a lifelong journey of baby steps. But rest assured that each step you take in the right direction will improve your health and restore you body’s natural reserves of energy and vitality.

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Comments
2 Responses to “How Does Cortisol Impact Mothers?”
  1. Lauren says:

    Cheryl –

    I’m so glad you’ve shared this information here.

    There are indeed studies showing the negative impact cortisol has on infants in the womb. One of them can be located here: http://tinyurl.com/cx4mwf. This particular study researched the reliability of cortisol levels in pregnant women vs. CES Depression scores to predict low birth weight and premature delivery. The result? Cortisol was indeed a more reliable indicator for both. It really IS true that pregnant women need to stay calm and relaxed!

    You’ve included some wonderful suggestions to lower the cortisol level and I hope your readers included many of them in their daily routines.

    Warmest,
    Lauren

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