When you're pregnant, instinct tells you getting stressed probably isn't good for your growing baby, and a recent study in Finland seems to back this up.
The study of 3,626 women found children whose mothers experienced severe antenatal stress were almost 10 times more likely to develop a personality disorder in adulthood, and even children whose mothers were just stressed or moderately stressed during pregnancy were three times more likely to have a personality disorder as adults.
The potential dangers of antenatal stress have long been apparent to natural parenting expert Angela Spencer, author of Babyopathy: Relaxed Mum, Contented Baby!, who says: "The new research has confirmed stress in pregnancy is having an impact on the development of the baby and the child in later life, making me more determined than ever to address the busy lives mums-to-be insist on living.
"Nowadays people are keen to work up to their due date, limiting the traditional 'nesting period', but we must rethink the status quo. It's no coincidence that the number of under fives accessing mental health services is increasing at a truly terrifying rate. With conscious sensory connections happening in the womb from 24 weeks, it's only natural that high stress levels or the presence of anxiety in the mother will have a negative effect on the unborn baby.
"Supporting and encouraging mums-to-be to proactively reduce stress must become a key part of pregnancy care - it's not just a nice idea for them, it's vital."
Here Spencer, who is also the founder of the sensory pregnancy brand Babyopathy, gives her tips on how to avoid pregnancy stress:
1. Put your feet up
"It's essential that mums take at least 30 minutes each day to put their feet up. Lifestyles have changed over the last decade and we are now constantly on the go and working up to our due dates for financial reasons and to maximise the inadequate statutory maternity pay and leave, which puts added stress on a pregnancy.
"Putting your feet up for 30 minutes each day makes us take some time to relax and reduce the effects of the excess cortisol our bodies produce under stress. Maternal stress during pregnancy is a hugely under-publicised modern risk to pregnancies and shouldn't be ignored. It's important that mums take that vital half an hour each day to put their feet up - it's not just to avoid puffy ankles!"
2. Connect with your unborn baby
"Being aware of your baby's routine while they are in the womb can help settle them once they are born. Knowing your baby's Routine in the Womb (routineinthewomb.com) is a recommended way to know your pregnancy is progressing positively.
"Every baby has a unique pattern of movement and rest which can depend on how active you are and your sleeping patterns too, so knowing what's normal for your baby is important. In addition, by knowing their own pattern you can begin to nurture a routine for once they're born through regular routines of your own."
3. De-stress with essential oils
"Essential oils can be used to enhance mum's sensory experience and help de-stress. Used in an aromatherapy diffuser, mums can relax and enjoy the calming air. Essential oils are one of the easiest and quickest ways to bring relaxation and combat the effects of stress. It's important to only use products recommended for pregnancy as some essential oils must not be used during pregnancy.
"Lemon is a great go-to oil to keep in your bag, especially during the first trimester as it's perfect for those nauseous or feeling faint moments. A deep breath in with the lemon oil can really help to combat these issues. Another favourite is lavender, which is fantastic to use in a diffuser to help establish your sleep routine in the beginning stages of pregnancy."
4. Get good sleep
"A proper bedtime routine, including less time vegging in front of the TV, is important. Sleep is one of the most crucial things to establish, especially in the first trimester. Pregnancy is making your heart work much harder, for example, and so getting plenty of replenishing sleep helps your body do what it needs to for your developing baby."
5. Switch off phone notifications
"Set your phone to 'do not disturb' as soon as you want to start your bedtime routine - notifications mean we're always available and this can make it hard to switch off.
"Over the last decade specifically, we've seen such a demand placed on everyone to be available 24/7, mainly due to the smartphones permanently attached to us. But this means we don't switch off from the stress, from the mental strain and therefore don't effectively relax and have a work/life balance.
"Having time to de-stress and reduce cortisol levels that can have a direct effect on our pregnancy viability and developing baby has to be a priority for the next decade."