Pregnancy can be an emotional rollercoaster, a time of increased sensitivity, and life circumstances often feel heightened. However, there is a wide variety of natural remedies and resources to help steady moods and enjoy the beautiful experience of pregnancy. The below recommendations will not only assist with stress relief during pregnancy, but during many stages of life. Also, do check out a recent related blog where I talk about 40 wonderful ways you can manage the powerful waves of emotions in pregnancy and beyond.
For general health and physical and emotional well-being during pregnancy, make sure to eat healthy foods, stay well hydrated, and take supplements to make sure you supply yourself with needed nourishment not supplied by diet alone. Take:
A whole food prenatal multivitamin with minerals
Fish oil tested free of pollutants, for omega three essential fatty acids, 1000-2000 mg 1-2 times daily
Calcium, 250-500mg 2-3 times daily
Magnesium, 200-500mg 2-3 times daily
Vitamin B complex, 20-50 mg daily
Vitamin D, 1000 -2000 units per day, more if low blood levels
An excellent mega probiotic once daily
Get screened for iron deficiency anemia, which is common in later pregnancy, as it can exacerbate your emotional symptoms and is easy to treat. If you are prone to low iron levels, since it is almost impossible to get the necessary amount of iron in pregnancy from diet alone, you may want to prevent anemia early on by taking an herbal iron supplement like Floradix Iron tablets or in liquid.
A wonderful life-changing approach to internal stress, feelings of depression and anxiety is learning about present moment awareness and mindfulness, and incorporating it into your daily life.
Try to make a conscious effort to increase feelings of forgiveness, appreciation, love, joy, optimism and healing, while letting go of anger, resentment, envy, fear, sadness and negativity. Most importantly, increase your awareness of anxiety provoking, tension causing, or depressive thought patterns that are not serving you. Try to shift your attention to something more positive and ultimately change your mental state. You can actually transform them at their deeper subconscious roots with Clarity breathwork.
Know that you are in charge of your feelings and how you react to stressful or painful situations, and that you have the ability to change your attitude and reaction to life experiences to more health enhancing responses. For example, you can surrender to and totally accept unpleasant life events over which you have no power. You can also view them as potential gifts, powerful stimulus to change, a wake-up call, an opportunity for personal growth, redirection and spiritual practice.
You can always try to focus as much attention as possible on the now, literally without letting your thoughts wander and dwell into the past or imagined future. Mastery over your thoughts, attitudes and reactions can have a dramatic impact on your brain chemistry, balancing the hormones responsible for affecting moods and emotions, and preventing and even treating clinical depression and anxiety.
Reduce feelings of tension and increase feelings of calm centeredness and balanced grounding by taking a “healing interval” to meditate for 10-20 minutes 2-3 times per day. Sit comfortably and quietly. Keep your eyes closed and internally focused between your eyebrows or softly gazing at a low, still object or place (like where the floor meets the wall). Turn off the mental noise and think and do absolutely nothing. Simply be aware of your breathing in all its details, the present moment and everything that you notice within it. If you get lost in thought, simply bring your attention back to watch your breath.
Tap into your spiritual self and practice slow deep abdominal breathing, yoga (especially Yin, prenatal, gentle and restorative), QiGong, Tai Chi, progressive muscle relaxation techniques (yoga nidra), visualization and guided imagery, or cutting edge stress reduction audio programs and courses. For example, imagine you are in a place where you feel whole, inner joy and peace, and spiritually connected. Or think of a healing or rejuvenating spiritual energy or light flowing through and around you. This is an essential, yet easy to learn, tool with endless benefits and rewards to your physical and emotional health. Locate your nearest Zen Center (Zen is NOT a religion and does not conflict with any religion) or read any book by Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron, or Shunryu Suzuki to learn the basics of meditation and Zen practice.
Make sure you are getting enough sleep at night, and rest during the day. Listen closely to your body’s messages. You may need to either slow down or become more busy with things that bring you deeper satisfaction and enrichment. You may need more time for yourself, or you may need to focus more on giving or helping others. It is extremely beneficial to find a small way to help someone in need each day, by giving your time, energy and presence to ease the burden and increase the happiness of even one person. Focus on connections with family and friends, healing relationships, making peace and giving love.
Minimize or avoid watching and reading the news, or take periodic news fasts. Unplug from the computer and smart phone as much as possible, especially reduce time spent on addictive programs and apps (including computer games, social media, and even email) as they increase inner stress, anxious feelings, impair well-being, and cause a variety of health issues. Empower yourself to listen to your body and choose limited times and online activities you enjoy or absolutely need to do. For additional information and guidance, read “How to Break Up With Your Phone: The 30 Day Plan to Take Back Your Life,” by Catherine Price.
Start with being breath awareness - being more conscious about your breath, and simply focusing all of your attention on your breathing. Get curious about all the details of your sensations as you inhale and exhale, without trying to change anything. Notice what you are currently seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, tasting. Just watch without judgment. This brings you to the present and is deliciously relaxing.
Before going to bed at night, as well as before rising in the morning, periodically throughout the day, and whenever you feel stressed, triggered, down or upset, practice the following 3-part breathing exercise:
Exhale slowly through your mouth with an audible sigh while consciously releasing any and all muscle tension.
Imaging a pump expanding your abdomen and lower back as you breathe down deep into your belly.
Allow ribs to expand with air, then inhale air into your upper chest towards your collar bone and shoulders
Inhale in this way for a count of 4.
Hold for a count of 4 while staying relaxed.
Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of 4, releasing in the same order as the inhale, collapsing/returning to baseline, your abdomen, ribs, then upper chest. This is the ideal form of breathing, as opposed to rapid shallow breathing. With each exhale, let go and relax more.
Repeat this cycle a total of 8 times or at least a few minutes.
Once you get the hang of it, play with various types of breathing. Try several minutes of inhaling and exhaling, each to a count of 3, 4, 5 or 6 without the hold, keeping it smooth and even. Then double the length of exhalation. For example, so if you inhale to a count of 3, then exhale to a count of 6.
See how it feels to triangle breathe for a few minutes. Inhale for a count of 3 or 4, exhale to the same count of 3 or 4, then pause for the same count of 3 or 4, while consciously and deeply relaxing your diaphragm muscle of respiration, as well as all other muscles. Repeat for several cycles.
Then see how it feels to box breathe. To do this, inhale to a count of 3, hold for a count of 6, exhale for a count of 6, hold for a count of 3. Repeat for several minutes. Many love this type of breathing so much they do it as often as they can, such as while waiting, in transit, before rising in the morning and going to sleep at night.
These are wonderful natural tranquilizers, especially if you do it often. While breathing, be mindful and just observe and release any muscle tension working your way slowly from head to toe, and then be mindful of what you are currently seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, tasting (just watch without judgment …this brings you to the present and is wonderfully relaxing). You do this and you are getting the benefits of both slow deep breathing and meditation.
Another great breathwork technique that disengages your conscious attention from thought and relaxes the nervous system, and can be done any time (like when traveling, waiting in line, resting, bathing, or on the toilet) is forced exhalation. After a normal breath, try squeezing as much air out as possible using your intercostal muscles, then allow breath to come in naturally and deeply, but automatically. Repeat the cycle for several minutes.
These breathwork techniques are simple to do, health enhancing, totally safe, and without side effects. If you need more personal guidance, schedule a session with me.
For more information about thought and emotional mastery, and other great ways to improve your overall well-being, read more from the variety of resources below. Make a commitment to practice and transform your life for the better. It is beyond worth it to feel your absolute best. There are amazing books about miraculous tools to remedy wounds from the past, relieve internal stress, tap into your inner power and basically heal almost all stress-related problems of the heart, mind and body to live a vibrant, joyful life.
Some great books include:
Just Breathe by Dan Brule
Breath Love by Lauren Chelec Cafritz
Breathe Deep Laugh Loudly by Judith Kravitz
Conversations with the Goddesses by Agapi Stassinopoulos
Pussy: A Reclamation by Regina Thomashauer
Practicing the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Loving What Is by Byron Katie
Full Catastrophe Living by John Kabat-Zinn
Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach
True Refuge by Tara Brach
The Journey: A Practical Guide to Healing Your Life and Setting Yourself Free by Brandon Bays
Natural Health, Natural Medicine by Dr Andrew Weil
A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives by Dr. Kelly Brogan
Own Your Self: The Surprising Path beyond Depression, Anxiety, and Fatigue to Reclaiming Your Authenticity, Vitality, and Freedom by Dr. Kelly Brogan
drwaynedyer.com for more resources from Dr Wayne Dyer.
thework.com for more from Byron Katie, about loving what is.
stresscenter.com to learn about Attacking Anxiety and Depression, a Self-Help, Self-Awareness Program.
behavioraltech.org to locate a cognitive behavioral therapist closest to you.
mbct.com for resources and info on a proven mindfulness-based cognitive approach to feelings of chronic unhappiness and depression.
mindfullivingprograms.com offers courses using the mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR).
drweil.com to learn more from one of the founding fathers of integrative medicine - merging complimentary alternative health care with science addressing the mind, body, heart and spirit.
avivaromm.com is an excellent resource for herbs and natural remedies for common aliments facing women and children, including depression and anxiety, by renowned midwife, physician and herbalist, who bridges traditional wisdom with modern medicine.
neuroassist.com provides information regarding amino acid support for emotional health.
thejourney.com offers retreats and local practitioners teaching deeply awesome and extremely effective mindbody approaches to health.
kellybroganmd.com for wonderfully effective holistic and integrative psychiatric approaches to mental wellness without medication.
mamagenas.com the official site for Mama Gena’s School of the Womanly Arts, leader of a global movement to reclaim the feminine, helping countless women to reclaim their power, feel exquisitely comfortable within their bodies and souls, and live with radiant pleasure.
Ibfbreathwork.org the international organization for conscious breathing and breathwork for optimal health and well-being. This site also lists local practitioners and retreat workshops that are extremely transformational and profoundly healing for thousands and thousands of people around the world.
HERBAL STRESS RELIEF
Most of the supplements and herbal remedies I recommend are available on my customized online holistic apothecary. Find the best supplements that have gone through my thorough screening process there. Look in the category for mental/emotional well-being or search them individually. My online dispensary is a convenient way for you to purchase my hand-picked, professional-grade, whole food supplements and other natural health products. Ordering is simple, and the products will be shipped directly to your home or work within a few days.
Herbs are mentioned last, as they can be used as supportive to your personal growth and self mastery efforts and, except for nourishing tonics, are for short term use only. For best results, they should not be relied upon alone, used without the above mentioned techniques. Inner peace and happiness are an inside job.
Drink Red Raspberry leaf, Skullcap, Motherwort, Chamomile, Lemon balm and/or Lavender tea to relax you. Peppermint or Spearmint tea will lift your spirits. You can make a lovely calming infusion, which is more effective than the ready made teas, by mixing a pinch of each dried herb: chamomile, lavender and lemon balm. Add to 1 cup boiling water, steep covered in a glass mason jar for 15-20 minutes, strain, add lemon, fresh mint or honey to taste, and drink.
Nettle and Dandelion are common herbs recommended in pregnancy to take as a nourishing tonic, but they are also wonderful for regulating blood sugar, supporting the adrenals, improving nutrient intake and building iron levels. In turn, this can balance your emotions, lessen mood swings and irritability.
To make an infusion:
Soak a handful of each dried herb in 1 quart of boiling water for 3-4 hours.
Strain in a mason glass canning jar.
Add lemon or lime juice, fresh mint or honey to taste.
Drink 1-3 cups per day.
Nettle and Dandelion can also be taken as a tincture, 1 dropperful each 3-4 times daily.
Oatstraw works best to nourish and calm the nervous system when taken over time. You can add a generous pinch of the dried herb to the infusion above. Or, take 1 dropperful of the tincture of fresh creamy milky oat tops in its most potent form 1-2 times daily.
Motherwort is great for occasional use after the first trimester, to help restore emotional balance when feeling stressed, restless, irritable, or overwhelmed. Take 1/2 -1 dropperful of the tincture. Repeated if needed every 15-30 minutes for 3 hours or up to 2-3 times daily for 2-3 days.
Skullcap has a similar effect as Motherwort, but more helpful to calm, and can be used regularly. Take ½ - 1 dropperful of tincture a few times per day. Both Skullcap and Motherwort are helpful to have on hand in labor as well as postpartum.
Passionflower is a great herb to take when feeling cranky, short tempered, anxious or experiencing frequent changes of mood. Try ½-1 dropperful of the tincture or 2 capsules of standardized extract up to 3 times per day as needed.
Reishi Mushroom is an excellent natural remedy for stress and anxiety. It is calming and also helps with sleep. Take 1-2 capsules up to three times daily.
Valerian can be taken on occasion, especially if you can not fall asleep at night because of feeling stressed or anxious. Take 2 capsules of standardized extract or one dropperful of the tincture in juice to help with taste.
CBD from hemp oil. This is the new rage, as it is gently calming, relieves anxiety and helps with sleep without the potential risks of the THC component of cannabis on the developing fetus. Results from anecdotal evidence and preliminary research, although sparse (as is common with most natural remedies in pregnancy), are promising. Make sure it is absolutely pure, and from a reputable source who can recommend proper dosing or from pharmacies licensed to dispense it. It is usually taken as several drops under the tongue.
Bach Flower Rescue Remedy can be used in temporary stressful situations, 4-6 drops every 10-15 minutes for a few hours. Repeat as needed. There are many flower essences effective and safe for specific transient emotional symptoms on an energetic level, developed by physician Dr. Bach. If you are interested in exploring this modality, get yourself a wonderful reference and a a starter kit for you to use now and beyond for your growing family.
Homeopathic remedies are wonderfully safe and effective for relieving emotional stresses and imbalances. You can consult a classical homeopath, or refer to books like Homeopathy For Pregnancy, Birth and Your Baby’s First Year by Miranda Castro.
Dr. Aviva Romm advises in “The Natural Pregnancy Book” taking a small dose of American Ginseng, Schisandra Berries and Eleuthero, 1/2 tsp each alone or total in combination 2 times per day to nourish your adrenals especially if you are overtired, burned out, overworked or overstressed. I would say it is best to avoid them in the first trimester. See her recent more comprehensive blog on remedies to support your adrenals in stressed modern times.
St. John’s Wort can help relieve mild to moderate depression. Take it if you are not pregnant (although if you are expecting, it may be a safer alternative than the common antidepressant prescription medications, to take in consultation with your provider). Dr. Andrew Weil advises 300 mg three times per day of an extract standardized to 0.3 % hypericin. Allow at least 2 months for the full effect, and minimize sun exposure if you develop a photosensitivity reaction.
SAMe is another natural remedy for mild to moderate depression and/or anxiety. Dr. Andrew Weil recommends the butanedisulfonate form, in enteric coated capsules or tablets, 400–1600 mg. per day on an empty stomach.
If not pregnant, lavender Oil can be taken one capsule before sleep for the occasional bout of insomnia or anxiety. You can try Blue Vervain, 1/2 to one dropperful 1-3 x daily. Also take Rhodiola - as a tonic herb for mild depression, anxiety and stress, 100-200 mg twice daily. Choose an extract standardized to 2-3% rosavins and 0.8-1% salidrosides. This usually improves anxiety and sleep, but needs to be taken more regularly. Obviously stop it if it is too stimulating and worsens insomnia. You can also try Ashwagandha, if you feel overstressed and burned out. Dissolve 1-2 tsp of the powder in your smoothie, tea or warm milk for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per day. Or, take 2-3 dropperfuls of the tincture twice daily and before sleep, or 2-5 grams of the capsules daily in divided doses. One of my favorite remedies for calming anxiety and inner stress related insomnia is Kava Kava. You can take a few drops up to a dropperfuls of the tincture or 150 -450 mg of the encapsulated liquid capsules before bed for occasional short term use only. Do not use if you are taking any substance including alcohol or medications that affect the liver, or you have any liver issues. This is one of my favorite herbs for anxiety and/or insomnia from inner stress and is usually well tolerated and very effective.
Dr. Aviva Romm is an excellent resource for herbs and natural remedies for depression and anxiety, and if you are struggling with psychological symptoms, integrative holistic psychiatrist Dr. Kelly Brogan’s online course and associated resources are a must.
Contact your provider if these suggestions do not help and your negative emotions are persistent and becoming too frequent or strong to cope with, especially if you:
Have a history of depression or anxiety needing prescription medication
Are having trouble functioning
Are eating or sleeping too much or too little
Have frightening thoughts
Experience severe oscillation of moods between wild elation and despair
Feel at risk for harming yourself or others
Such severe symptoms require psychiatric evaluation and often medication to prevent or treat a more serious illness. However, try to avoid mind-altering drugs and medications (such as sedatives, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, antihistamines and steroids) unless absolutely and medically necessary.
Do not take any herb or medication before discussing it with your provider, as many are not safe for use in pregnancy. Do not take any prescription anti-anxiety or anti-depressant drug unless you are really suffering and none of these suggestions help, and you are closely supervised by your psychiatrist.
Check out my number one international best selling book Natural Birth Secrets second edition, and in adjunct, my Love Your Birth course, an online version of how I have helped thousands in my local practice. Both resources are unique, but each provide an in depth, one-of-a-kind holistic approach created by me, a seasoned nurse midwife of over two decades, who has seen everything! In both you will learn how to master your inner calm for pregnancy, labor, birth and life beyond.