Author's opinion

Natural Ways To Relax During Pregnancy: 8 Tips To Follow In 2024

Meghan Novoshielski, RDN

Published at 09:02

Dr G. Michael DiLeo, MD

Medical reviewer

Remember that pregnancy requires special considerations, not all treatments are suitable for you. Photo: ME Image/Shutterstock

As an expectant mother, you are likely feeling a mix of emotions — joy for the beautiful creation your body is making, but also fear and anxiety as you face the many unknowns that come with pregnancy. Rest assured that these feelings are widespread, and it is possible to manage them. Read on to learn which natural ways to relax during pregnancy are best for keeping calm while expecting.

If you are looking for natural pregnancy tips to tackle these emotions, remember that pregnancy requires special considerations. Not all treatments are suitable for you or your baby.

7 Natural Remedies For Anxiety During Pregnancy

  • Try deep breathing and meditation
  • Get enough sleep 
  • Stay physically active
  • Don’t bottle up your stress
  • Practice gratitude 
  • Prepare for your new baby in small steps
  • Treat yourself to a prenatal massage

Natural Ways To Relax During Pregnancy

Try Deep Breathing And Meditation

natural ways to relax during pregnancy
Practice deep breathing to calm the nervous system. Photo: Andrei Klimovich/Shutterstock

When your mind is racing with worry and what-ifs, take a quiet minute to reset. 

Deep breathing and meditation are relaxation techniques that can help you put a pause on anxiety symptoms. These exercises are known[1] to reduce cortisol with an associated decrease in worry, and depression, and reduce stress, not only during pregnancy but also in the post-partum period. 

Find a place to close your eyes and tune out any distractions. Turn all of your focus to your breathing, taking deep inhales and long exhales. You can visualize releasing your body’s built-up tension with each exhale. 

Some people include mantras in their meditation practice to help them switch gears and adopt a more calm and optimistic mindset. Here are a few examples of what these can sound like

  • I know I have what it takes to be an amazing parent. 
  • My body is meant for this and knows what it’s doing.
  • I am resourceful and will find solutions that work. 
  • My baby is growing and developing exactly the way that is right for them. 

Create some of your mantras by turning your negative thoughts into positive affirmations. Say words like “I am,” “I know,” and “I believe.” Just a few minutes of practicing this can make a difference to your mental well-being. 

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep well can be an elusive thing at any stage of pregnancy. Photo: Natalia Deriabina/Shutterstock

A good night’s sleep can be an elusive thing at any stage of pregnancy. Hormonal shifts, indigestion, aches, and pains, and an active unborn baby create a perfect storm for sleepless nights. Still, not getting enough sleep[2] can ramp up pregnancy depression and anxiety. These strategies can help you get a better night’s rest.

  • Prepare for the next day before bed. Packing your lunch, laying out your clothes, and jotting down tomorrow’s to-do list will keep your mind from fretting over these tasks all night long.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine full of self-care to let your body know it’s time to wind down. A hot bath, cozy pajamas, and a few pages of a good book can set the mood for good sleep.
  • Avoid sleep distractions by creating a calm sleep environment that is cool and dark. Turn off any electronics at least an hour before your bedtime.
  • Relieve indigestion symptoms by elevating your head while you sleep.
  • Sleep on your side with a supportive pillow to relieve back, hip, and leg pain. Doing this will also improve your blood pressure — good for both you and your baby.
  • Seek good sleep hygiene[3] by keeping consistent bed- and wake-up times.

Stay Physically Active

Yoga can be a beneficial and gentle form of exercise for pregnant women. Photo: AlessandroBiascioli/Shutterstock

Pregnancy is not the time to start a new workout routine, but regular physical activity can help keep those mood-boosting endorphins circulating throughout your body.

Plus, regular physical activity during pregnancy can help you feel more comfortable in your changing body, reduce pregnancy complications, relieve stress, and improve postpartum recovery. Also, fit women have the lowest C-section rate.

There are many ways to stay active during pregnancy. Try: 

  • Getting outside for a brisk walk and fresh air. 
  • Going for a swim.
  • Riding a stationary bike.
  • Taking a yoga or pilates class.

Be sure to discuss any physical activity with your doctor so they can help you choose activities that are safest for you and your baby. 

Don’t Bottle Up Your Stress

Worries tend to lose their power when you expose them to the world outside your internal headspace. 

There is no need to sit alone with your chronic stress, fears, and concerns. When you connect with people to talk about your feelings, you’ll realize that what you are experiencing is very common. 

Turn to friends and family who have been there and done that. They can provide excellent advice and comfort. At the very least, they can offer support while you share what is burdening you. 

If you don’t have an existing solid support network, ask your healthcare provider about local support groups where you can connect with other expectant parents. Seeking the help of a therapist can be another great outlet for talking about what you’re going through and getting support. 

Practice Gratitude

It’s a given that something will happen during your pregnancy that won’t match what you were hoping for or expecting. These events can lead to feelings of stress, disappointment, depression, and even grief. Try not to focus on these letdowns. Instead, turn all your attention to the things that are going right.

Make an effort to notice and appreciate the aspects of your pregnancy that you enjoy. Set aside time to list these observations in a gratitude journal. Say this list out loud daily to create a habit of positive thinking.

Setting your mind on the good things about this time can help relieve anxiety and get you back to feeling optimistic and excited about what’s ahead.

Prepare For Your New Baby In Small Steps

Getting ready for a new baby is overwhelming, even if you’ve done it before. There is just so much to prepare, and no two pregnancies are alike. Additionally, you are redesigning your entire family dynamic. Baby affects everyone.

Break down any big to-do list items into tiny actions you can take one day at a time. Step by step, you’ll feel more empowered and less stressed about what’s to come in the next few months. 

Here are some ideas to get you started: 

  • Sign up for a birthing class. Knowing you have a plan for getting answers to all of those labor and delivery questions will be a big relief.  
  • Create a baby registry and add one item each day. There’s no need to decide on everything in one sitting.
  • Focus on only the essentials — a place to sleep, a way to feed the baby, clothes, and blankets. You’ll know you’re set as long as you have these things. All of the other details can fall into place over time.
  • Make a plan for how you will get home from the hospital and any childcare you may need while you’re there. These things can add tremendous stress if left until the last minute. Get these plans out of the way for peace of mind.

Don’t be shy about asking for help. Most people will be happy to pitch in during such a joyful time.

Treat Yourself To A Prenatal Massage

Stress and anxiety are not just mental health issues. Because there is a well-established mind-body connection,[4] these conditions can manifest themselves in ways that wreak havoc on your physical health.

The result can be a vicious loop, where feeling physically unwell further deteriorates your emotional well-being, and around and around you will go. But the mind-body connection can also work in the opposite direction.

Massage can be a great way to relieve physical tension, putting you on better footing to address your mental stress. More than just an indulgence, massage therapy has been shown[5] to reduce depression and anxiety during pregnancy.

If you can’t get to a professional, enlist your partner to give you a stress-relieving massage. Taking this route provides the bonus of creating a bonding moment together before your newest addition arrives.

Why Anxiety May Happen?

Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, worry, or concern that is very common during pregnancy. Sometimes the cause for these feelings is well outside of your control. Your body changes daily throughout pregnancy, and constant hormonal fluctuations may lead to mood swings and restlessness.

Add to this concerns about your baby’s health, fear around the birthing process, issues within family and partner relationships, and financial or work stress — it’s easy to see why expectant parents’ stress levels can soar.

While these feelings are warranted, your and your baby’s health is affected by stress and anxiety, so it’s vital to acknowledge your emotions and find ways to manage them.

Is It Bad If You’re Stressed During Pregnancy?

The stress hormone cortisol is initially helpful for dealing with stressful situations. However, a prolonged increase in cortisol during pregnancy can put you and your baby at risk[6] for pregnancy and birth complications.

When anxiety is not treated, you may increase your chances of having a premature birth and a baby with low birth weight.

On the other hand, by managing your anxiety, you improve your ability to care for yourself and bond with your baby during this special time. You may also reduce your risk for postpartum depression and lower your baby’s risk of developing long-term behavior problems.

You can start addressing your pregnancy anxiety with natural remedies that don’t involve unwanted treatments or side effects. You should, however, also talk to your doctor about any negative emotions or feelings you are experiencing.

Natural Anxiety Medication While Pregnant

Beyond these lifestyle strategies, a few natural remedies may help ease pregnancy-related worries and concerns. Despite these remedies being generally safe with minimal side effects, you still want to consult your doctor about each option before trying them.

As a first step, keep up with your prenatal vitamins. These vitamins provide an extra dose of many essential nutrients, including magnesium. Research[7] suggests a link between magnesium intake and anxiety and the increase in your daily magnesium requirements during pregnancy. Magnesium may also help with any constipation.

Nuts, seeds, leafy greens, grains, and beans are also excellent food sources of this important nutrient and can be part of a healthy diet during pregnancy.

Many pregnant women have also turned to herbal teas to help them feel calm. The American Pregnancy Association has noted that lemon balm tea is safe and effective for relieving anxiety, insomnia, and irritability. Lastly, aromatherapy[8] may offer therapeutic benefits that ease common pregnancy concerns.

Using essential oils for aromatherapy is generally considered safe in moderate amounts during the second and third trimesters. Rose oil, in particular, is a great option for encouraging calm feelings.

Although this is mainly a pediatric concern, misuse of certain oils can be toxic to children. Avoid some types, e.g., wintergreen, clove, camphor, eucalyptus, lavender, tea tree, and thyme oils.

When To See Doctor

While worries and concerns during pregnancy are the norms, these worries shouldn’t interfere with your ability to carry on with everyday life. You should keep your doctor in the loop of any fears you’re experiencing, especially if these feelings are all-consuming.

Serious depression can develop during pregnancy. While stress and anxiety may be normal, depression is not. If you are in a constant state of dread and have trouble eating, sleeping, working, or just getting out of bed in the morning, it’s time to ask your doctor for help.

Conclusion

It’s normal to feel some level of anxiety during pregnancy, but you can do things to cope with these feelings and create a healthy environment for you and your baby. Do what works best for you, and remember that you’re not alone in this. Many expectant parents experience stress during pregnancy.

Be sure to keep communicating with your doctor so they can support you through this special time and keep you on track to enjoying a healthy pregnancy.

Resources

MANA adheres to strict sourcing guidelines and abstains from utilizing tertiary references. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research from reputable medical associations and institutions to ensure the accuracy of our articles. For more information regarding our editorial process, please refer to the provided resources.

  • Shahhosseini, Z., Pourasghar, M., Khalilian, A. and Salehi, F. (2015). A Review of the Effects of Anxiety During Pregnancy on Children’s Health. Materia Socio Medica, [online] 27(3), p.200. doi:10.5455/msm.2015.27.200-202.
  • Aguilar‐Raab, C., Stoffel, M., Hernández, C., Rahn, S., Moessner, M., Steinhilber, B. and Ditzen, B. (2021). Effects of a mindfulness‐based intervention on mindfulness, stress, salivary alpha‐amylase and cortisol in everyday life. Psychophysiology, [online] 58(12). doi:10.1111/psyp.13937.
  • Volkovich, E., Tikotzky, L. and Manber, R. (2015). Objective and subjective sleep during pregnancy: links with depressive and anxiety symptoms. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, [online] 19(1), pp.173–181. doi:10.1007/s00737-015-0554-8.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2018). Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans 2nd edition. [online] health.gov. Available at: https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf.
  • Littrell, J. (2008). The Mind-Body Connection. Social Work in Health Care, [online] 46(4), pp.17–37. doi:10.1300/j010v46n04_02.
  • Hall, HG., Cant, R., Munk, N., Carr, B., Tremayne, A., Weller, C., Fogarty, S. and Lauche, R. (2020). The effectiveness of massage for reducing pregnant women’s anxiety and depression; systematic review and meta-analysis. Midwifery, [online] 90, p.102818. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2020.102818.
  • editor (2020). Herbal Tea and Pregnancy. [online] American Pregnancy Association. Available at: https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/is-it-safe/herbal-tea/