Try to relax.

I've always hated that oxymoronic statement, but ironically it may just be the best advice for pregnant moms today.

New research has found that moms who experience more everyday stress during pregnancy may increase their unborn child's risk of many early childhood diseases and health problems. The large Danish study looked at data on more than 60,000 mothers in Denmark who gave birth between 1996 and 2003 and evaluated the effects of daily stress on pregnant moms and the health of their future children.  

For the study, everyday stress included both life stress — the burdens associated with work, family, relationships, and money as well as emotional stress, defined as feelings like anxiety, nervousness and depression. Researchers found that children whose moms had higher levels of life stress during pregnancy were more likely to have developed illnesses during childhood ranging from infections to mental health problems to respiratory distress. Children of moms who experienced emotional stress had fewer health issues in childhood.

Previous research has focused on the effects of acute stress on pregnancy. For instance, research has shown that women who were pregnant during major disasters — such as Hurricane Katrina or 9/11 — went on to have babies with more health problems than their peers. But this study evaluated the simple everyday stresses — work pressures, overwhelming bills, family fights — and how they impact a growing baby's development. The findings make it pretty clear that even though these stressors may seem minor, they can add up to big problems for a child's health.  

So pregnant moms, I hate to say it, but you really do need to try to relax. Call a friend, take a walk, take a deep breath or just have a really good cry the next time something gets you frazzled. Do it for yourself — and do it for your baby.

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