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Could relationship stress harm my baby?

(15 Posts)
roseformyrose Mon 27-Jul-15 01:18:00

This post brought to you by a sleepless night worrying about this stuff

I'm 17 weeks pregnant and my relationship with dp is generally good, he is a very kind and caring man. However, when we occasionally do fight it is appalling. I'll hold my hands up here and admit that it's generally my fault - if I'm stressed and tired I end up niggling at him even though I try not to, and he eventually snaps.

However, the problem is that when he loses his temper he says things I find incredibly hurtful (e.g. that I have ruined his life, that I make him miserable and that I am emotionally manipulative and fake being ill for sympathy).

When he says these things I have a very extreme and physical reaction. I shake and can't stop crying, and feel completely worthless. Worse, I've started getting pains around the bottom of my bump when I feel this way, and I'm now really worried that my reactions are hurting my baby. I try to take deep breaths and stay calm, but I find myself consumed by thoughts of what a terrible person I must be and this makes me very anxious.

Is this kind of stress likely to be damaging? I don't want to leave my partner but I feel like I have to do whatever is best for the baby - this pregnancy is much wanted and hard come by, and I could never forgive myself if I did something to hurt it. I've tried asking my partner not to say hurtful things but he thinks I'm overreacting and the problem is mine. He may well be right, but I don't seem to be having much luck with mediating my reactions.

Any advice much appreciated!

ARV1981 Mon 27-Jul-15 01:51:51

Have you ever had counselling for this? I know I react badly to things sometimes but counselling has really helped me to regulate my reactions better.

Good luck flowers and congratulations on your pregnancy!

Cherryblossomsinspring Mon 27-Jul-15 06:16:28

I think your baby will be fine but you really need to consider that the baby is coming out in a few months and you can't be fighting and behaving like that around it. That would be damaging. As the above poster suggested, maybe some counselling for you both would be good.

Nolim Mon 27-Jul-15 06:27:46

The baby would be fine. I seem to remember reading an article about the effects of stress in unborn babies and the conclusion was that the harmful level of stress was very high, like being in a dissaster zone with no water food or medical attention.

But i second getting help or conselling, it is not good for you.

roseformyrose Mon 27-Jul-15 08:28:23

Thank you all, i feel a bit reassured about the baby this morning.

I have had counselling in the past as I've had a few traumatic experiences that I needed to get over, but I think you're right that I might need to try it again. Does anyone know whether there's anything specific available in pregnancy? Is this something I should speak to my midwife about?

ribbitTheFrog Mon 27-Jul-15 08:40:45

I had a lot of rows in pregnancy, made worse by hormones and my anxiety. I don't want to worry you but for me it got worse after the birth and ex and I broke up when dc was around a year old as it had become intolerable.

It may be worth considering whether this is,something temporary or whether you think you are an incompatible couple. Fwiw I have been much happier alone with dc, I have a great childminder so I can work and provide.

Hopefully none of this applies to you and your arguments will resolve! I don't think much nhs counselling is available, I found someone privately.

dragonfly007 Mon 27-Jul-15 08:48:37

I have a friend who's marriage was fraught with arguments, her eldest child is now a teenager and has issues with depression and anger. The other children were born when the relationship was done/ into a new relationship and they are much happier individuals. Look up baby brain development and the research is there, anxiety during pregnancy affects the baby in the same way as it affects children.

By your own admission your normally initiate the disagreements, so whilst his reactions are poor you both need to consider how you can make improvements to your relationship or separate. As it stands your baby is most likely being harmed :-(

ARV1981 Mon 27-Jul-15 10:22:47

I don't think it's helpful to dwell on what may have happened in the past - it's the future that matters, and as your baby isn't born yet I don't see how the rows you've had so far could possibly harm it.

I went private for counselling but that was because my work pays for bupa for me, but I understand there is nhs counselling under maternity services. I think it just takes longer to get an appointment than private takes, other than that I don't expect there is a lot of difference.

I think if you can learn ways of managing this stress you'll be fine. Like you say, you and your dp generally have a good relationship. You'll be fine!

tinyme135 Mon 27-Jul-15 14:47:36

I was told by the doctor that whatever mood your feeling your baby is feeling too. So if your happy your baby will over more if your sad the baby will mimic it too

ARV1981 Mon 27-Jul-15 15:24:07

Tinyme... where is the medical evidence for this? It sounds made up! I get that once their born they may pick up on your moods (sorry to sound strange, but like dogs can) but surely not before they're born? That just doesn't make sense to me!

I think these sorts of comments aren't very helpful to the op. She needs reassurance that the rows she's had with her dp are incredibly unlikely to have affected her unborn child. Because they are.

I agree that argumentative parents can cause problems for children, but I can't see how an argument can affect an unborn baby! It just doesn't make any sense.

So long as you get the help you need for dealing with these feelings, op I think you'll be absolutely fine and your child will be fine too. You're body is teeming with hormones right now, and that has a massive effect on how you react to things anyway - did you and your dp have these arguments before your pregnancy? If not, then there's no reason to expect them to continue afterwards! If you did, then now is there perfect time to get the counselling you need to help you deal with them (I think you should get counselling any way - it REALLY helped me).


roseformyrose Mon 27-Jul-15 16:53:03

Thanks ARV1981, I really appreciate the advice. We did have the arguments before, but I guess I thought it was normal and it's only now that I'm pregnant that I've really started to worry. The responses here have helped me to realise that this isn't part of a healthy relationship though (I guess I thought maybe everyone was having these rows behind closed doors!), so I'm definitely going to do my best to stop it from happening in future.

Have managed to find the name of a local private counsellor, so will pursue that and hope that it helps. My partner is not at all keen but I think he will try it once for the sake of the baby.

RooibosTeaAgain Mon 27-Jul-15 16:59:04

Definitely worth asking midwife if she can refer you as if pregnant there is a shorter waiting time to be seen.

Skiptonlass Mon 27-Jul-15 20:29:59

This is something I've wondered myself, as I've been under a period of intense stress at work. I worry about all the cortisol bathing my poor little foetus sad (ARV, the mechanism they look is basically: maternal stress-->increased cortisol--> effect on baby. We know that some stress is actually beneficial - excercise for example is temporary physical stress- but the question is when does it tip from being an occasional stressor to a damaging effect.)

It's a very difficult area to study, because obviously you can't experiment on pregnant women. It's also difficult because you have to filter out the effects of confounding factors. So for example there has been work on the babies of women born in the Dutch famine - not only were their babies affected but the second generation too via epigenetic effects. There's also some work done on women who are significantly I'll with psychiatric issues, but again, it's tough to screen out the effects of the illness from just the stress levels.

Anyway, I'm rambling, but the nearest study I could find that looks at anxiety in a more 'typical' population is here

And yes, there do seem to be effects (I must chill out and work less...) But they're not big. To be honest, it's YOU who is taking the brunt of this. I think getting referred for counselling is a great idea. To be arguing like this to the point of him saying very hurtful things to you is not what I would consider normal. I think most couples bicker/argue but regularly having rows where you're being told you've ruined someone's life is beyond that. I'm also not comfy with the idea that it's always your fault. Rational adults don't respond to 'niggling' by blowing up.

Hope it works out for you.

ARV1981 Mon 27-Jul-15 21:10:07

Thanks skipton... you always come up with common sense!

I only skim read that study you linked to (and don't think I'm in any way qualified to make an assessment on it) but from what I understand, it seems there may be a link with low birth weight and stress... but I don't think an argument would cause this - it seems the stress would have to manifest itself as depression, whereas an argument would surely only cause a spike in stress levels not sustained high stress?

I'm just trying to understand this!

It seems there's so much us pregnant women have to worry about...

Op, I'm really pleased you're getting counselling. I'm sure it will help you deal with these situations in a healthier way. If your dp isn't keen to try it himself, that's fine. You may find that if you respond well to it that he warms to the idea of trying it for himself. And, yes, skipton raises a very valid point... you shouldn't take this all on your own shoulders - he shouldn't be saying these things to you in the first place. However, you can't change someone, only your own reactions to them so hopefully by getting counselling you'll be able to do that. Good luck with it all smile

tinyme135 Mon 27-Jul-15 21:13:34

I don't believe it myself but it's what the doctor told me so I'm going by what he said.

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