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Lowering Pregnancy Stress

We know: A worry-free pregnancy isn't likely. But when you're feeling harried, it's essential for you and your baby-to-be to unwind.

"Chronic stress can cause harmful hormones like cortisol to cross the placenta," says Diana Dell, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University. And research shows that it can increase your risk for preterm labor, a low-birth-weight baby, or a child who develops learning and behavioral problems. To help you stay calm:

Get your partner to be hands-on. A massage from your significant other can lower stress-hormone levels.

Work it. A brisk walk or swim can tame tension by releasing mood-boosting endorphins in your body.

Just push play. Whether it's Bach or Beck, listening to the music you love can give you a sense of peace.

Show Fido some love. "Feel good" hormones like serotonin may rise from stroking your pet.

Say "ohm." Meditating, or even taking a long shower, can help you find your center.

Grab a needle—or a trowel. Repetitive motions, such as knitting or gardening, can be relaxing because of their familiarity—and their ability to let your brain go on autopilot.

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