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Dear Sir/Madam,

I am thirteen weeks pregnant and have horrible thoughts/dreams of those I love dearly. The most recent ones are of my Fiance and Nephew dying right in front of me. I am rather concerned. I have been told that this is just from the hormones changing and what not but i fear that they continue everyday. It is beginning to be very stressful on myself and my question is, Can this cause harm to my baby? Due to all the stress?

Thank you so much!

Kylie

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Hi Kylie, I had some pretty high stress during my last pregnancy and yes it can in fact be harmful to you and your unborn baby. It can lead to high blood pressure, pre-term labor and a low birth weight baby due to prolonged exposure to elevated cortisol levels. Cortisol is the "stress hormone" and if it is raised in your body, it is also raised in the amniotic fluid (the fluid in the sac that surrounds your baby.) There are even studies that suggest that this can affect an infants IQ later and be one cause of ADHD in children. 

Now, all that being said, it's still early in your pregnancy, so you have the opportunity to try some things to reduce your stress. What you are experiencing is really common, and is due to hormone changes, you are not alone, and you should talk to your fiance or others you feel comfortable with about the dreams so you don't feel alone.

Other things you can do to reduce your stress is, yoga for pregnant women, and any light, doctor approved exercises will help release feel good chemicals in your brain called endorphin's. Breathing and relaxation exercises, especially before bed can help naturally increase melatonin, (hormone in the brain that regulates sleep.)

 There are even foods that lower stress by either increasing the levels of serotonin (a chemical in the brain that calms the body) or lowering cortisol.  Complex carbohydrates prompt the brain to do this because they are usually "feel good foods" like oatmeal and whole grain pastas and breads which take longer to digest. They also help to stabilize your blood sugar levels, which make you feel more balanced. Make sure you are taking prenatal vitamins to get the extra vitamins necessary to support both your needs and that of your baby, in addition you should take a daily dose of vitamin C which has been shown to normalize cortisol levels. Fatigue is a major cause of stress. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, or salmon are high in magnesium, which helps fight any fatigue you might be experiencing due to lack of the deep sleep, due to your nightmares. Along with magnesium, salmon, tuna and other fatty fish contain omega 3 fatty acids that can prevent surges in stress hormones. Because you are pregnant you should limit your fish and seafood intake to once a week because of the possible mercury content, but there are omega 3 supplements that you can get that are very inexpensive. Try a hot cup of decaffeinated black tea 30 mins before bedtime. As cliche' as it sounds, a glass of warm milk before bed does help, the calcium in milk has been shown to reduce anxiety. I hope this has been helpful. I would like to say congratulations and God Bless you and your baby! 

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