Mother’s Stress Harms Foetus Research Shows
Stress experienced by a woman during pregnancy may affect her unborn baby as early as 17 weeks after conception, with potentially harmful effects on brain and development, according to new research. The study is the first to show that unborn babies are exposed to their mother’s stress hormones at such an early stage in pregnancy.
The findings, published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology, come after separate research on animals showed that high levels of stress in a mother during pregnancy could affect brain function and behaviour in her offspring, and other evidence suggesting that maternal stress in humans can affect the developing child, including lowering its IQ.
However, the way this happens and the implications for the unborn child, both before and after birth, are still not fully understood and further research is needed, the latest study’s authors said.
They said they did not wish to “unduly worry pregnant women”, but highlighted the need to lead a “healthy, balanced lifestyle” to avoid general stress.
The baby charity Tommy’s called on family, friends and employers of pregnant women to provide support and reassurance to help them reduce stress.
The change in advice, which government health advisers said was made to avoid confusion, rather than in response to new medical evidence, prompted claims from some critics that pregnant women are increasingly becoming targets in an obsessively anti-risk culture.
What Causes Stress During Pregnancy
The causes of stress are different for every woman, but here are some common causes during pregnancy:
- You may be dealing with the discomforts of pregnancy, like nausea, constipation, being tired or having a backache.
- Your hormones are changing, which can cause your mood to change. Mood swings can make it harder to handle stress.
- You may be worried about what to expect during labor and birth or how to take care of your baby.
- If you work, you may have to manage job responsibilities and prepare your employer for time away from your job.
- Life is busy and it sometimes takes unexpected turns. That doesnt stop just because youre pregnant.
Relieving Stress During Pregnancy
Sometimes it helps to talk to another pregnant woman or mother, who can put any pregnancy or parenting issues into perspective. Or jot down thoughts that are keeping you up at night sometimes getting them down on paper can make you take a more proactive approach to solving problems. You may also want to consider giving prenatal yoga a go it’s not only relaxing, but a great way to stay fit and healthy. The important thing is to find something that works for you even if it’s as simple as closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths or taking a quick walk at lunch to clear your mind.
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How Do You Know If Your Baby Is Stressed
It may not be easy to identify or understand when your baby is stressed. Though babies cannot verbally express what they are going through, their behavioral changes could indicate that there is something wrong.
You may notice the following signs and symptoms when your baby experiences stress :
A study conducted by a team of psychologists from Germany shows that infants become fussy, start crying, and signal parents to pick them up when they are left to play with strangers for a few minutes. This study demonstrates that infants had problems adapting to new situations when they are under stress .
How Can You Reduce Stress During Pregnancy
Here are some ways to reduce stress:
- Figure out whats making you stressed and talk to your partner, a friend or your health care provider about it.
- Know that the discomforts of pregnancy are only temporary. Ask your provider how to handle these discomforts.
- Stay healthy and fit. Eat healthy foods, get plenty of sleep and exercise . Exercise can help reduce stress and also helps prevent common pregnancy discomforts.
- Cut back on activities you dont need to do.
- Have a good support network, including your partner, family and friends. Ask your provider about resources in the community that may be able to help.
- Ask for help from people you trust. Accept help when they offer. For example, you may need help cleaning the house, or you may want someone to go with you to your prenatal visits.
- Try relaxation activities, like prenatal yoga or meditation.
- Take a childbirth education class so you know what to expect during pregnancy and when your baby arrives. Practice the breathing and relaxation techniques you learn in your class.
- If youre working, plan ahead to help you and your employer get ready for your time away from work.
- If you think you may be depressed, talk to your provider right away. There are many ways to deal with depression. Getting treatment and counseling early may help.
Last reviewed: January, 2012
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Signs That Your Baby Is Stressed In The Womb
Its important to know that normal, small amounts of worrying arent going to cause problems for you or your baby.
Extreme or ongoing chronic stress appears to be of most concern for both women and babies.
How do you know if your baby is stressed?
Here are several things both you and your doctor can look out for, which could cause complications.
Can Depression Be Cured
With treatment, most people recover from depression. Treatment can include one or more of the following:
- Social support: Community services or parenting education.
- Family therapy: With your partner and/or children. This can help when children are older.
- Individual therapy: Talking one-on-one with a family doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, or other professional.
- Medication: Drugs used most often to treat depression are SSRIs .
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What Are The Symptoms Of Stress During Pregnancy
Chronic stress can cause many physical, emotional, mental, and social symptoms including .
- Chest pain, breathing difficulties, vision problems, headaches, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fatigue, muscle aches, stomach issues, and increased sweating.
- Confusion, nightmares, memory loss, changes in sleeping pattern and difficulty focusing.
- Grief, guilt, anxiety, irritability, fear, denial, worry, loneliness, or frustration
- Isolation from family and friends, eating less, drug and alcohol abuse.
How Does Depression Affect Pregnant Women
If you have depression while youre pregnant, you may have trouble caring for yourself.
Depression during pregnancy can also lead to:
- delivering before the due date ,
- giving birth to a small baby .
If depression during pregnancy isnt treated, it can lead to postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is a serious condition that can last for months after giving birth. It can affect your health and how well you bond with your baby.
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Anxious Mother Anxious Baby
In addition, stress and anxiety in pregnancy cause a dramatic increase in cortisol levels.
Cortisol is vital in the development of the lungs of infants and levels are expected to rise during pregnancy.
If a baby is exposed to too much cortisol during pregnancy, however, they may become hyper-sensitive to stress.
Studies show this sensitivity endures well into the toddler years.
Thus an anxious mother will have an anxious baby.
Obviously, it would be better for both the mother and the baby that a woman avoids excess anxiety during pregnancy.
However, learning to manage anxiety may be more important than avoiding it.
How Stress Can Affect You And Your Unborn Baby
Don’t eat sushi. Don’t drink alcohol. Ditto for coffee. Steer clear of hot tubs. Your hormones may make you feel like you’re on a metaphorical roller coaster, but you should not get on a literal one. Pregnant women have grown used to enduring the ever-lengthening list of stuff they need to avoid to ensure a safe and healthy birth. Now, a study suggests stressone of the most natural reactions a mother can have while walking around with a tiny human inside her wombcan be harmful to their babies, possibly wiring the fetal brains for worry and anxiety permanently.
Dr. Elysia Davis and her colleagues at the University of Denver have spent years studying the effect pregnant women’s stress reactions have on the fetus. One hormone Davis has focused on is cortisol, which the body produces and passes through the placenta to the unborn child. “Cortisol plays an important role in regulating the maturation of the fetus, such as lung development,” says Davis. “These stress systems in the body aren’t just there to cause damage or harm us.”
A pregnant woman can expect her cortisol level to naturally increase by two to four times. But when they studied expecting mothers with cortisol levels consistently higher than normal early in the pregnancy and their newborns, Davis and her colleagues made a startling discovery: The infants displayed a much higher sensitivity to stress than other babies.
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Pregnancy is a time of many changes. Your body, your emotions and the life of your family are changing. You may welcome these changes, but they can add new stresses to your life.
Feeling stressed is common during pregnancy. But too much stress can make you uncomfortable. Stress can make you have trouble sleeping, have headaches, lose your appetite or overeat.
High levels of stress that continue for a long time may cause health problems, like high blood pressure and heart disease. When youre pregnant, this type of stress can increase the chances of having a premature baby or a low-birthweight baby . Babies born too soon or too small are at increased risk for health problems.
Ways To Manage Stress During Pregnancy
Stress is easy to manage when you recognize it correctly and know how to handle it. It will lead to a positive pregnancy experience and reduce the risk of health complications for you and your baby.
Here are some ways to reduce stress during pregnancy.
- Indulge in some light physical activity such as walking as it not only lowers stress levels but prevents common pregnancy discomforts.
- Try relaxation techniques such as prenatal yoga or meditation.
- Learn to do breathing exercises.
- Just chill out and relax whenever possible
- Get involved in activities such as reading a book, watching your favorite show, or doing some activities you enjoy.
- Figure out what is stressing you more, and try talking about it with your partner, a friend or even a therapist if needed.
- Seek support from family and friends ask them to take you to prenatal checkups or help you with the household chores.
- Go for childbirth education classes to understand about pregnancy, childbirth, relaxation techniques, and exercises.
- Get projects at work done earlier and avoid postponing them to the last moment to keep stress at bay.
- If you think you are depressed, go to therapy early on to avoid the need for antidepressants.
- Eat healthy and nutritious food.
- Consider joining a support group to meet like-minded pregnant women .
Learn more about stress and pregnancy next, where we address some commonly raised queries.
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Signs Of A Stressed Baby In The Womb
August 25, 2016 by ds_25061
While most babies develop without any problems, some infants experience stress prior to birth. Situations that compromise your babys blood and oxygen supply can occur during pregnancy and childbirth. Certain symptoms, such as a decrease in fetal movements, may alert you to the possibility that your baby is in distress. Notify your doctor if you have any concerns regarding the health and development of your unborn baby.
Can Stress During Pregnancy Hurt My Baby
Regular, everyday stress during pregnancy, such as stressing to make a work deadline or finish the babys nursery, wont hurt your baby.
But extreme , chronic and long-term stress can, in some cases, increase the risk of:
- Developmental delays in the baby
Babies born too soon or too small can face more complications than full-term, normal-weight newborns.
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Emotional Stress During Pregnancy
With so many changes happening to your body during your nine months of pregnancy, the emotional upheaval that comes with those changes including those pregnancy hormones that do a number on your moods, making stress harder to handle all the prep work necessary for babys arrival and the worry about labor and delivery, its no wonder youre feeling just a tad bit stressed while you’re pregnant.
Feeling stressed is extremely common, and par for the pregnancy course. Plus, not all stress is bad, and some stress may even be good, since it helps you get through challenging times and keeps you on your toes so youre motivated to take the best possible care of yourself and your baby-to-be.
Why Should I Be Concerned About Noise
- Increased noise levels can cause stress. This can cause changes in a pregnant womans body that can affect her developing baby.
- Sound can travel through your body and reach your baby. Although this sound will be muffled in the womb, very loud noises may still be able to damage your babys hearing.
- Hearing protectors can protect your hearing, but if youre pregnant the only way to protect your babys hearing is to stay away from the loud noise as much as possible.
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Why Stress During Pregnancy Is Harmful
It weakens your immune system
Stressed people are often sickly because stress can affect the immune system. The immune system is responsible for protecting you from infection and a weak system means that you have a higher chance of getting an infection in your uterus. You may end up giving birth prematurely.
Lack of enough sleep
Sleep is important especially for a pregnant woman. It is time for your body to relax and your cells to be repaired. Lack of enough sleep can cause more stress and lead to psychological and physical problems.
Thinking too much about something gives you headaches which you will have to treat with painkillers. These medications may not be good for your unborn child.
Loss your appetite
During pregnancy, you need to eat healthy in order to provide essential nutrients for your body and the development of your child. When you are stressed, you lose your appetite which means you eat less and lack enough nutrients. This could adversely affect your baby.
It could result in negative actions
Pregnant women can result in negative behaviors to cope with stress. E.g. drinking alcohol, smoking, abusing drugs etc. all these activities are risky and could lead to the birth of a deformed baby.
Future effects on your baby
Stress can cause problems for your child later in the future during their childhood like lack of attention, fear etc. their brain development and immune system could be affected as well.
All these consequences are not good for you.
Prenatal Emotional Stress Index
The Prenatal Emotional Stress Index is a self-report questionnaire assessing emotional stress during pregnancy . It was applied at the first measurement time to assess maternal emotional stress during pregnancy. retrospectively. The questionnaire consists of 11 items per pregnancy trimester measuring anxiety, sadness, joy, stress, and tension via visual analogous scales ranging from 0 to 100%. The scale values are the mean item responses per trimester. Cronbachs was = 0.91 for the first, = 0.92 for the second and = 0.93 for the third trimester, indexing excellent internal consistency. Average scores were M = 31.92 for the first, M = 30.41 for the second and M = 31.63 for the third trimester. The intercorrelations between pregnancy trimesters were as follows: the first trimester significantly correlated with the second and third trimester as well as the second trimester correlated significantly with the third trimester . A composite score averaged over the three trimesters was used for the analyses This composite score reached an excellent internal consistency and ranged from min = 2.42 to max = 86.97 .
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Effects Of Stress During Pregnancy
While some stress is normal and healthy, too much stress or unchecked stress can affect your health, your pregnancy and even your baby.
For instance, if you have high levels of stress, you may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, like drinking alcohol, smoking, drugs or unhealthy eating.
Too much stress can also lead to anxiety and/or depression mental health conditions that could impact your pregnancy and your general well-being.
High levels of stress can also exacerbate any chronic conditions you have, as well as make you more susceptible to illnesses. And if your stress levels remain high for a long time say throughout your pregnancy and beyond it could possibly lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.