Professor Vivette Glover, a prenatal studies expert at Imperial College in London, has just released new research showing that stress during pregnancy may affect children for years to come.
According to a recent article appearing in The Irish Times, Prof Glover’s study discovered 15% of the most anxious women in her study had double the rate of offspring with ADHD. Another study also revealed that if mom is stressed during pregnancy her child may perform poorly on infant IQ tests or be more fearful.
The most important relationship in this factor was the one the expectant mother had with her partner with emotional abuse seemed to be one of the red flags for behavioral issues later in the child’s life.
Based on Prof Glover’s research, it seems cortisol (that stress hormone) is at the basis of this issue. The Placenta is actually designed to block up to 90% of cortisol from the developing fetus. However, in mothers with additional stress, more cortisol seems to “leak” through and may be at the root of early delivery as well as affecting the development of the brain. Animal research has shown that cortisol “can kill nerve cells in the hippocampus area of the brain which is important for learning and memory.” (Irish Times, August 4, “Don’t Mix Stress with Pregnancy”) Glover hopes to translate these findings in animals to people.
The most noted statement by Glover in this article for me was the following:
“Physical care of pregnant women has improved enormously in the past 100 years but emotional care has not.”
I’d have to agree. Through all three of my pregnancies, the only time anyone really seemed to care about how I was feeling emotionally was when I advocated for attention to that particular area. The myth that all pregnant women are automatically happy is just that – a myth. (And FYI, not all of us like it when you complete strangers approach us to pat our belly and offer your sage advice either!)
So if you’re stressed and pregnant, what can you do? You can talk about anything causing you stress. Back off from making large decisions about life such as moving, going back to school, or finding a new job unless these things are absolutely necessary. Recruit family members to help keep things as even and calm for you as possible. Have that one pessimist in your life? Minimize contact with him/her while you’re pregnant. Don’t watch the news or read the paper if negativity stresses you out. I still filter the news I read and hardly ever watch CNN or the 6 o’clock news. In fact, I can’t even tell you who the anchors are anymore which I think is a great thing. While you can’t control everything around you, you CAN control what reaches you. My husband knows not to tell me about certain news items and I only receive certain topics on my phone – Politics, Entertainment, Health & Wellness, Science, Strange News (hey, I like to laugh), and Technology (yeah, I’m a closet geek).
Also remember that life will happen. It is literally impossible to protect yourself from ALL stress. But when you can minimize, make a concerted effort to do so. Your body (and your child) will thank you.
(You can read the complete article “Don’t Mix Stress with Pregnancy” @ The Irish Times by clicking here.)