Pregnancy Stress May Affect Your Baby's Brain Development: Study

Pregnancy Stress May Affect Your Baby's Brain Development: Study

Mothers who experience too much stress during pregnancy are suggested to seek help if needed as this could influence their baby's emotional development.

Both your body and mind go through drastic changes during pregnancy which could leave any mother feeling stressed and anxious. With a baby on the way, many mums may start feeling immense pressure and worry over the great demand being pregnant brings.

This is all normal, especially among many other mothers, and there are various ways for you to de-stress. And this is important because as you go through pregnancy, there are also changes your body goes through that can also influence your baby’s growth. 

One of the new things researchers found among pregnant women is how their stress levels may affect their baby’s brain development. This new study from eLife suggested maternity stress may have long-term effects on the child. 

pregnancy stress effect on baby

Image Source: iStock

Study Finds Link Between Mother’s Stress Levels And Baby’s Growth

The research team, led by the University of Edinburgh, collected hair samples from 78 pregnant women to study their levels of cortisol in the previous three months. 

Cortisol is associated with the body’s response to stress so the higher the levels, the higher stress a person experiences. This is actually the first time researchers have used the mother’s levels of the hormone cortisol to study links with the baby’s brain development. It also plays a role in the growth of the foetus. 

The study also involved brain scanning the women’s babies using Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, which is a non-invasive scan while they were asleep. 

Their findings showed that higher levels of cortisol in the mother’s hair could be linked to “structural changes” in the baby’s amygdala, which is an area of the brain involved in the child’s emotional and social development.

Researchers said this may be the reason why children whose mothers had high levels of stress during pregnancy were more likely to have emotional issues when they grow up. Although, they clarified that the study did not include analysis of children’s emotions. 

pregnancy stress effect on baby

Image Source: iStock

Support For Pregnancy Mums Who Feel Too Much Stress 

Experts have advised that mothers who feel immense stress or are suffering from mental health problems during and after pregnancy should seek help from their loved ones or professional support. 

The study also highlighted the importance of supporting pregnant women’s mental and physical health for the betterment of their wellbeing as well as their baby’s. Another purpose for their findings was to raise awareness of the overwhelming stress pregnant women go through and to help them spot mothers and babies who might need additional support. 

“Thankfully, psychological treatments are very successful at helping mothers and children and we hope that our findings could guide therapies in future to help spot those who might be most in need of support,” said Sarah Brown, Chair of Theirwthorld.


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Written by

Ally Villar

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