Stress During Pregnancy May Have A Negative Impact On Babies


Pointers at Glance

  • A study says that stress during pregnancy may have a negative impact on babies.
  • A published study found that babies of moms who experienced stress during pregnancy showed more fear, distress and sadness compared to those who were less stressed.

Being pregnant is challenging enough, but it can seem overwhelming with the added work pressure, a shaky economy, and the Covid-19 risks. According to a new study, expectant mothers should take stock of their stress and reach out for help to decrease how often their newborn is likely to experience negative emotions.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal Infancy, found that babies of moms who experienced more fluctuations in stress during pregnancy showed more sadness, fear and distress at 3 months than those who were less stressed.

The study said that women with higher fluctuations were more likely to report that their babies frequently seemed angry, showed distress when they were tired, cried or fussed when left in a crib, and clung to a parent when introduced to an unfamiliar adult.

Dr. Marian Earls, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Healthy Mental & Emotional Development, in an email, that they know that infants experiencing chronic stimulation of the stress response system, or toxic stress, without the buffer of a caring adult have an impact on immune system, early brain development, and epigenetics.

Research on babies of mothers with postpartum depression sheds light on other potential impacts also. For instance, children of depressed mothers are more likely to have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol as preschoolers. According to the AAP’s policy statement on depression after birth, these changes in levels are linked with social wariness, withdrawal, and anxiety.

The statement said that these children might have poor peer relationships, poor self-control, school problems, aggression, attachment disorders, behavior problems, depression and other mood disorders.

However, a 2019 study found that many childhood adversities can be modified if a child has a caring adult that can provide a safe and stable nurturing relationship.

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