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Does Stress During Pregnancy Affect The Baby?

Most women take into account things that may affect their child or their healthy development while pregnant. No matter if it`s the effect of specific drugs, what they eat or drink, or whether or not they are smoking, most pregnant women have common knowledge about them.

Does Stress During Pregnancy Affect The Baby

However, what happens with the emotional side of your child? Does the child feel the moods of his mother? How does he react to them and how is he affected or influenced?

Table of Contents

Hormonal Changes during Pregnancy & Mood Changes

During pregnancy, the level of hormones will increase significantly: estrogen, progesterone and human chrionic gonadotropin (also known as hCG, this is the hormone produced by the placenta). It seems that the first changes of this hormone that are more serious will occur around the weeks 6 – 10 of pregnancy.

In turn, the changes of these hormones will produce changes in neurotransmitters (those chemical mediators that are able of transmitting signals to the brain and, therefore, regulate disposal). Moreover, studies in the field have proven several times that, especially progesterone during the last 2 months of pregnancy, may determine major fluctuations in the mother`s mood.

Here`s why, also according to researchers of the Harvard Medical School, about 10% – 15% of pregnant women can be affected by a mild to moderate depression. It`s essential that we make the difference between this disease and simple mood changes, which disappear on their own in up to 2 weeks.

We need to know the main signs to identify depression:

  • Lack of energy.
  • A deep feeling of sadness and hopelessness.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Significant loss of appetite.
  • Serious sleep disorders.
  • Decreased interest for a good development of pregnancy.
  • Loss of interest for activities that once you enjoyed doing.

Finally, crying with apparently no good reason can also be important evidence of depression. Of course, pregnant women cry more easily, without necessarily having a real reason, but when the crisis of crying are intense and frequent, it`s recommended to ask for medical help.

Does Stress during Pregnancy Affect the Baby?

Well known scientists have determined that even since the 6th month of pregnancy, the baby is able to feel the mother`s emotions as well as their effects. They also claim that this isn`t something isolated happening, but that it will most definitely influence the attitude of the baby towards his life.

Although very satisfying and quite beautiful, pregnancy can sometimes throw the mother into depression. This is just as common as postnatal depression and lots of women, unfortunately, confront with it. It`s rumored that expecting mothers who are extremely anxious have higher chances of giving birth to children with a less developed nervous system than normal or to anxious children with colic.

Every woman confronts herself with situations that aren`t pleasant, but when the stress of pregnancy falls, all the effects aren`t just felt by the mother, but by the baby as well. If it`s an isolated episode, there won`t be any effects on long term when it comes to the child. However, if the mother experiences stress or anxiety for longer periods of time, then you can be sure the baby will be affected emotionally.

When you`re stressed or affected by specific situations and become anxious, the body produces a stress hormone and allows it to develop. You should remember that even though the emotions don`t pass through the placenta, the hormones do pass to the baby. If he`s often exposed to the stress hormone, he`ll become accustomed to it and might become a stressed person, chronically speaking.

Can Stress Cause Birth Defects during Pregnancy?

Sudden stressful events which may take place in early pregnancy, such as the death of a child, might place certain women at risk of giving birth to a child with birth defects. When traumatic situation happen, the body`s levels of stress hormone rise. According to various studies performed on animals, high stress hormone levels, especially cortisone, has been related to birth defects.

Experts report in the September. 9 issue of The Lancet that women who suffer serious traumatic stress in early pregnancy, like the death of an older child, are more prone than women who don`t experience that particular sort of stress to give birth to a child with congenital abnormalities of a specific type, especially cleft palate or heart defects. Women exposed to unanticipated death of an older child were more prone to give birth to children with malformations that also involved other organs.

These specialists claim that findings indicate that serious stress can affect tissues and organs in a direct manner at an essential time in the development of the future baby. The baby`s organs are developing in the first 3 months of pregnancy.

Can Stress during Pregnancy Cause Miscarriage?

Stress has been thought to be a potential cause of miscarriage since long ago, as various studies indicated a high risk among pregnant women reporting increased levels physical or emotional turmoil before conception or in early pregnancy. However, although a link has been noticed, experts did not really know how the stress of a pregnant woman could lead to miscarriage.

A team of specialists from Tufts University have identified a possible chain reaction that detailed precisely how these stress hormones and other chemical substances inflicted damages on the fetus. The report of the experts might aid explain why pregnant women experience miscarriage for no apparent medical reasons as well as why other women experience recurrent miscarriages. It may also lead to various measures of precaution to prevent them from happening.

How to Reduce Stress during Pregnancy?

Even if pregnancy is a period when your emotions fluctuate a lot and you are very sensitive to external factors, which make stress to be even more accentuated, there are simple methods that you can use to relax. Don`t forget that a fight in 2 is always easier, so you may want to let your partner know about it so he can be by your side. You should talk to him about the things that concern you, so that you can find a solution together. Here are a few of the things you can do:

  • Get enough rest! At least 8 hours of sleep during the night and 2 – 3 hours during the day will make wonders for your general mood. In case stress causes you insomnia, drink linden tea with basil, eat with at least 2 hours before going to sleep and avoid sources of noise and light 1 hour before getting to bed.
  • Eat healthy! During pregnancy, a well balanced diet based on fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, fish and white meat will offer you all the nutrients that both you and the baby need for energy and your body to have a great general condition.
  • Regular physical exercise is also an excellent method for your organism to relax, getting rid this way of negative energy. In addition, constant physical exercises will train your organism for physical effort, so when labor will start, it won`t seem like an ordeal. Choose to do exercises outdoors, because this way your brain and muscles will oxygenate easily, and you`ll feel full of energy and good mood.
  • Avoid situations and people who have a tendency of causing you stress.
  • Massage and baths with essential oils are recommended for combating stress when expecting a baby. Use them whenever you feel the need to relax and you`ll notice a significant improvement in your state of tension.
  • Avoid cigarettes, alcohol and coffee, because these won`t do anything else than amplify your overall agitation, and will affect both you and your baby`s health.
  • Spend time with your loved ones, talk to them about what`s happening, about the worries you have about your pregnancy, because this way your emotional tension will diminish considerably, and you won`t feel alone anymore in this delicate situation.
  • Keep a positive attitude and try to understand that excessive worrying won`t solve the problems that keep you restless; on the contrary, they`ll increase. Instead of concern yourself, read a book, make yourself time to do things that you used to like and now you have no time anymore.

Stress during pregnancy presents a lot of risks and that`s why is indicated to try and diminish it as much as possible, even if you won`t be able to get rid of it completely. Learn how to look at things with calm and optimism, and if you feel the need, don`t hesitate to turn to a therapist.

Image courtesy of momjunction.com

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