WEEKLY TOPIC: Stress and Fetal Development - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 13 Old 09-20-2008, 01:04 PM - Thread Starter
 
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A new article states that mom's prenatal stress may be tied to child's brain power and fetal growth and development.

What do you think?

Autumn (1990) Blake (1993) Zoe (2001) Dmitrios (2002) and William (April 2009) born still @ 39 wks - my 4ever
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#2 of 13 Old 09-20-2008, 02:14 PM
 
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It's interesting, just from the point of view of knowing what the various influences are on how a baby develops. But I'm a little concerned/unsure about practical applications of this. It seems like it could turn into another source of pressure for pregnant women to be unrealistically perfect during their pregnancies. You know, "You must eat perfectly, exercise perfectly, sleep perfectly, not lift anything that weighs more than two pounds, and completely avoid all stress, or else you will HURT YOUR BABY!" The problem is, stress often can't be avoided, you know? And trying not to be stressed can have the effect of making you feel more stressed because you're stressed.

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#3 of 13 Old 09-20-2008, 04:31 PM
 
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I would say first that 89 subjects is a very small study. Second, I think it's very reasonable that stress affects fetal development. Stress releases toxins into our bodies, it would follow that those toxins have an affect on our growing babies. Some one told me yesterday (a woman who I work with who is a scientist by profession) that she had read a study on toxins released into the body by hunger, which can also affect fetal development. It would make sense in this light, as hunger is a kind of physical stress.

The Dalai Lama believes that animals living in stressful/inhumane conditions before slaughter bring "sadness" into the bodies of the people who eat them. Sounds like stress toxins or adrenaline. If these toxins can be transferred from what you eat, how much stronger must your baby feel the products of your stress?

That said, we obviously live in the real world and can only do our best. We should sleep and rest as much as possible, exercise, stay healthy and as happy as we can be. In the long run, stress is toxic to everyone, born or unborn.

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#4 of 13 Old 09-20-2008, 04:46 PM
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This is something I think about a lot (not the study, but how stress affects babies in general). When pg with DS1, I used to get extremely stressed out and upset at work. He was born very healthy and he is a bright and happy child, but he is also very anxious and does not handle stress well himself. When pg with DS2, I chilled A LOT, even with having another toddler running around. DS2 had a very stressful birth (emergency c-section), but is the most easy-going little toddler I've ever seen. So does it have an effect? I don't know. But antecdotally, it seems that the way that I handled the stress had an effect on their dispositions. Who knows... But I think that, while there is no way to avoid stress, we need to remind ourselves to BREATHE. If nothing else, it's good practice for labor!
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#5 of 13 Old 09-20-2008, 05:13 PM
 
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Originally Posted by jkg View Post
TWhen pg with DS1, I used to get extremely stressed out and upset at work. He was born very healthy and he is a bright and happy child, but he is also very anxious and does not handle stress well himself. When pg with DS2, I chilled A LOT, even with having another toddler running around. DS2 had a very stressful birth (emergency c-section), but is the most easy-going little toddler I've ever seen. So does it have an effect? I don't know. But antecdotally, it seems that the way that I handled the stress had an effect on their dispositions.
I had a similar experience. As someone who suffers with an anxiety disorder, my first pregnancy was a frightening time for me. I didn't know how to interpret my body's new sensations and changes, and with each new feeling came a new wave of panic. I went through SO many extra doctor's appointments, many unscheduled ultrasounds, and nine months of sheer panic. My eight year old is gorgeous and brilliant but...he also has an anxiety disorder. Even as an infant, he was twitchy/jumpy, he cried all the time, and he had sensory issues that impacted his sleeping and feeding.

During my second pregnancy, I lived back at home with my parents. They took care of us, and so all the stresses of ordinary life were put on hold, basically. My second child is pretty much a reflection of the peaceful time in my life that was my pregnancy with her. She is HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY, calm, and balanced. It's simply amazing.

I have a strong feeling that #3 will be somewhere in between, based on my mindset so far this time around. If so, then I will have inadvertently conducted my own little version of the study...
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#6 of 13 Old 09-20-2008, 05:53 PM
 
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Well, I really hope that this isn't true for all babies. I have had a miserable first trimester with this babe. I have had SEVERE anxiety induced by hyperthyroidism and hypoglycemia. At one point I only had gotten about 2 hrs of sleep a night for almost 3 weeks. I consistently have a resting pulse of 90-130bpm and shakes, sweats, pretty bad morning sickness - you name it- I got it. I am trying to correct both problems but it doesn't seem to be working much.
Oh well, we will love this baby no matter what
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#7 of 13 Old 09-20-2008, 05:55 PM
 
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I was reading about this. What I read wasn't linking stress with intelligence, but with behavioral/ emotional problems. It said that catecholamines are the stress hormones and that they absolutely affect the baby.
When I was pg with ds1, I had nothing else to do but gestate him and I would say I had basically no stress. He was the most laid back baby I have ever known and really didn't cry at all.
While I carried twins, I was more stressed than I have EVER been, like really really freaked out about twins and fighting terribly with dp and just under ENORMOUS hard core stress, and I still wonder how much that contributed to their loss.
This time I am trying to keep from being too stressed. It's hard to do sometimes but knowing now that it definitely does affect the baby is a good motivator to keep it under control. DP understands this as well, which is helpful.

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#8 of 13 Old 09-20-2008, 10:29 PM
 
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I was frustrated by the lack of references in the article. The title of the study or a link to the study would have been nice. They did reference the authors and the publication, but it seems kind of irresponsible to put vague info out there without a direct link.

The article didn't really mention anything about what controls the study used... the women in Quebec who were without power for 6 weeks, or were living in shelters probably had their lives impacted in other physical ways other than just their stress levels. Living in a shelter, they probably didn't get a whole lot of quality sleep - same thing if they had no power in winter for 6 weeks. Perhaps they were likely chronically cold which led to a decrease in metabolic rate and oxygen supply to the embryo/fetus. Perhaps there were issues with carbon monoxide exposures from generators. I'm willing to bet their diets suffered as well - no access to "normal" cooking facilities, reduced income for quality foods, less food selection in the grocery stores (if the whole region suffered for 6 weeks - no refrigeration, less perishable food stocked, less milk, less meat, less fresh veggies & fruit.. all that stuff requires refrigeration). While all those factors lead to stress, at the same time they have direct physical implications themselves. Also, I'm willing to bet that some of those stressed women likely turned to alcohol, recreational drugs, or smoking as a stress relief - something the article didn't even touch on. I'm not condeming them if they did - I haven't been in that situation & don't know what I myself would do - but the article didn't rule it out, and knowing human reactions, it's likely that at least a few women did revert to comfort/numbing mechanisms. The article also didn't mention at what stages of their pregnancies the women were at during the Quebec ice storm. Is it possible that they didn't know they were pregnant, and because of the stress or lack of infrastructure they didn't realize as soon as they otherwise may have that they were pregnant and thus didn't begin prescribed prenatal care until a later date than "usual"?

It's also important to point out that humans have stress for a reason - it's the impetus we get to FIX something thats wrong. Stress hormones aren't automatically toxins - they're a natural response to an environmental problem, and they perform a necessary physiological function (survival). That being said, I suffer from anxiety, so I tend to release too many of these hormones, which can be seen as a toxic condition by some (I just call it "me"). I'm an insomniac (or have been for most of my life anyway). This pregnancy (my 1st) is the longest stress-free period in my life to date. I guess the pregnancy hormones are agreeing with me on that end - I suddenly have the ability to filter between a real problems and "noise". It's glorious. I can just shrug now and say "whatever" like a "normal" person. That being said, I'm not getting as much done as I usually do, which is the downfall of the "whatever" attitude. But whatever.

That being said, I've been reading up on brain development & stress in infants - it seems there is a link between the hormones released from crying for an extended length of time and brain development. So it's entirely possible - if it happens in infants, why would it NOT happen prenatally?

I'm just faulting the lack of detailed information in the article - it's so ambiguous, how can we possibly take anything useful away from it? It seems like it's sole purpose may be to frighten us.

Anyone else contemplating meditation during pregnancy? I used to meditate when my DH was in the military - I was miserable. I've been thinking I should take it up again. But then I don't seem to need it at the moment - which seems like the perfect time to get into the habit.
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#9 of 13 Old 09-20-2008, 11:13 PM
 
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Originally Posted by iluvmybabies View Post
I consistently have a resting pulse of 90-130bpm and shakes, sweats, pretty bad morning sickness - you name it- I got it. I am trying to correct both problems but it doesn't seem to be working much.
Oh well, we will love this baby no matter what
Yes, you will love your baby whether he/she has anxiety or not. I am so sorry you have been dealing with such terrible symptoms. The accelerated resting pulse has been my experience, too...
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#10 of 13 Old 09-20-2008, 11:26 PM
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Anyone else contemplating meditation during pregnancy? I used to meditate when my DH was in the military - I was miserable. I've been thinking I should take it up again. But then I don't seem to need it at the moment - which seems like the perfect time to get into the habit.
I've been trying. I can only sit for a few minutes at a time, but it does help.
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#11 of 13 Old 09-20-2008, 11:40 PM
 
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I think a consistent meditation practice was one of the major factors that helped me heal from many years of depression and anxiety. Both my family and DH's family have a strong history of these conditions, which does make me concerned for our little one. I've been pretty chill most of the time during this pregnancy, but I'm sure it would be a good idea to get back into a routine of meditating every day.

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#12 of 13 Old 09-21-2008, 09:11 AM
 
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Since anxiety/depression have such a strong hereditary component, you know, it's pretty impossible to discern whether my anxiety during pregnancy gave the affliction to my child, or the genes I inherited from my father's side of the family are more responsible...
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#13 of 13 Old 09-21-2008, 03:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by wobblykate View Post
The Dalai Lama believes that animals living in stressful/inhumane conditions before slaughter bring "sadness" into the bodies of the people who eat them. Sounds like stress toxins or adrenaline. If these toxins can be transferred from what you eat, how much stronger must your baby feel the products of your stress?
That's absolutely fascinating! I think it's all connected... and the happier you can be where you are, regardless of your circumstances - a sort of "bloom where you're planted" philosophy - the better off you, and everyone around you, will be.

Of course, that's really, really easy to SAY. It's a heck of a lot harder to DO. Or... "be" I suppose.

Autumn (1990) Blake (1993) Zoe (2001) Dmitrios (2002) and William (April 2009) born still @ 39 wks - my 4ever
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