Pregnancy is beautiful but it can be very stressful at the same time. Various reasons causing stress during pregnancy are :-
Discomforts of pregnancy: – Dealing with weariness, constipation, nausea can be very upsetting and can cause stress.
Hormonal changes: – A lot of hormones are soaring high in the body of a pregnant woman. These may cause mood swings and unnecessary worries.
Apprehensions: – A pregnant woman’s heart and mind are full of apprehensions. A new mom to be has no idea of what is going on and what to expect. These questions in mind lead to a lot of stress.
Managing daily life while pregnant: – Executing daily tasks, work responsibilities, domestic work, etc. when pregnant cause a lot of stress.
Maternal stress during pregnancy may impact the foetus differently at different stages. Over anxiety in the early stages of pregnancy may result in miscarriage and in later stages of pregnancy may have adverse impact the development.
Normal level of stress during pregnancy is natural; however chronic stress may have a lot of side effects. Mother’s mood affects the function of the Placenta. The more anxious a mother is, the lesser is production of the enzyme that breaks the stress hormone, cortisol. It is important to note that stress not only affects the mother but is also detrimental to the development of the foetus.
Environment in Mother’s womb: – Mother’s womb is the first environment a child lives in. It is important to note that how an individual turns out to be depends on how his genes have interacted with his environment. This surrounding would be a contributing factor to the health and wellbeing of the child throughout his life. For example- A child born too small is more likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases later in life.
Every mother would have her own capacity and capability to handle stress. A heart pumping situation for one woman may be handled by the other with ease and comfort. Hence, stress management and attitude of the prospective mother during pregnancy play an important role in this regard.
Development of baby’s brain: – Anxiety and depression in pregnant women may impact the development of foetal brain. This may expose children to greater chances of emotional or behavioural problems. Children of women who have been stressed out during pregnancy run a greater risk of anxiety, slow learning, and depression during their lives.
Behavioural effects: – Children of anxiety struck women may develop behavioural issues such as ADHD during growing years. It is stated that as toddlers these children exhibit higher levels of anxiousness as compared to other kids of the same age group. They consistently show more fearful behaviours than that others would put up. MRI scans and diagnosis have proved that in such kids, “Amygdala”- the part of the brain which is linked with human being’s response to any frightening stimuli, is much larger than others. As these children enter adolescence, they are at higher risks of developing mental health disorders.
Other biological effects: – There is an established difference between maternal anxiety and height of an infant. Birth height of infants with anxiety struck mothers is believed to be shorter than infants with non anxious mothers.
Over sensitive babies: – Cortisol hormones generated when the pregnant woman is over stressed may cross the placenta. Brain’s dopamine production may be affected due to higher level of cortisol in the amniotic fluid. This may lead to babies being overly sensitive and having a lower stress taking ability. There may be biological changes in foetus thereby increasing the vulnerability to stress post birth. This may also lead to hyperactive disorders.
Low Intelligence Quotient: – Mother’s stress or depression may expose a child to stress hormones at a time when it is not even formed completely. Hence, maternal stress may lead to lowering of a child’s IQ levels. Prenatal stress and anxiety result in poor cognitive development, auditory language processing and emotional and social processing
Epigenetic Changes: – Mother’s anxiety, depression and stress during pregnancy may also lead of epigenetic changes in the child she is carrying. These are changes to the “control of every gene”, as to how active it is.
Low birth weight and early delivery: – Constant stress during pregnancy alters a woman’s stress management build up, causing over reactions and triggering an inflammatory response. Inflammation is further linked to poor health of the prospective mothers and developmental issues in the foetus. In capability of the pregnant woman to cope up with chronic stress may lead to premature deliveries and low birth weight of children.
Other effects:- Other adverse impacts may include fertility in adulthood, change in steroid genes, etc.
It thus becomes imperative to lead a relaxing and healthy lifestyle during pregnancy. Stress management mechanism has to be worked out to suit one’s lifestyle.