EYE-OPENING Study Links Premature Births to Stressby Robert Dunne
It has long been known that there can be impacts on a child if the mother is exposed to increased levels of stress during the pregnancy, but now researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and NewYork-Presbyterian have managed to pinpoint some of the physical and psychological impacts that matter most and consequently mums should be most aware of.
[Read more: Easy Ways for New Mums to Reduce Stress]
The study, ‘Maternal Prenatal Stress Phenotypes Associated with Fetal Neurodevelopment and Birth Outcomes’, which is published online in the journal ‘the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’, took 187 otherwise normal, healthy women, and found that 16% were physically stressed, 17% psychologically stressed, and the other 67% completely healthy. Some of the findings from the study included the realisation that women experiencing both physical and psychological stress throughout their pregnancy, were less likely to give birth to a boy. Those just physically stressed were more likely to give birth prematurely and mothers-to-be who were psychologically stressed were found more likely to experience complications with the birth of their child.
One of the more significant factors found by the study was the impact social support has on pregnancies. One of the biggest examples from this was that mothers receiving greater social support were more likely to have a male baby. In addition to this, when social support was equalised across the groups, it was found the stress effects on preterm birth, disappeared. Additionally, when not given adequate social support, the demographics of approximately 30% of women who struggle with psychological stress, depression or anxiety from their job, will have babies with an increased risk of developing or being born with physical and mental disorders.
The main conclusion that came from the study was the fact that maternal health matters, and not simply for the health of the mother but for the heath of the baby, with the added caveat, that a lot of problems can have their risk level reduced through increased social support from family and friends.