Stress in pregnancy can harm your baby

Prenatal depression is damaging to your child

Anxiety during pregnancy is common, but new research shows that stress can harm a baby’s development, leading to long-term problems.

In a survey of pregnant, largely middle-class, women at a London hospital, nearly a quarter felt anxious and depressed, while the same number argued often with their partners. These women’s babies had a lower birth weight, lower IQ, slower cognitive development and more anxiety than those born to the other women in the survey.

Although postnatal depression is a well-known condition, prenatal depression is more common and at least as damaging to the child, according to research by a professor of perinatal psychobiology, Vivette Glover, of Imperial College London.

Glover’s most recent research has shown that maternal anxiety affects the placenta, reducing the activity of the barrier enzyme that hinders the hormone cortisol from reaching the foetus.

‘People used to think that if something was congenital, apparent at birth, it had to be genetic. In fact it can be an in-vitro reaction of genes and environment,’ Glover says.

‘The data on anxiety and depression was taken during pregnancy at 18 weeks and again at 32 weeks, and the stronger result came from the later test. The organs are forming during the first trimester of pregnancy, but the brain is developing all the way through,’ Glover explains.

How to unwind:
Eat foods containing B vitamins, such as wholegrains, which increase your levels of the anti-stress hormone serotonin.

Exercise is proven to ease tension. Swimming is perfect, as your bump is supported by the water.

Midwives say commuting is a big source of stress. Ask your employer if you can avoid rush hours by starting and finishing work earlier.


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