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Why stressed expectant parents equals stressed newborn

stressed expectant parents

stressed expectant parentsStressed expectant parents equals stressed newborn. That’s the takeaway from a new study.

A recent study on the effects of parental stress on newborn development has concluded that while a parent’s stress can have a negative effect on a newborn’s motor and socio-emotional development, during pregnancy a woman’s low or moderate amount of stress can actually have a positive effect on postnatal motor development.

Researchers conducted interviews with parents in a number of cities within the United States and Canada to assess stress levels both before the baby’s birth and then again one year after birth and correlated the results with child development evaluations conducted at the child’s one year mark.

The research provided for three main conclusions, first, that a mother’s prenatal stress can have a positive effect on motor development -the hypothesis here being that the stress causes the release of the stress response hormone cortisol into the mother’s (and the fetus’) bloodstream.

Cortisol is known to be essential to normal brain development and studies have shown that elevated cortisol during the last trimester of pregnancy is related to accelerated child development over the first 12 months.

Secondly, and contrarily, a mother’s stress after the baby is born was found to have a negative impact on her newborn’s motor development. This result jibes with other research which has shown that distressed mothers are more likely to provide a less stimulating environment for their babies, resulting in less opportunity for babies to exercise their motor skills and hence the potential for impact on motor development.

The third correlation was that a father’s postnatal stress had a negative effect on the newborn’s socio-emotional development. Developmental psychologists suggest that father-child play is closer to a form of social interaction than is the more tightly knit bond of mother-child and thus when a father’s stress negatively impacts his ability to play and interact with his child, the developmental effects are felt differently than those of a mother’s stress, viz., on the social competence and emotional curves of the child’s development.

“Being a parent is stressful and many factors such as high work load, low social support, negative life events, or concerns about child care-taking may increase levels of parenting stress,” say the study’s authors. “Early identification of any negative effects should allow health care providers to optimize support and implement family intervention programs allowing children to develop to their full potential.”

The authors caution that prenatal stress should not be seen as a good thing in all cases. In fact, too much stress during pregnancy has been associated with serious negative outcomes such as prematurity, low birth weight, a reduction in childhood IQ and increased risk of mood and attention disorders.

Statistics Canada reports that an estimated 25 per cent of women and 21 per cent of men between the ages of 18 and 34 suffer from intense daily stress, which is known to be a risk factor for health problems such as heart disease, bowel disease and mental illness and can have negative impacts on the body’s immune system. Stress is also a known risk factor for alcohol and substance abuse.

The study was published this month in the journal Archives of Women’s Mental Health.

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About The Author /

Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.
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One thought on “Why stressed expectant parents equals stressed newborn

  1. One of the important things to remember about stress is that it is caused by those incoming distresses, [IDs], of life which cannot be avoided – unless a life of a hermit atop some mountain in complete isolation appeals. IDs will become stress unless a surge guard is applied to defend the individual against stress. And stress has been clearly shown to be the root cause of several nasty disorders in humans, including cancer, depression, diabetes and heart conditions.
    Preventatism is a surge guard, a defence, for use whenever those IDs threaten a person’s health. It was developed four decades ago, and has proved itself to be worthy and workable, and highly effective for its purpose. Preventatism was developed for use in helping people with those stress-related disorders to recover from them, but has been shown to be significantly effective for healthy people who just want to stay that way and defend themselves effectively from ID.
    Preventatism is simple and easy to learn, being non-religious, non-spiritual, and non-medical. The philosophy is also, therefore, available to all – wealthy and poor, disadvantaged and privileged, young and not-so-young.
    Preventatists use the philosophy to remain healthy, and therefore comfortable in life. . Just so that you are aware of the possibilities.

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