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How Does Mother's Immune System Affect Baby's Brain?

It is a known fact that a mother's health has an overall impact on the health and well-being of the baby developing inside. Studies conducted have shown a deep link between the pregnant mother's immune system and the development of the baby's brain. Read on to know more about this study and its impact.

How Does Maternal Health Affect The Baby In General?

We have always been advised to remain stress free and happy when pregnant. A pregnant lady is advised rest and a well-balanced nutritional diet, and all this because it is highly important to take care of one's health, not just for a safe pregnancy but also because the baby's health is highly dependent on the maternal health.

Inadequate healthcare when pregnant can lead to several complications in the baby which can be observed even in the later years of the child's development. For instance, high levels of stress during pregnancy can create problems in the childhood life of the baby.

The child can have trouble in being attentive. A timid child is indirectly related to a child born out of a stressful pregnancy. Stress has also been associated with adverse effect on the baby's brain development.

How The Final Few Weeks Of Pregnancy Impact Baby's Brain?

A baby's brain is said to double its size between the 35th and the 39th week. The last few weeks of pregnancy is highly important from the baby's brain development perspective. This final stage of pregnancy is when the baby's brain connections and pathways are formed. This is important for a smooth learning ability once the baby is born.

The brain development at this stage helps the child to coordinate with the environment better after birth. Few doctors might hint at delivering earlier by C-section due to various reasons, but as to-be-mothers, it is essential to trust one's body. The baby's brain development takes place the best inside the uterus, so unless there are serious health conditions, you should allow the baby to develop within you till the end of the term.

Following is a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience that has highlighted the fact behind how a mother's health, in particular the immune system, has an effect on the health and development of the baby's brain.

According to an article titled 'Maternal immune activation during the third trimester is associated with neonatal functional connectivity of the salience network and fetal to toddler behavior' that reported results of a study of teenage mothers, a pregnant woman's immune system decides how the connectivity of the child's brain would be.

The state of the mother is highly responsible for psychiatric disorders in the later years of the child's life. The study involved understanding pregnant adolescents and the connection that their immune system would have on the child.

Two proteins are released during the last trimester by the mother's immune system. This is said to impact the baby's brain development in terms of having disorders such as hyperactivity, autism and schizophrenia. High levels of protein indicated that the infant would show better cognitive ability at later stages of life.

Activation of the mother's immune system has been linked to low foetal heart rate at the end of the term. This may lead to delay in the development of the autonomic nervous system. Heart rate changes served to be an indication that maternal inflammation was taking effect before the birth of the child. These study results show that the final few weeks of pregnancy have a powerful impact and influence on the brain development of the child.

The findings of the study outline the details of how an activated immune system of the pregnant mother impacts the baby's development. It was seen that stress, illness, infections, allergies, etc., could act as triggers, and in turn activate the immune system. When this happens, the inflammatory response begins to act leading to the release of proteins. Although past studies were conducted on this basis in animals, little was known of its impact in that of humans.

The research was conducted to identify its impact on humans and, therefore, involved studying young pregnant mothers from their pregnancy up until childbirth and until the children turned toddlers.

How the mother's immune system acts during the final weeks of pregnancy has been associated with influencing the child's short- as well as long-term brain functioning ability.

The research was carried on after the first few weeks of birth wherein brain scans were taken on the infants. These scans revealed that if the mother had high proteins during the final stages of pregnancy signalling inflammation, thenthere was disrupted communication between various parts of the brain of the newborn.

The tests were again done when the child turned 14 months old. The test results revealed differences in terms of behaviour, language development and motor skills for the children born from mothers who had activated immune system due to inflammation.

The conclusive idea and objective behind this study was to understand how an inflamed immune system of the mother can have an effect on the baby's brain development. Understanding of this would facilitate prevention of such effects in order to ensure that the child develops in the healthiest manner - right in the womb and also later during their development years during childhood and beyond.

The researchers also believed that deep research and study is further required and essential to completely understand the practical happenings behind how activation of a pregnant lady's immune system affects the child.

Read more about: immune mother baby brain
Story first published: Saturday, September 15, 2018, 16:20 [IST]
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